Why Tech Leaders Should Rethink Data Management and Tap AI for Insights

Kieron Allen, analyst at Acceleration Economy, discusses the importance of data-driven insights, the role of tech leaders in extracting and implementing them, and the influence AI has on this critical business strategy.

In this article, we discuss:

This article, written by Kieron Allen, an analyst at Acceleration Economy, first appeared on Acceleration Economy’s site and is republished with permission.


Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies are driving unprecedented advances in productivity in every industry, and the data-driven decisions these technologies enable unlock major growth opportunities.

In Workday’s recent C-Suite Global AI Indicator Report, 98% of CEOs surveyed said they would instantly benefit from AI implementation. One of the executives featured in the report is Ajay Sabhlok, CIO and chief data officer (CDO) at Rubrik Inc., a Workday customer. He predicts that “AI and ML will become an outside advisor that is with you all the time.”

At the recent Workday Rising conference in San Francisco, Bob Evans, founder of Cloud Wars and co-founder of Acceleration Economy, sat down with Ajay in the Workday Podcast studio to discuss how business leaders should manage data for real-time insights. During their discussion, Ajay defined the importance of data-driven insights, the role of the CIO and CDO in extracting and implementing them, and the influence that AI and ML technologies have on this critical business strategy. 

Capitalizing on Generative AI

Bob began the discussion by asking Ajay to frame Rubrik’s approach to generative AI — by far the most significant AI advancement in recent years and one with the capacity to revolutionize how businesses turn real-time data insights into actions. Ajay explained the capability of generative AI to expand the reach of a company’s data ecosystem by drawing on knowledge from outside sources while enabling companies to address new challenges.

However, he also urged caution, advising companies to identify their core business objectives and go after the low-hanging fruit, such as productivity and efficiency, to avoid the potential negative impacts of generative AI, such as content loss and security breaches.

Taking this approach, said Ajay, is a good way to create a foundation for emerging business cases and integrate the technology in innovative ways. He later explained how, with generative AI, people need to first imagine what is possible, and then construct that journey using the technology.

So, how does a company address data management and the proliferation of AI and ML technologies to achieve real-time insights? Company culture plays a significant role, particularly the relationship between the CDO and CIO.

Working From the Same Playbook

“A company requires data-driven insights, and unless you can pivot over to becoming data-driven, you will always be missing out on timely insights to make key business decisions,” explained Ajay. “At Rubrik, we pivoted to becoming data-driven four years ago, and it’s been day and night since then. 

“It’s completely opened our eyes to every part of business operations. It has started shining a light on all the issues that we had, be that pipeline generation or data quality or financial health, and it actually started to give people some great ideas and we’ve seen those ideas get implemented. They’ve become actionable.”

Ajay explained how CIOs and CDOs need to work closely to achieve a data-driven culture and how, from his joint roles as CIO and CDO, he’s in an optimal position to see and realize the benefits of this partnership.

“It was beneficial that I wore the two hats because I was able to influence both sides of this world and make sure we can seamlessly solve problems,” said Ajay. 

Ultimately, he explained that businesses need the right technology to get reliable, trustworthy data. In his experience as a CDO, data engineers frequently escalate issues affected by upstream processes. As a CIO, it’s his job to prioritize both sides, but the focus on data is so essential that the CDO and the CIO must be joined at the hip.

“We pivoted to becoming data-driven four years ago, and it’s completely opened our eyes to every part of business operation, from pipeline generation to data quality or financial health.”

Business Insight as the Primary Goal

The difference between the old model and the modern approach is that in the past, business leaders were swamped with data and tried to sift through it to find business insights. Today, in the era of AI and ML, data-driven companies start with the end goal of relevant business insights and then work backwards by delving into the data. 

“The top-down approach is a great way to pursue business insights because, if you know what you’re looking for in terms of measuring the efficiency of your business group, and if you have day-to-day challenges that you’re looking to better understand, it would absolutely help to use that as the driver,” said Ajay.

This approach ensures companies derive insights from data they know is available. Starting with specific business challenges and finding the corresponding data enables businesses to pull together data fragments, aggregate them, and define specific metrics and key performance indicators that can be acted on.

“We connected the dots between Workday and our commission tool and it was so beneficial for us.”

Cloud as Growth Accelerator

One of the critical drivers for accelerating business growth is the cloud. Ajay explained how he advocates for businesses to recognize how their cloud vendors are helping them accelerate their data-driven ambitions. Why? Because with cloud platforms, companies are able to efficiently bring their data together.

“We are a company that has embraced the cloud in a big way and are helping companies to secure all of their cloud data,” said Ajay. He describes Workday as a key cloud partner supporting Rubrik’s ambitions. The company based its human capital management (HCM) function on Workday HCM and plugged into its identity management system before using Workday to push timely data into other applications. 

“We connected the dots between Workday and our commission tool and it was so beneficial for us,” he said. “The employee data was always accurate and there was a huge productivity gain by just making that one connection.

“We also started to leverage Workday for meaningful insights,” he continued. “We use Workday Adaptive Planning for all our financial planning and Workday HCM for all the employee data.

“When you start to connect the dots between all of these things, our financial planning process is accelerated because the insights are readily available. We find a lot of the human resources analysts have an easier time figuring things out because they are able to produce insights that are readily available.”

Ultimately, this architecture has helped keep Rubrik on an accelerated path, and it’s not slowing down. As Rubrik grows, Workday’s enterprise management cloud supports that growth. 

To see the entire conversation, watch the video.

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