Advice From a CDO: Why People Are Such an Important Part of Digital Transformation

PESSOAS   |   Luis Gonzalez   |   May 17, 2023

Digital transformation projects can be a monumental task in any organization. But, when you’re operating on the scale of State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), the challenge scales even greater.

As the world’s fourth largest asset manager, SSGA operates across more than 28 countries, with nearly $4.14 trillion in assets under management. Jet Lali, the organization’s Chief Digital Officer, oversees all the technology within SSGA’s digital transformation program — and he’s worked hard to simplify and standardize the organization’s infrastructure and approach to data management in recent years.

Jet and his team wanted to help more people in SSGA gain value from the organization’s data, so they can make smarter decisions and perform better in their roles. But unlocking that value — and distributing it globally — was no minor feat.

Finding meaning in a sea of data

Despite capturing huge volumes of data every day, few people in SSGA had the skills or tools use the information in meaningful ways.

“We already had some centralized database technology, so we had a destination to put more data in as we captured it — which was fortunate, as we recently built 152 new websites that were gathering billions of data points on our customers,” explained Jet. “But the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get meaning from that data in a way that helped people act on the insights.”

Jet and his team started by creating a strong governance structure in SSGA, building out data dictionaries throughout the organization. “The easiest place to start is documenting all your systems, and vendors, and mapping your disparate data sets to a common framework,” said Jet. “This way, you start to incrementally break down the problem.”

With this approach, SSGA developed a clearer idea of which data is most valuable for its teams. And it paved the way for implementing powerful analytics services.

Smarter decisions powered by data-driven insights

SSGA uses the Alteryx Analytics Automation Platform to better understand its clients, operations, and its surrounding market. Using the platform, SSGA can generate valuable insights that help guide decisions across the organization – whether they’re around customer service, product development, or wider organizational strategies.

“We now have a very deep understanding of how our customers are engaging with us, what they’re engaging with, what their preferences are, and who the decision makers are in their organizations,” said Jet. “It’s helping us identify what they want and how we should communicate with them.”

Insights like these have helped a broad range of teams across SSGA, from the product teams building out new services based on current customer behaviors to the customer service teams responding to people with contextualized answers.

“Every interaction our customers have with SSGA generates data. And now, we’re able to support our employees with insights from that data,” says Jet. “This might mean highlighting to a sales advisor what the customer they’re speaking to has purchased previously, or what they might be looking for. Our salespeople had no way of knowing that before unless notes were passed around the organization.”

Technology is just half the challenge

Crucially, implementing the right technology was just one of the steps for SSGA. As Jet explains, empowering people to use the organization’s data and change how they work was the real challenge.

“You can train people to use a dashboard you’ve created, but the difficulty came in teaching people to make smarter decisions and do their jobs more efficiently,” explained Jet. “That’s almost impossible to do for the entire organization centrally — it involves understanding which employee demographics are more tech-savvy, which need more training, and what that training should look like.”

Jet has been tackling the organization’s data management challenges for the past few years, and during that time he’s picked up some key lessons:

People come first

“Think about the people equation before you even start to build out any technology solutions. You have to understand how your culture can support moving towards becoming a more data-driven organization, and that’s really difficult.

“It can take time for people to really change their behaviors — especially when it’s someone else driving that change. I’d recommend being realistic about the effort and commitment you and your employees need to put in from the start.”

New technologies can empower everyone

“The great thing about a lot of newer digital technology is that it’s accessible to everyone, regardless of their technical skills. Previously, when the whole organization relied on the few database architects available to get any information, it created major bottlenecks.

“Now, non-developers can engage with large data sets, and practically every employee can be a database analyst in some way or another.”

Keep your vision clear

“When you have dozens of stakeholders and teams all working in separate areas of the organization, it can be tricky to keep everyone aligned. That’s why we use three principles across SSGA to ensure everyone is on the same path: simplify, unify, and amplify.

“We refer to these principles every time we’re making decisions, and it means we’re all governed by a common framework — not an independent vision.”

Get more insights from SSGA in our four-part series

These are just some of the insights captured from our conversations with SSGA. Watch our four-part conversation series to learn more about how SSGA is using analytics across its organization, and how Jet and his team approached their digital transformation challenges.

Watch now