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The Clientside Podcast

How to rule your data before it rules you, with Akshay Upadhye

The Clientside Podcast

39 min Akshay Upadhye

In this illuminating episode of The Clientside Podcast Andrew chats to Akshay Upadhye, co-founder and COO of spend analytics company Spendkey Limited. Drawing on more than 25 years' experience in technology and consulting, Akshay talks about the role and relevance of data in digital transformation projects, while guiding us on how not to get ourselves drowned in an ocean of unnecessary data. He also reassures us that there's one thing that will always get our creative juices flowing better than AI and ML ever could – and that's collaborating with other real human beings just like ourselves!

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Everybody says data is the new oil. Yes, it is. But like the oil, crude oil is of no relevance until it goes through a refinery. The analytics engine is the refinery for your data. So put your data through the analytics engine to start getting value out of it. Otherwise, data in itself – sitting in those silos, sitting in those complex systems – cannot deliver much value if you're not able to utilize it or use it to your benefit.

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Podcast Transcript

Andrew: Hello. My name's Andrew Armitage. Welcome to another episode of The Clientside Podcast. Thank you for joining me today. It's great to have you lend me your ears once again to talk about digital projects and transformations. This is our fourth season of The Clientside Podcast, and in this series I've been inviting senior leaders in digital roles to share their insights and tell us about their organisations and their approach to digital transformation.

Andrew: Today we're talking about the role and relevance of data and analytics in digital transformation projects, the importance of having sponsorship right at board level, and why purpose and human needs should sit at the centre of digital decision making.

Andrew: As we've been doing in other episodes in this season of the podcast, we've also been asking our guests questions so we can get to know them a little better, when we hear about what's exciting them in digital at the moment and what they feel is the most important personal attribute they bring to their job.

Andrew: So on to today's guest. And I'm speaking with Akshay Upadhye, who is based in London, but today joins me from Pune in India, which is a major industrial and manufacturing centre with a thriving tech scene. Akshay currently serves as the co-founder and CEO of a company called Spendkey, which is an AI-based spend analytics system. He has a strong technology and consulting background with over 25 years’ experience in technology management and transformation consulting, and has been associated with leading consulting firms including Deloitte.

Andrew: He's played a pivotal role in driving IT sourcing, transformation and procurement for some of the world's leading brands, including Barclays Bank, DAZN, Santander Bank and Rolls-Royce, to name a few. In his position with Spendkey, he plays a pivotal role in constantly leveraging the latest technologies to continuously enhance the product. He's also responsible for managing the offshore data analytics operation and plays a key role in driving sales and revenue growth. So welcome to The Clientside Podcast, Akshay, thank you for joining me.

Akshay: Thank you very much, Andrew. It's my pleasure to be on this podcast with you.

Andrew: Thank you. Really appreciate you taking the time. So Akshay, just introduce yourself to our listeners, tell them a little bit about you and your background.

Akshay: So let me just start with a quick summary of my history. I am an engineering graduate. I've spent 25 years in the industry – actually more than 25 years in the industry – doing various roles in technology, in management, consulting and transformation. And currently I work as the co-founder and chief operating officer of Spendkey. Spendkey's a spend analytics platform that helps business uncover hidden behaviours, trends, risks and opportunities from their spend data.

Akshay: And the reason I started this company is having been in consulting and technology roles, working very closely with the CFOs and other C-level executives, I realized that corporations always had poor quality data, and trying to derive insightful information from that data was a challenge. We used some market leading products. Those were not fit for purpose, and we took up the challenge. And that's how Spendkey was born. And here I am today.

Andrew: Okay. Fantastic. So let's just give a few examples of what Spendkey achieves for users of that platform and what sort of impact it has on their business.

Akshay: There are multiple use cases the way you can use Spendkey and I will go into a couple of them very quickly and these are live examples of where we have used it with some customers. So with one customer they wanted to set up a new factory. There are discrete manufacturing organizations growing quite fast and they didn't have money to pay for a new factory. So the option for them was to go and find out money from banks or from other sources.

Akshay: And just by putting Spendkey into their landscape, we looked at their payment terms with their suppliers and by adjusting the payment terms with some of their suppliers, the key suppliers, we were able to free up €250 million without having to do much. And that freed up capital to set up a new factory. That's one example.

Akshay: The other example is, you know risk management is quite an important aspect for most organizations. They are trying to understand risk from third parties, especially now with this Ukraine–Russia conflict going on. And one of our customers who uses this at the moment came to me one day when the conflict started and said, 'we think we don't have any suppliers in Ukraine, in Russia, but can you just look at the data and tell us if there are any suppliers that we work with because we want to understand our risk exposure?'.

Akshay: And it took me less than 5 minutes to pull out that record, and we realized there were 32 suppliers in that region that they didn't know about. And the moment we flagged it, then they had to take corrective measures to try and reduce the risk. So that's another case. Other use cases: businesses want to understand what their baseline costs are and getting hold of this baseline information is never easy. Companies spend months and months on creating business cases.

Andrew: I mean, it sounds like the platform is ultimately consolidating data. I mean, these companies are going to have data coming from lots of different sources and ultimately it's trying to consolidate that. And I think that's one of the big challenges that a lot of companies have. There is so much data available. What do they do with it to make it useful?

Akshay: Andrew you hit the nail on the head because one of our customers uses 44 different ERP systems across the globe. They have grown with acquisitions, 20 different languages, eight different currencies, and they have been trying for the last six years to consolidate this data and get a global view. And they struggled. They gave us the data and in under two weeks they were able to get insights that they were struggling to get for the last six years. And that's the power of the platform.

Andrew: Wow. That's incredible. So, you know, data, as we said, it's coming from all these sorts of different places. That's just one presumably quite extreme example. How much of a good grasp on data do you feel a lot of the companies that you've had experience with have got? Do you think they're still relatively in their infancy in trying to understand data?

Akshay: So I think ten, 12 years ago, companies were busy building technology platforms and they were trying to use technology to the best advantage. What has happened is they have now adopted technology to such an extent that everything in the business today runs on technology. And now with that technology, there is a humongous amount of data that is being generated by the organizations. And in most cases, organizations don't know what to do with that data or how to use that data.

Akshay: And the analogy I give is everybody says data is the new oil. Yes, it is. But like the oil, crude oil is of no relevance until it goes through a refinery. The analytics engine is the refinery for your data. So put your data through the analytics engine to start getting value out of it. Otherwise, data in itself – sitting in those silos, sitting in those complex systems – cannot deliver much value if you're not able to utilize it or use it to your benefit.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. And that example with 44 different ERP systems must be a nightmare to manage. It must create all sorts of different challenges, not only from a reporting point of view, but also from a people point of view in terms of things like training. And ultimately, that's one of the big aspects of digital transformation. It's process and culture and people. It is not necessarily the technology.

Akshay: Yeah. And it's quite a boring job if you think about it. Who would want to look at 44 different systems and compile data and clean it up manually? Nobody wants to do that job. Even if you hire somebody, he or she will do it for a month or two. And then after that will say, 'this doesn't sound very exciting to me. This doesn't add much value to my career and I'm not going to do this again.' It's not repeatable at a human level. That's why technology can solve a lot of these challenges.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. But the challenge of moving forwards with digital is it's a challenge in itself, isn't it? I mean you've got all of the different bits and pieces that go into those kinds of projects and so many digital transformation projects are considered a failure. I mean, there's so many different reports and statistics. Only a certain percentage of digital transformation projects are completed successfully. So what, in your view of the experience that you've had, are the key elements of a successful digital transformation project?

Akshay: It's a very good point that you bring, and my view, having driven a lot of digital transformation programmes over the last 15 years, is that the myth people have is digital transformation is all about technology and I think that's starting on the wrong foot at the first instance. Digital transformation is not about technology at the centre. Who you put at the centre is your customers.

Akshay: When you embark on the digital transformation journey, what you are trying to do is change the operating model, change your revenue model. You're trying to change the entire structure of your organisation. So first and foremost, you need to understand what that change means. What's the impact of that change on your customers or what is your customer journey going to look like? What kind of new revenue models could you generate? What's the impact, what your customers want versus what their competitors are doing?

Akshay: And once you have identified those parameters, then you go back to the white board and say, 'okay, this is our technology landscape. This is where we want to be. This is our new operating model. Now, which part of the technologies that we currently have can fit here? Which elements are obsolete that we need to migrate? What new platforms do we need to bring?' And then you try and stitch all that together to deliver that seamless experience to your consumers and your customers. And it's not just the customers, I think even your employees, because they need their life to be made simpler, they want to get the benefit out of your operating model and digitalisation.

Akshay: So once you put your employees, your customers, your users at the centre of it and then think about technology at a later date, you will succeed. Don't put the cart before the horse. You know, that's the classic mistake I've seen people do and that's why they fail.

Akshay: And the other aspect is communication and managing that change. You know, it's not easy for people to change. You know, we are, as human beings, always resistant to change. When you are embarking on a digital transformation journey, it's a big change for a lot of people. They have been in the company for ten, 15, 20 years. And you just can't lift and shift and say this is what you're going to start doing from tomorrow.

Akshay: If you engage with them early, if you take their inputs, make them part of the journey, have a very transparent, open system of communication, keep them informed about what's happening. It's okay, you know, we all make mistakes. Our programmes are delayed. Sometimes we start on a journey, things change. We have to scrap it and then restart again. But don't hide this information. Keep an open sense of communication with your employees. Make them part of your journey. And if you follow some of these simple processes, you will achieve success in your digital transformation. And there are quite a lot of companies who have done this quite successfully.

Andrew: Yeah, and ultimately it's about bringing people with you. I think rather than imposing that change, that's where people get resistant to change when they when they feel they've not had any input in that change and these things get forced upon them.

Akshay: And one classic mistake people do is, 'oh, we are bringing some external digital transformation consultants. Now those consultants are coaches. They cannot understand the ins and outs of your business like somebody in your marketing department who lives it day-in, day-out, who knows what the challenges are and what are the nuances. So unless you engage that marketing head, you're not going to get the best outcome. You cannot say, okay, I am a company which manufactures, let's say, a particular type of product, and I have hired an agency who has done a project for another company, which is our competitor, and they just apply the same principles. It doesn't work that way.

Andrew: No, no. It's never going to be that clear cut because there's so many different processes and of course people are a huge variable in that as well.

Akshay: The organisation is unique even if you manufacture the same products – you know, airlines provide the same service, but every one is different.

Andrew: Yeah, sure. Do you think that the availability of cloud software has almost made that technical challenge greater from a digital transformation point of view because it's so easy now to get cloud software on a subscription basis. And you get a sort of disparity perhaps between different parts of an organization where one organization says, 'oh, we'll go and grab that'. And they're on to a simple subscription. And it can take time, obviously, to integrate that software. And they're almost using that software to solve a process problem rather than coming at it from the process problem and then looking to find software that can enable some sort of fix or some sort of direction to overcome that problem.

Akshay: My view on this is, every coin has two sides and cloud has several benefits, but it also has several disadvantages. It's the way you look at it and the kind of governance process you put across within your organization. The beauty of cloud, on the positive side, is you don't need to go through long term implementation, complex integration. It's available on-demand. You pay based on PxQ in a lot of instances, you know, you have a lot of flexibility today.

Akshay: You have 1000 users, you pay 4000, tomorrow it's 900 users because 100 contractors have finished their job or they have moved on to something else. You pay for this kind of flexibility; those kinds of simplicity did not exist in your traditional models. So as long as you have a good governance process, you can make the best use of it. But, you know, today the challenge is people have authorities. You know, governance only kicks in after the particular threshold.

Akshay: In most of the organizations, people have their own preferences. They come from previous organizations or they have used this tool. And I think this is the best tool they can go and subscribe and get it reimbursed from the company and it can create some complex technology challenges. So putting some governance in place, and, like I said earlier, engage with your people, make them part of this journey, have that open, honest conversation to understand their pain points.

Akshay: And then if you work collaboratively, I think cloud can be a boon. It can simplify things to a great extent. There are so many technologies available. So for every problem that you can think of today, you have a solution in the cloud. And I think a very simple example is, earlier I had a picture of mine which was low quality. I scanned it and I didn't know how to enhance it. I would need some complex set of tools to do it today. All you do is go and upload it on a website. They charge you a small fee, they'll use AI and ML and enhance your picture and you'll get it in a quality that you never expected you would get it. And you don't need any skills to do that.

And again, I'm talking about a very crude example, but any problem that I can think of today, I just have to go and Google and I find a solution. And that's the beauty of cloud – you don't need to go into anything complex. You can just spin off things quite easily. You can terminate contracts at short notices. So yeah, use it effectively and make the most out of it is all I would say.

Andrew: Yeah. You talk about communication and that reference back to 'don't just bring an outside consultancy in'. How important is it that digital transformation is driven from within and what sort of seat at the top table needs to be there to drive those digital transformation projects?

Akshay: So I'll answer the latter part first and then I'll go to the first part later. So it needs to come from the highest level. That's for sure. If it's not coming all the way from your board, the management team at your supervisory board level, it's not going to succeed because you need support. You need sponsorship at that level. That's absolutely critical.

Akshay: Even if a couple of board members or senior management are not bought into it, it can cause major issues for your organization because, you know, everybody needs to work in synchronization, in tandem, to deliver your goals together. If they are not working in tandem, then it is going to disrupt your journey. So getting that buy-in from the top management is absolutely crucial for me.

Akshay: And then to answer the first question, in terms of bringing external experts, I would say, yes, they bring in value so I don't undermine the value they bring in. They have seen this being done by other organizations. They have seen what the cost failures in some versus what benefits other organizations achieved. But like I said, if you involve your people and engage with them quite cohesively, rather than just having a transformation office sitting in silo and dictating, 'okay, you need to do this, give us this output or tell us this. You know, this is the new process. This is the new operating model.' Then it's not going to work.

Akshay: You can't throw things over the fence. If you start doing that, it's likely to fail with quite a huge probability, I would say. Whereas if you engage people, you bring in the right consultants and you use consultants, I would say, as coaches, rather than somebody who can roll up their sleeves and implement, because your people are the best people who can actually roll up their sleeves if they have had the buy-in, they will be super excited to be on this journey because they benefit from it.

Akshay: And if they can see the benefit, if you communicate to them – you know, the most common question people ask is, 'what's in it for me? Are you going to make my life easier in my current role or are you going to make things difficult for me?' The moment you go and say as an example, 'oh today you have to go and pull out data from these three different systems and then compile a report.' And it takes you five days to do this report.

Akshay: Now, with this new operating model, everything sits in one system and at the click of the button you get it in 5 seconds. That's a wow factor for me. You have sold on the concept to him already. And he or she is one to be on your side of the fence from day one.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. And of course, the outside consultants aren't there for the long term, are they? They might bring some sector experience, although, as you say, every business is unique. But ultimately there has to be some sort of handover, doesn't there? So the organization becomes self-sufficient up to a point.

Akshay: Yeah, I know what I think, you need to retain your IP internally. You know, your business, your processes are your intellectual property and you need to keep them closer to your chest and you need to retain that knowledge. Consultants will come. Consultants will go, Yeah, yeah. So if you have your core team part of this journey, then your success is guaranteed.

Andrew: And that role at the top table isn't necessarily a technical role by the sounds of it. It is one of co-ordinating and understanding, listening, directing and providing leadership and making sure that, I suppose, crudely speaking, left hand talks to right hand.

Akshay: Absolutely. And making sure that the right people are available because it does put some stress on the organization. You know, you have your day job. And at same time, you're driving this transformation and you will have conflicting scenarios. And when you have those conflicting scenarios, you need the blessings. You need support from your management who would say, 'okay, this is more important for me, so maybe I will give you some leeway on this or this can be delivered after two weeks. But you focus on this transformation journey for right now because we have some key deliverables' ... and negotiating those, giving that guidance, giving that cover to your employees is very critical, and it needs to start from the top and percolate all the way down.

Andrew: Yeah, you've talked about starting transformation projects and how they need to almost be triggered from the top or at least have that top level influence. Transformation projects, by their nature tend to be quite long term. They're more of turning an oil tanker than a speedboat. So what sort of tools, frameworks or approaches can help to keep those transformation projects on track?

Akshay: Again, the simple thing is, you don't look at the whole big iceberg, because if you look at that big piece, everybody's going to be quite scared. That's quite a big task. And you don't want to wait for the results to come. After three years, you need to start seeing some immediate benefit. So some simple practice, I would say, is, you break those transformation agenda into simple, tangible benefits that can be derived easily.

Akshay: And it also helps you build confidence in the team. The moment you start showing them positive outcomes, you show them, 'okay, this is the benefit. You did a few things and it took us three months. And in these three months that will start driving that positive attitude, that positive behaviour. And then you follow the simple governance process where you have regular reporting, you know, you have risks and issues identified.

Akshay: So simple project management principles are more than sufficient. You don't need to do anything much more complex because you don't want to add too much of management over it. So what you follow today is the process you follow, have a project plan, have a set of deliverables, have your repository in tools like you might use Jira, you might use any other product for that matter, as your DevOps. There's so many available in the market today, but keep one source of truth, have everything in one location, have it accessible to the people, make things transparent, and you will see success.

Andrew: Yeah, and I suppose that's where things like KPIs, maybe even things like OKRs (objectives and key results) are certain frameworks that can support these types of projects. At a top level, of course, you've got much more narrow milestones, focused milestones perhaps on, you know, the migration of a platform from System A to System B or something like that. But what sort of dashboards, I suppose, you know, the idea of digital dashboards as something that people can check in on.

Andrew: I've always found that the problem with dashboards is consolidating the data to begin with, putting it in. And, you know, it's not always easy to create a dashboard that just shows that snapshot. And I think when there's time involved in doing that, the reporting element almost becomes a little bit strained. It becomes a struggle to keep up with. Are there any particular approaches that can ease that reporting burden, I suppose, so everybody can see what sort of progress has been made across the project?

Akshay: I think the simplest one is that I am working in is, the traffic light system is something people understand very easily. You have milestones, are you on track or you are not on track? Do you have any major challenges? I think that itself is a good indicator. Very simple format of dashboard.

Akshay: When it comes to a dashboard, I have seen several complex dashboards, but the fundamental question I ask is, every dashboard, what's the value of this data? If there is no value which is coming out explicitly immediately, then don't have it. Less is more. And the way I have always looked at reports and the way I want reports is every digital transformation, every change is linked to some business benefits. You are going to do something because it's either going to drive your unit costs down for a particular product or service, or it's going to improve your profitability or it's going to improve your market share.

Akshay: Going into a new region, new country link, your KPI is to those outputs and that is the real business benefit you need to track because business case as a standalone document is useless if you can't do the benefits tracking properly, right?

Akshay: So people put in business case and say, 'okay, you give us this change and we will give you a 25% revenue increment over the next so-and-so period'. Very rarely I've seen people track that and I'm a firm believer that if there is a business case or if you're embarking on a transformation journey and there are benefits identified from it, track the progress of your program based on whether those outputs are being delivered or not. If those outputs are being delivered, then your program or your project is a success.

Akshay: If you are deviating significantly, you thought you are going to go into a new market and break into that sector, and if you can't, then you need to go back and look at what went wrong. Because ultimately, if your key peers are not business focused, they are purely technology focused, it's of no use in my sense, right? Ultimately, business benefits drive all the change and you need to keep that as your pivot point for anything and everything you do.

Andrew: Yeah. So I think it's about avoiding those vanity projects and, isn't it, you know, things that might be nice to do, the shiny things, the new platforms, the new software and tools that of course are so often being released. There's always a pull to there, but obviously there has to be a purpose. It's got to be a bigger purpose, bigger focus ...

Akshay: Absolutely, and credibility, you use the right word, because what I have done is I have gone back to people and challenge. 'You said you're going to deliver this benefit. Where is that benefit?' And the business might say, 'give me these ten things'. And after two or three things have been delivered, if they have not been able to deliver those tangible business benefits, then their credibility is at stake.

Akshay: I will go and talk to the CFO and say, 'this is what so-and-so person said. Look at this trend, look at this data. It doesn't prove that they are on the right track. We need to take corrective action rather than burning out all the money and the time, because time is also absolutely critical.' You may want to go back to the white board and start doing some introspection, whether we are on the right track, did we have the right assumptions? Did we take the right factors into consideration? If not, then it's the right thing to do, take corrective actions rather than wait till the end.

Andrew: And it sounds like that data collection and that data analysis has to be factored into the business case. You know, it's got to be built into part of the transformation project. It can't be a case of saying, we think we're going to get that, because actually, if six months after the project has come to a completion, there's been no means of collecting data to go back to the original hypothesis or the original expectation. Then again, you know, how do you know that that project has been a success? How do you know that it's been worthwhile? So factoring in how that data is going to be collected and ultimately how it's going to be measured as well, is clearly a key part of the plan.

Akshay: It has to be objective rather than being subjective data. There has to be evidence. And data is the only evidence which says this is what you plan, this is what you achieved on track or not on track.

Andrew: Yeah, I think the danger is there's overwhelm, isn't there? But as you say, if there's no real purpose for that data, get rid of it and focus on the objectives, the data that actually matters and that really allows you to see the wood for the trees then, doesn't it?

Akshay: Correct. Spot on.

Andrew: Okay. Well, Akshay, I have a series of questions who have been asking all of our guests on this series of the podcast. So I'm going to go into a couple of those questions now. So tell me about the one app website piece of software, personal or professional, that you couldn't live without.

Akshay: I would say my calendar in Outlook.

Andrew: Okay.

Akshay: Because it's so deeply ingrained now in everything I do; it helps manage my time. It helps manage me in my diary. I also put personal commitments or personal things into there because I have a doctor's appointment. I don't want to take a meeting or a call during doctor's appointment. So that's something which I find very useful. And then LinkedIn, it's quite a good tool or website for me to go and share knowledge with my peers, talk to them, understand what's happening in the industry, look at what's trending. So these two things in my view, are quite important and there are a lot of other tools. But I think this comes out of my mind. Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I think it's increasingly important. I mean, using calendars, we're all using calendars, but I've started time boxing, so blocking out certain amounts of time that gives me the confidence at the start of the week that I can spread myself evenly across the things that I need to get done.

Akshay: Absolutely. And I do the same. That's why calendar is so important for me.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. There's nothing worse than getting to the end of the week and thinking, 'oh well, I still haven't got that done'. So, so trying to kind of plan ahead I think is key. You are very involved with digital projects, big data and so on. Tell me what's exciting you in digital at the moment?

Akshay: What is exciting me is the use of artificial intelligence and the compute power that's available in the cloud to do things, you know, to do complex things very quickly using the cloud computing power. I think AI and ML and you know, the quantum computing or the speed at which you can compute information is the future. And that's what excites me the most. You can solve quite complex calculations now in matter of milliseconds and microseconds, which used to take hours or days sometimes.

Andrew: So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that that AI – that computing power there – making data more simplified, essentially, and more accessible to people, which I suppose is going to be a huge benefit.

Akshay: And because people want real-time data and nobody wants to look at data which is one month old. And the only way you could do this now is with technology. You could pretty much have real-time alerts, real-time insights. You could do a lot of predictive analytics using AI. You can actually predict what's going to happen. So rather than taking reactive actions, you could actually be more proactive in trying to eliminate some of those problems by just looking at data and applying a layer of artificial intelligence on top of it.

Andrew: Great. Okay. If you found that you had an extra hour in every day, how might you spend that time?

Akshay: I would say the best utilization of that extra hour for me would be to develop my next line of management or leadership in the organisation. It's very important to make your organisation scalable. If you don't have the next line of leadership ready, you know, businesses will struggle to scale up and expand. You might have the best product, you might have the best services in the industry, but if you cannot scale up because you don't have a proper organisation structure and people and resources, then it's of no good use, you know.

Akshay: So I would put that time and effort into training, spending time with my resources and bringing them up to a level where I can start offloading some of my responsibilities to them and they hold the baton and help me scale up, because if I can multiply myself into different clones, you know, that's the perfect scenario for me to grow the organisation.

Andrew: Yeah, but, as technology is at the moment, scaling yourself becomes a little bit more of a challenge, doesn't it? [laughs]

Akshay: It does, yeah.

Andrew: What do you feel is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

Akshay: The quest for learning and constant evolution. That's something that keeps me super-excited. Every day I wake up from my bed, I'm always looking for what is it that I'm going to learn today? What new challenges I'm going to solve? You know, what value I'm going to add to my customers, to myself, to my employees. And that keeps me going on day in, day out. That's the value or that's the attribute I bring.

Andrew: Yeah, yeah. And a clear people focus in there as well, you have – people are obviously fundamental to a digital transformation. As you said earlier, so many people think it's about the technology, but there's so much more about people.

Akshay: Yeah, you will have the best technologies, but you know, technology makes life easier, but you will never replace humans, you know, the human element is so important. Remote working – again, I'm slightly drifting away from the topic – you know, remote working works. And the pandemic has shown us that people were able to carry out business as usual.

Akshay: But I think I have realised it's a lot of siloed operations now of people sitting in their home offices – that collaboration, that creativity they could have fostered when they were together has taken a back seat. And now that people are coming back to the offices, those creative juices have started flowing and you feel more collaborative, more productive and better benefit for your business and for yourself as well.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. I think we all thrive off that connection, don't we? And being able to have that contact. Final question, Akshay. What advice would you give to someone who is early stage in their career in digital, who's perhaps starting out their career?

Akshay: Anybody who's starting their career in digital, I would say focus on analytics and like I said earlier, meaningful analytics. You can have a lot of data and if it's not making business sense, if it's not delivering a tangible business benefit that can be measured, it's of no use.

Akshay: So start building a foundation on using data effectively. The way you could do this is again use of AI, ML, that's quite an interesting growing subject. The need for data will continue to evolve. Data is growing every day the way people are using technology, the way people are collecting data. Just take an example. Google, right? Probably Google knows more about me than I know about myself. [laughs]

Andrew: Right.

Akshay: So how do you use that data effectively in the digital world? I think that's the key.

Andrew: Yeah, I agree. And I think there's huge opportunities around data, how that data gets used, how it gets presented, so it is useful, it's relevant. I do think there's a risk that we can end up almost storing too much data. But I do appreciate that, you know, you never know when you might need some of that data. But I think with the way we are collecting so much of it, we perhaps do need to start being a little bit mindful of how much storage we're using for that data.

Akshay: And that's the core point I keep making – what's the tangible business benefit that data is delivering? If it's not delivering business benefit, then it's of no use. Yeah, this pocket archive. You might need it in the future. Who knows? But always focus because otherwise you're going to get drowned in this ocean of data. If you can't swim through the currents, you will drown yourself and you'll kill yourself. So you need to know what kind of strategies you need to adopt to wade through those currents and swim through those seas of data or the ocean of data. And keeping business benefits. Keeping tangible, measurable business benefits is the core to any business.

Andrew: Fantastic. All right, Akshay. Well, look, we are up on time, so I'm hugely grateful for you joining me on the podcast today. Just give our listeners details of where they can find you online if they want to follow up with you.

Akshay: Yeah, I am available on LinkedIn and my LinkedIn profile is or people can write to me at – very happy to chat, very happy to share knowledges and also get myself acquainted with people's experiences because every person I speak to there is some value addition that I get out of that interaction process as well.

Andrew: Absolutely. And that's a big part of why I do this podcast. So I very much appreciate you taking the time to join me, Akshay, and we will put your links in with the show notes which will go up on our website. So, hugely appreciate you taking the time. Thank you very much.

Akshay: My pleasure, Andrew. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I really enjoyed it.

Andrew: So thank you for joining me today. Some really good points that he made that I'm very much in agreement with. And while analytics have been around for a while, I still feel that we're pretty much in our infancy in terms of how we can really get a hold of data, especially when it comes from so many different sources.

Andrew: And I know from speaking to people on the podcast how managing and analysing that data is a continuous challenge feeding not only performance and growth, but also the importance of telling accurate stories that affect people and businesses alike.

Andrew: So that's all for this episode. I feel like I keep repeating myself with all my guests, but I really do value and appreciate the time they give to join me. And I hope you've benefited from the conversations as well. I'd love to hear from you if you've enjoyed the episode. You can email hello@theclientsideshow or you can find me on Twitter – aarmitage – or connect on LinkedIn – andrewarmitage – and leave me any feedback or comments. If you've enjoyed listening to the show, then please subscribe to the podcast and leave me a rating and a review in your app, or simply tell your friends and colleagues – I'd love for them to join me on future episodes. I'll be back in a couple of weeks with a new episode of The Clientside Podcast with another special guest. I'll look forward to seeing you then. Bye for now.