Build bridges. Don't Burn them. W/ Vip Parmar, WPP

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This is a podcast episode titled, Build bridges. Don't Burn them. W/ Vip Parmar, WPP. The summary for this episode is: <p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Catalog &amp; Cocktails</a>&nbsp;is BACK! Tune in for the SEASON FOUR PREMIERE with hosts&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Juan Sequeda</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Tim Gasper</a>!</p><p><br></p><p>Bridging the gap between business and IT is an age-old problem. IT doesn’t understand the business. The business doesn’t understand IT.&nbsp;Everyone looks at IT and business as if they were separate and point fingers, when they should actually be together.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>Join Tim, Juan and&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Vipul P.</a>, Global Head of Data Management at&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">WPP</a>&nbsp;where they discuss approaches to bridge the gap between business and IT.</p><p><br></p><p>Conversation Highlights: </p><ul><li>[01:10] Today's Drinks</li><li>[03:26] Two things that typically wouldn't go together, but do really well</li><li>[05:17] Vip's thoughts on bridging the gap between business and IT</li><li>[08:19] Empathy, curiosity, and measuring business value</li><li>[09:58] Empowering teams to ask questions, and thinking about different company cultures</li><li>[14:18] On defining roadmaps and determining business value</li><li>[16:37] A culture around data and the interplay between business and IT</li><li>[20:57] Data stewards and the idea of embedded roles</li><li>[24:50] An ideal team structure for bridging the gap: data analysts, scientists, and super users</li><li>[26:33&nbsp;] The data mesh and future leaders of tomorrow</li><li>[28:30] Future leaders in data, and delivering for both IT and business needs</li><li>[30:10] Empowering data literacy and learning paths</li><li>[35:24] Incorporating IT and data knowledge in employee onboarding</li><li>[41:19] The role of technology in bridging the business and IT gap</li><li>[45:15] Lightning Round</li><li>[51:02] Takeaways</li><li>[55:48] Three questions for VIP</li><li>[01:00:08] Next week: Raoul Pott</li></ul><p><br></p>
Tell & Toast
02:17 MIN
Two things that typically wouldn't go together, but do really well
01:47 MIN
Vip's thoughts on bridging the gap between business and IT
02:58 MIN
Empathy, curiosity, and measuring business value
01:33 MIN
Empowering teams to ask questions, and thinking about different company cultures
04:16 MIN
On defining roadmaps and determining business value
02:17 MIN
A culture around data and the interplay between business and IT
04:20 MIN
Data stewards and the idea of embedded roles
03:48 MIN
An ideal team structure for bridging the gap: data analysts, scientists, and super users
01:41 MIN
The data mesh and future leaders of tomorrow
01:54 MIN
Future leaders in data, and delivering for both IT and business needs
01:38 MIN
Empowering data literacy and learning paths
03:38 MIN
Incorporating IT and data knowledge in employee onboarding
05:47 MIN
The role of technology in bridging the business and IT gap
03:13 MIN
Lightning Round
05:45 MIN
04:42 MIN
Three questions for VIP
04:19 MIN
Next week: Raoul Pott
00:38 MIN

Speaker 1: This is Catalog and Cocktails, presented by

Tim Gasper: Hello everyone. Welcome. We're back. It's season four of Catalog and Cocktails. The honest, no BS, non- salesy conversation about data management presented by data. world, the data catalog for leveraging agile data governance, to give power to people and data. I'm coming to you live from Austin, Texas. My cohost, Juan, is coming from somewhere else, I'll tell you in just a second. I'm longtime data nerd and product guy at data. world, Tim Gasper, joined by Juan.

Juan Sequeda: Hey Tim, I'm Juan Sequeda, principal scientist at data. world. And yes, we are back and we're back live and we're starting to go out to places. I am in sunny Orlando right now. We are wrapping up the Gartner Data& Analytics Summit, and we're just so excited to get back on the road, to start to get on the road, taking Catalog and Cocktails to the road. And we said, if we're this, meeting people at conferences, we need to have live guests. I'm really excited to have my good friend, buddy, Vip Parmar, who's the head of global data at WPP. Vip, how are you doing?

Vip Parmer: I'm doing really great. I'm really happy and hyped to be here today.

Juan Sequeda: Oh, this is so exciting, because so much of what we're going to go talk about, which I think is one of the themes that came out of Gartner today. But first let's tell and toast, what are we drinking and what are we toasting for? Vip, you go first.

Vip Parmer: So what am I toasting for? So one of the things that I'm really big on over the last year or so, is being... And I presented this in a slide that I did the other day in the presentation, which is the fact that we are data rich and knowledge poor. So I'm toasting to becoming knowledge rich, right? I want all of us to become the Elon Musks of knowledge.

Juan Sequeda: Ooh, that's a good one. And what are you drinking today?

Vip Parmer: And I'm drinking a nojito, the mojito without the good stuff, but it's good enough for me.

Juan Sequeda: Tim, how about you?

Tim Gasper: I love it. I'm going to toast to people. I'm feeling very grateful for the people in my life, both personally, my family, my friends, as well as the awesome people I get to collaborate and work with professionally. So people are who I'm toasting to today and I am drinking Balcones Big Baby bottled in bond whiskey, which is actually cured in a tequila cask. And so it's a very interesting tasting whiskey.

Juan Sequeda: Wow, well, I'm going to combine those people and knowledge. For me, I've been talking a lot about this knowledge first world, and I have to say that these conversations I've been having over the last couple of months during the break, you can see I've gotten much more active on LinkedIn and talking about data modeling, talking about what knowledge and about people first, context first, relationship first. And I'm just so ecstatic about the conversations that we're having with folks, that they all get it. And so cheers to that, we need to become knowledge rich around that and that starts with being people. And I'm having a twist on an Old Fashioned, I think I've done this before, it's one of my favorites. The bartender told me it's called a Tattletale. So it's an Old Fashioned, but used with blended scotch. I use just Johnny Walker and topped off with a little bit of Laphroaig, so it's very smoky. So cheers, to people and knowledge, cheers.

Tim Gasper: Cheers.

Vip Parmer: Cheers.

Tim Gasper: People and knowledge.

Juan Sequeda: So we got our warm up question today. Today, we're talking about bringing together business and IT. So what other two things typically wouldn't go together, but they do really well.

Vip Parmer: So for me, it's a childhood favorite, which I actually haven't had in years. But it's having a nice cold glass of Coca- Cola with a scoop of ice cream in there and a straw. Sounds wrong, but it works.

Juan Sequeda: I got to admit, it sounds right. But it isn't. How about you, Tim?

Tim Gasper: I'm going to say, so I'm half Korean and so I love my Korean food. So for me, it's Gochujang with anything else.

Juan Sequeda: Expand on the Korean part, because forgive my ignorance on this.

Tim Gasper: So Gochujang is like a spicy fermented paste.

Juan Sequeda: Oh, okay.

Tim Gasper: That is... You can get it less spicy or very spicy and you can put it on pizza, you can put it on rice, you can put it on a sandwich. You can put it on whatever you want. You can put it on fruit, whatever pleases you.

Juan Sequeda: Well, I'm going to follow that one, because my wife is Mexican and I've learned now how to put a lot of spice on a lot of things and stuff that I was like," What you're going to put that spicy thing called Tajin on these fruit?" And she puts it on everything. And actually, I'm getting fond of it, did not expect it. Other things I thought about was potato chips on a bunch of stuff. And in Columbia you can put potato chips on hot dogs, potato chips, crumbled on burgers. And one thing I'll never forget the first time I tried it, it blew my mind, haggis on a burger, ooh. All right, all right, enough about some weird things here. But all right, let's get into the no BS discussion. Right, Vip, bringing bridging the gap, bringing business and IT. This is the obvious thing, all right? This is the age old problem, we discuss this every time. Why is this obvious thing not happening? I mean, why do we continue having these gaps?

Vip Parmer: So it's always a strange but weird one, right? Because in my experience over the years, it's just business and technology, they always just blame each other, right? It's just like the business have demands on technology, technology expects stuff from the business. It goes wrong, they start pointing the fingers at each other and then it never resolves itself, right? But I think first and foremost, it's like any problem that you have in this world, first you need to accept that this problem exists, right? Because folks say," No, it's not us, it's them." Right? People need to understand that everyone plays a part in resolving this. So this is something where the business and IT really, really need to come together, in solving all of this. And I think a lot of it is about understanding, right? Now, when I say understanding, it's around... And I use my boys, my sons as an inspiration for this, right? It's just like, whenever someone comes to you in the business context and says," I want you to do this. I need you to deliver X. I need you to do Y." Ask the question how and why." Why do you want to do that? Why? Okay, how is that going to make an improvement for you?" And keep on asking those questions until you get to the root of what they're trying to achieve, right? Where are they trying to get to? What problem are they trying to solve? And then what I always find, is that they're ask is the wrong ask." Okay, now I understand what you want. And I also understand what you've asked me to do, but those two things don't align, right? What you need is something else." And then what you also need to do as part of that journey is not to be too arrogant, right? And say,"Oh, I know it." Right? Because part of that journey is understanding more about the business, right? And I'm thinking with my technology helmet on, right?" It's okay, what are you doing? How does your department or what you're doing, how does that operate?" And try to really get under the skin of why those problems have existed or why they manifest or why those opportunities have really, really come about. And it's to have a grown up conversation, right? And understand and learn from one another, right? And qualify those asks and those needs. So it really boils down to asking loads and loads of questions and really getting down to the root of what it is that you're trying to solve and then getting to the right approach around doing that.

Juan Sequeda: All right. A lot to unpack here.

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: And this is so spot on, because we talk about it all the time. And I remember we had our guest Ergus a while back, who said, remember when we asked him?" What are the qualities that data folks need to have or just techniques?" He said two things," Empathy and curiosity." I think this goes into that, right?

Vip Parmer: Yeah..

Juan Sequeda: That asking how, asking why that's curiosity. I mean, that's what kids do all the time.

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: Now I think first of all, anybody in an organization should have that motivation to ask how and why, but how do we get some structure into this? How do you get your teams to start asking how and why? What is that process to get that cultural change? How do you do that?

Vip Parmer: So the answer is around, don't do anything that you're asked to do, unless you know exactly how it's going to impact the bottom line or how it's going to drive business value. Otherwise, you're not doing it, right? You cannot prioritize anything unless you can attribute it to a business value, right? Okay, sometimes we're going to get things that we have to prioritize, because they come right from the top and yeah, that stuff's got to get done. But it should be us to collectively, the business and technology, prioritizing that value together. And it should be, if we can't explain what that business value is, and you've got to be able to measure it, right? If it's," Oh, I'm going to improve sales." Okay, what you going to improve sales by? How long is that going to take, right? It's always got to be measurable, so it's really got to boil down to those basic elements, right?

Tim Gasper: That makes sense. How do you make sure that a team is empowered to be able to ask those questions, right? And what do you think about where there may be cultures within a company where the data folks who want to ask those questions, don't feel like they're in a good position to do so? How do we create a better scenario and a situation for them to do that?

Vip Parmer: I mean, that's a tricky one, right? Because you're right, culturally people don't always feel as though they can challenge, right? And people take it the wrong way. It's just like," You're the person who delivers for me, right? Just do what I ask you to do."

Tim Gasper: Right.

Vip Parmer: But you've got to do it in a way, which is... And it goes back to the point of being empathetic, right?" I'm not asking to be awkward, right? I'm not asking to be difficult. I'm not asking all these questions, so you'll just go away and then go and do something else and leave me alone. I'm doing this so I want to help you. I want to understand. I want to advise you and give you something that you really, really need." And I think you've got to pitch it in that way as well and come across in that way, because I've seen it done in the past before, and it's done in a bit of an arrogant way, right? So I think it's really about... And then also, as a leader or a manager, you've got to be able to ask your team what they're doing and why. And then in the same way as you challenge them, I think it invokes that spirit into them as well. And I think it takes time to do that. And it takes some guts as well, but as long as people know that you'll come in with good intentions, right? And you want to help them in the right way, I think then that follows suit thereafter.

Juan Sequeda: The good intentions is something that I think it's important, because when people start asking why and why, the receiver may take that with," Oh, why? I mean, you don't trust me. You don't believe me or stuff like that." And I think-

Tim Gasper: "Or are you trying to get out of the work? You don't want to do it or something like that?" Right?

Juan Sequeda: Yeah, yeah. So I think this is the cultural mindset that we need to do, that this needs to be coming from an executive point of view, right? And also if you're asking for something, I think you're all, you should also be in the position to explain why that is important. So if in the business side and I need this stuff, you need to be able to explain why that is important, why that is valuable, how much value that's going to provide. Could you actually quantify this? How would our business and organization be worse off, because we're not answering that? And actually, if you can't answer that question, then you should question yourself if that's actually the right inaudible.

Vip Parmer: Oh, I agree. And you've touched upon a key point there, right? In terms of coming down from the executives, right? And this attitude, this behavior, this mindset, this philosophy has to start from the top, our CIOs, our CDOs, our COOs, and all of the people at the top tier of our business need to be able to relate to all of their peers within their business, right? And set out their strategy, not in a way of," Okay, I'm a CIO, so I'm going to do all this technology stuff. I'm a CDO, so I'm going to do all this data stuff." It's really around, okay, at that top level, understanding what the strategic goals and objectives are for the firm, and then relaying it down through their chains and then driving that culture of collaboration, right? It's not just a handing off a baton of requirements, it's around co- creating those requirements, it's co- identifying those opportunities, it's co- identifying those problems. So they really need to make sure that as leaders across the business, that they're working hand in glove at that top level. And then it makes it easier, because if you've got that culture all the way from the top down, then at the middle and the bottom levels, it becomes a lot more easier, because they're doing it, because that's what you are asked to do. That's what they're doing, so that's what I'm conforming to. If you have that culture of compartmentalism, right? Where," I'm just marketing, so that's all I do. I'm just data, that's all I do. I'm just, whatever." Then that's just going to mean that everyone down that chain is going to just stay in their own box. And this is about making sure that those boxes open up and people start to overlap in the right way. So as always, it's got to come down from the top and that's going to come down from leadership.

Juan Sequeda: So what are the things that I'm... Let's brainstorm here live. People have their operational goals, you follow OKRs and stuff like that. And you think about it even from an engineering perspective, we define what is our product? What is our roadmap? And what are our goals going to be in this quarter and next quarter? We've been talking now about data products for a long time. And one of the things that we talk about the data products is that we should have a roadmap. We should be aligning. I always talk about, let's go catalog the questions people have. Let's go understand what are the priorities and then put them within the roadmap of what these data products are doing, that they need to be aligned with whatever OKRs or whatever types of goals that you're setting within that quarter. And if you can't make that connection, then you're not being part of the team who's driving those goals, that as a company we're establishing. And I think that's something that we need to go do, because I think we're just being very ad hoc too.

Vip Parmer: Agree, and you need to do that continually, right? Recently, we did that exercise in my team, where I've got everyone in the team to note down, what is it you are working on? And how does it tie to business value? And the business value is our strategic objectives. And we found a whole bunch of things that they just don't align. And it wasn't that we started doing things that didn't have any value. Once upon the time, they had value, right? But like most form of businesses, your focus and your vision and your objectives, that's going to change, right? You've got to be really, really agile. So it's important that you do this on a continual basis. You don't just start the year and say," Hey, this is what I'm going to do." Every quarter you should be looking at these things." Am I doing the right things? What has changed? Where has been that shift in the focus? And is the shift in our attention in terms of what we're doing and what we're delivering, is that mirroring that change as well? Because most of the time, it isn't, you just get stuck. And don't be afraid of," Well, do you know what? I started something, that's not worth finishing, right? It's a good initiative, but it's not laddering up to those new objectives." So you should never be afraid of stopping something, parking something and moving on to the next thing.

Tim Gasper: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense, Vip. And I feel like this is the culture around data and just general curiosity and empathy that we need to get to across our entire business, all of our businesses. And I like the comment here on YouTube by Etienne saying," Is it fair to also expect curiosity from the other person? This way, the conversation may be less unilateral as both parties would share their end of the problem." What do you think about that comment and who takes responsibility for establishing that culture. You're global head of data management, right? What is the role of leadership in all of this? What is the role of people on the ground? You've mentioned, for example, data translators, what's their role in all of this?

Vip Parmer: So I think it's interesting, because data translators are an emerging role and they're the unicorns that are going to help bridge some of the gap as well. But I think it's important to really go back to fostering that culture of curiosity across all levels of the business. And there's a piece around, and I know Juan has talked spoken about this before, but it's about having literacy. But I think it's about having literacy on both sides of the fence, right? Technologists need to become more literate around the business and vice versa, right? The business folks need to be more conversant and more literate around technology, right? So for example, some of the things that we are doing at WPP is, by bridging that gap, we're saying," Okay, we want our business folks to understand what AI is." And the simple output that we want, the simple measure is, that we want to train them on what AI is, so they can answer that they can answer and elevate a question on what is it? Right? And then in the same way we want our technology folks, for example, the folks in my team to really get in... When you're getting into projects, start to understand what it is, work with folks to be really, really curious. But let folks challenge you, don't be afraid of that challenge as well. So it's around, it's a two way street of being literate on both sides of the fence.

Juan Sequeda: I'm really happy you're bringing that up. I've been pushing this more about the business literacy and I'm glad you're validating that's something that we need to go do. You said something that I'm trying to connect two dots here is, when we're having this process of asking why and how and why and how, that is really, really important to be able to document what's going on there. Because in that process, you're learning the business.

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: And I think this is what I talk a lot about, this therapists role, that isn't just about," Oh, ask a bunch of questions and then we come have an aha moment." It's we want to keep track of those means and be able to go connect the dots across all the different people we're doing. Because one thing, is how the business works or how we're supposed to work. But the other thing is how it's actually working and talking to the people, that you figure out," Okay, this is what it's supposed to look like, but we're really not there. And these are the gaps that we have." So I think we need these types of roles, I think. And have that incentives of people to go ask why more. Anyways, me, I'm starting to rant here.

Vip Parmer: I agree with you. But I think having the roles is great, right? Having roles like translators and all that, super good, right? But you can't say," Okay, I'm going to put some data translators in place. And then everyone in the business is, yeah, great, we got this. That's their job, that's not mine." You need to embed it into people's roles. You need to build that culture. So whilst it's great having these folks doing it, you've got to make sure you've got to... And again, it cascades from the top down, they've got to really, really push and challenge our people in doing these things, right? And they've got to be the ones asking their people, how and why, why are these things happening? Why are you doing them? What priority are you giving them? Where's the value proposition to the bottom line? Where's that linkage, right? Because if they can't answer it, you're in trouble.

Tim Gasper: So just real quick, is this idea which roles should be more or what hat should be more embedded? Data translator, data steward, data therapist, like you mentioned, Juan, are these all things that should be more embedded in with other people to change the way they do their role as a data engineer, as whatever their role might be? Or is the other side of this is no, there actually needs to be a formal role of a data steward, of a data translator, of a data product manager, right?

Vip Parmer: So interesting, I think it depends on the organization, what you're doing, your construct, right? Things like data stewards, I've always been a firm believer of those. This should be something that's embedded into people's roles, right? There are people that are data stewards that don't have the title of data steward, right? And in fact, to this day, I've never met a person that has that title. Whereas those data translators, for example, I think they should probably be independent. People do it as part of their roles, but you need to have these independent roles that really think about all of these things too as well. But I think we need to be careful about giving people these roles and these titles. You're a data owner, you're a data steward, right? Because in a previous life we've done that, we said," Okay, you are the steward." And," Okay, no, you're giving me more work to do."" No, we're not giving you more work to do." And then they run for the hills, because then they're just like," I don't know how to do this stuff." You've got to make sure that when you're giving people these additional, they're not roles, they're responsibilities, they're very clear on what they are, but they have the means and the mechanisms to be able to fulfill that role and to do those things, right? So it's just like," Okay, Juan, you're the data steward of customer data." Okay, great. All right. But making sure that you've got the tools. Okay, so things like, obviously, data catalogs, things about making sure that they have the analytics tools, that they have everything they need to be able to manage that data. So I think it's the responsibility of technology around, not only making sure that we divide those roles up and we make those clear, but we give people the capabilities and the platforms to be able to manage their data and fulfill their roles, right? But then have that two way conversation to say," Look, we're going to give you these capabilities, but what do you need to be able to manage it?" Right? Because you want to reduce that overhead, right? Because at the end of the day, these people, their bread and butter is going to be doing operational things that are going to drive business value, so this has got to be made easy, right? And I can't remember who said it, but I was at a conference a while ago and someone spoke about governance and pinning out roles. And their conclusion was, if data governance gets in the way of what you're doing, or it makes it slower or more cumbersome, you're doing it wrong. So don't do it wrong, make it easier for people, make it clear, but make it easy, right? That's what we should be doing. And it's not down to technology to say," This is how you should do it." It should be that joined up, collaborative conversation around, how do we do it? How do we make it easy? And how do we make it something that just happens in the background, right?

Tim Gasper: Yeah.

Vip Parmer: We talk about-

Tim Gasper: Yeah, you can give people more responsibility, but you have to give them the tools, give them the empowerment or else it just becomes more. It's just burden, right?

Vip Parmer: Exactly. The right kind of empowerment. We talk about privacy by design. We'll just talk about governance by design, right? And think about principles like that in that way.

Juan Sequeda: I want to get more... Let's get concrete and have some takeaways here on... It seems like a lot of what we're talking about is our roles and team structures and stuff. What would be the an ideal team structure that you think that would be able to bridge this gap?

Vip Parmer: So I think, and I formulated one before, which was actually shot down, but it's actually one I've seen work, which is to have a bit of a decentralized structure, right? So people call it centers of excellence or whatnot, but you need teams. So it could be an analytics team, for example, and they're delivering analytics for an organization for marketing, for finance and all of the relevant sub- departments. So we should be having analysts and scientists as appropriate, that are actually working in those teams. They should be sitting in those departments, working with those people. They should be having a dotted line into the right people in those departments. And they should be working hand in glove to understand what's going on, on a day to day basis. That having that translator hat on, where they're understanding the challenges and the opportunities, and then working with people hand in glove to then work through them, right? I called them super users back in the day. They should be those analytics, those super users, but they're in that part of the business. But they are connected to the central hub of the analytics team or the data teams or whatever they may be. So then they have knowledge of the shared platforms, the working practices and all of, that good stuff that they should be using. But I've seen that work really, really well in some organizations.

Juan Sequeda: So this has been one of the biggest trends, I think now lately, especially with the data mesh and being able to go do domains. And decentralize and push the work down to where the domains are and then push the data team inside of those domains and those data folks, the data scientists, data engineers. Is that really the only thing that's been missing, a big component, or is there something else? If we had a magic wand right now and we said," Okay, we were able to go get our domains, people in there." Do we think life is going to be great?

Vip Parmer: No, no.

Juan Sequeda: Or what else?

Vip Parmer: No, there's more to it, right? And there's the literacy piece as well. Something that always resonates with me. And it's like in my career or at some point, us having a conversation with an engineering team and they weren't doing something that was really, really important for me. And it's not so much important for me, but important for the business. And I remember having this conversation with this guy and I said to him, I was just like," I'm asking you to bring over half a million rows of data. Do you know what that means?"" No."" Okay, that's half a million customers. Think customers not rows. And then with that half a million customers, with that data, this is what I'm going to do, this is what I want to enable, this is the problem that I want to solve." But everyone just thinks data. Everyone thinks tables. Everyone thinks rows. Everyone thinks columns. But behind that is something, there's an entity, right? It could be customers, products, behavioral data, but have more of an appreciation, you don't need to understand all of it, but have more of an appreciation of why that data exists and what it means.

Juan Sequeda: I would argue that the ones who have, not just appreciation, but have more and more understanding of it are the ones who are going to be the successful leaders of tomorrow.

Vip Parmer: I agree.

Juan Sequeda: And this is something I was saying recently, I was being very bold and blunt about it, is if you want to succeed in your career, you want to go forward, understand the business. Otherwise, if you don't want to spend the time understanding the business, then yeah, guess what? Probably not going to be a leader and that's fine, it's okay. But just don't have... Let's understand the baselines and where the expectations are around this.

Vip Parmer: And I think, not only does it have a whole bunch of inherent benefits in terms of what we're trying to do here and what we're talking about here today, going along that journey, you are then going to find other areas or other pockets of the business that are actually working against each other, right? It is like," Okay, I get what the business is about. I get what you are doing, but what you are doing and the way you are doing it is different to the way in which they're doing it. And I'm here as the technologist, and I'm trying to work and deliver for both of you. This is just a recipe for a disaster that's looming." It's going to help you to identify where those potential car crashes are going to happen as well, right? And I think that's a strong trait in leadership, having that broad level of understanding across the entire... Understand everything across that business, and then understand exactly how it's operating, how people are working, how departments are working, how they're integrating with each other, that is super, super valuable. Then you start to realize and understand," Well, do you know what? Here are the things that everyone's asking of us, but here are the things that we need to formulate and that we should be doing, that no one's asking us to do."

Tim Gasper: Yeah. You mentioned literacy and you mentioned about thinking about customers, not rows. And a lot of the theme of what we were talking about is, how do we get on the same page? How do we communicate? And if we're not on the same page, how do we have a culture that allows us to recognize what pages we're on and start to communicate that to each other and get on that same page with each other? I want to come back a little bit about this topic of literacy. I think that's really hard. And I think we've tapped into it a little bit with things like," Oh, we got to be more data driven. Let's empower people to learn about data skills and things like that." Right? But ultimately, both on the data driven side, as well as on the business literacy side, I feel like we're very dependent on HR onboarding. Did we have a good onboarding program that actually taught you about the business when you joined the company? Or are you five years in and you still don't know what the company's all about? How much of this is an onboarding issue? How much of this is something else? At WPP have you guys found some success in doing lunch and learns or things like that, where you're teaching data people about the business? Or I guess how do we approach this literacy issue?

Juan Sequeda: That's a great question.

Vip Parmer: So in a number of different ways, and we're doing a whole bunch of stuff across WPP around this, right? So I mentioned around the program that we had called Demystify AI, which seeks to answer the elevated question of what AI is. And we do that across different tiers in the organization. So for our data practitioners, we have curated learning paths, so then they can brush up on their skills about becoming data scientists and I'm saying more about ML and all of that good stuff. For our mid to senior level folks, we have a data and AI business school as well, right? And the goal of that is we want to train you on the elements of what data and AI is and how it can be applied, so you can be more confident about having conversations with folks and clients around that. All the way up to the top, we sent all of our senior execs on a Oxford AI business diploma, so then they have more of an understanding around how to apply this stuff and what it actually means as well. We also do a whole bunch of things around inspiring folks, because we've got a really solid community. We've got about 4, 000 folks in our data and AI community. We run a whole series of events. We run webinars and panel debates, where we're bringing external folks. I mean, we did one with Juan last week, where he and I talked about the future of data management and data products. We'll also get folks to talk about the challenges that they've been overcoming. What was the challenge that you had from a client? What was the approach? What were the techniques that used to overcome it as well? So it's not just about saying," This is how you should do it. This is how you should think." It's also about it's being very reflective, in terms of, this is how it's been done, this is how others have approached it. And these are the things, what are those lessons learned? If you were going to go and do that again, what would you do different? So it's it really about learning and understanding applications of techniques and trying to improve literacy about what everyone else is doing, but also really learning about how things have been done. And where are those success stories that we don't hear about, because they get diluted due to the size and the breadth of our organization.

Juan Sequeda: I think it's important to also give some context for those who don't know, what is WPP? I think we should have done that, because you have a very unique company.

Vip Parmer: Yeah, I agree. So WPP is a media and advertising company, predominantly. The official statistic is that one in four ads worldwide come from a WPP company. We're an organization of organizations. Some of you are like," W who?" Right? But really we are a conglomerate of a number of organizations. So we have hundreds of organizations within our fold. They all have their own leadership structures spread across I think it's about 150 odd countries now, own leadership structures, own departments, their own operating stacks, their own ways of working and all of that. So it's really, really super, super federated, right? But we do it in a way in which it's around inspiring and guiding folks. We are going to give you something that you can then take away and learn, right? Whether it's a course on machine learning, that's something that all we want people to invest is their time and their energy. And I think by doing that, it's become really, really powerful. We've solved problems that we never thought that we even had, let alone the ones that we knew that we had. But we're still on that journey and it's about being adaptive to those needs. The more we reach out to folks in the network, the more we understand, the more problems and opportunities arise.

Juan Sequeda: One of the things that Tim brought up and I never thought about this, in the onboarding process, right?

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: When employees come on board, explain how the business works, not just at a high level, but actually get a little bit more into the details. I think that's a great idea.

Vip Parmer: Oh...

Juan Sequeda: Do you guys have experience on something like that?

Vip Parmer: Absolutely. And I think something that we are working on, but one of the things that I've always done in all of my roles, when new people come into the fold is, I explain to them what the business is about in a very clear and layman's way and people get it, because everyone talks in acronyms, everyone talks in jargon and everyone pretends that they understand it, but more often than not, they don't. So explain in a very nuts and bolts way, this is what the business is, this is how the business model works, this is how we make money, ultimately, right? This is what people do, here are the problems. And then just give them that very, very clear... And not to be patronizing, I always tell it as if I was telling one of my kids, so then you get it. And it's just like," Ah, okay." That's what you want. And we're doing a lot of work to improve the onboarding process and there's been some great things that have been done. But that has to be clear, folks come into the business like," Oh, you sell t- shirts, right?" That's it, that's all they know. They don't know where they come from, how you make the money, that's all got to be very clear and explained.

Juan Sequeda: I think that this is something where it's, I think right for just internal innovation. I don't know people talking about this. I mean, Tim, we all talk to so many different leaders, executives, and I don't think the whole notion of like," Oh, let's get HR or plain experienced folks involved to get that onboarding of how the business works." And not just from a inaudible of" We sell t- shirts, right?" It's like," Wait, we sell t- shirts and you have to get customers. How do we get customers?" And let's understand that flow of the business. And then we understand the flow of the money. And then we actually map within the organization, the departments of how that goal works, and the people reach people in these departments and then the data systems that they may be using. And then the data lead from one system goes to another system. And all of that is just context, so when somebody comes asking for a question, yes, inaudible could continue to do why, why, why, maybe it's less why's, because we actually know now more the context where it comes from.

Tim Gasper: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: So this is really interesting. I'm actually thinking about another guest we can get in around from this space in HR and onboarding and getting to understand the business. This is a really interesting inaudible.

Vip Parmer: Yeah. And it's super, super important, because the amount of times I've seen it, I've seen folks that have been in the business for six months or a year, and they still don't get the business model. And it's important that they really, really get it. And they understand, not only what the business model is, but they get the wider context of why their role plays an important part into that business model, right?" I might be a data analyst, but here's why you are here as a data analyst. You are here to do this and this is how it ladders up to that wider strategy and that wider..." And when I say strategy, it's around making it really relatable, right?" I'm building dashboards, so we can understand more about our customers that buy t- shirts. So then we can sell more t- shirts to those kind of customers. And then we can figure out the customers who aren't buying t- shirts, so we can target them."" I get it." Right? As opposed to a data analyst," I'm just writing reports on T- shirt sales."

Juan Sequeda: Yeah. And then you also know, well, that data for this is coming from this system, but it goes into that other system. And then this is all that context right there we need.

Vip Parmer: Exactly. And then when people have that knowledge, they ask better questions. Why? Because they get more. And it's like," Well, why are we using those systems? Why are we writing reports on t- shirt sales? Should we be writing reports on t- shirt prospects?" It's things like that. And then people become more challenging in the right way inaudible.

Tim Gasper: Yeah. I don't think we're taking, as organizations, onboarding as seriously as we could be in general. I think there's a lot more opportunity there. And just this whole conversation reminds me actually of my first job that I had coming out of college. I worked at a company called Highland Software. And the first week on the job, when you joined the company, I don't know if they do this anymore, but the first week on the job, you didn't even report to your department yet. You actually went to what they called Highland University. And you would learn the product and the systems and about the business for a week straight. And then you would go join your department. And I thought that was super weird. I think it's still weird, but I always remember back to that experience and being like," Wow, I wonder why other companies aren't doing that." Because you come out of that being like," Oh wow, I understand the business. I understand how the product works. And even if I never end up coming back to it later, I have all that context. I'm going to ask really good questions now, if I'm in sales, if I'm in marketing wherever I might be in the organizations."

Vip Parmer: Yeah, agree.

Tim Gasper: I think... Oh, go ahead, Vip, yeah.

Vip Parmer: No, I was going to say I've seen it in organizations, whereas part of the onboarding process, you might be working in the IT team, but as part of... You've got to then work in some cases, it might be a day, it might be half a day, where you go and work in each one of those key departments, right? And you go and shadow someone, so you're not going to actually be doing anything, but you just shadow someone and observe key people just to understand what they're doing. And then at the end of that onboarding process, what did you learn? And I think it's simple initiatives like that, which are obvious that we just don't do or don't do enough of.

Tim Gasper: Yeah. I think before we go into our lightning round, one other topic that's interesting to explore with you, Vip, is around the role that technology can play in helping to bridge the business and data. And I'm curious from your perspective, catalogs, quality, governance, policy, learning management, how does technology play a role in bridging this? What have you seen is most impactful in how to manage that properly?

Vip Parmer: So the key thing is around understanding, right? Understanding what exists. So let's rewind back to 2018, back in the UK, GDPR come in, everyone was like," Oh my God, we've got this regulation in. We've got a consent, privacy management, data life cycle management, great. What are we going to do?" All right. Well, the first thing you need to do, is understand what data you've got, right? And then you've got to apply the meaning to it. You've got to understand it's customer data, it's sensitive data, it's banking information and all of that good stuff. And then you start to understand its heritage and the lineage around it. And then you can start to define the policies that ladder up to GDPR and have that meaning around it." Okay, I've got customer data, this is what it means. I've got banking data, this is what it means. And this is how long are you keeping it for?" And then once you start to have that understanding, you can then start to apply those policies and your thinking. But the thing was, is that for a lot of organizations that was absent, we just had data, because we just had data, right? It's data that we just created, we don't care how long it is, it's just there. I don't want to remove it, because I don't know what the impact is of removing it, because I don't know what is it's going to do. So having those semantic foundations of understanding tick a number of boxes, you can start to make sure that you are compliant. You can start to make sure that you're more efficient, especially as organizations embark upon the journey into the Cloud. What? You're going to dump everything into the Cloud, just because you got it? What life cycle management policies are you going to put in place? Are you going to remove financial information after three months, after customers have left you? You can be more efficient about your data storage, especially in the world with the backdrop of sustainability. The Cloud and all these data centers that we put data in, they consume vast amounts of electricity and for stuff that we don't use as well. Are you just going to keep on buying stuff and then just adding more rooms onto your house, just to keep all that stuff that you don't even use? We've got to move away from being data hoarders. But having understanding around that data also then unlocks the opportunities to leveraging your data." Okay, I didn't know that we had that." Right? So there's an opportunity to start mixing and becoming creative with data. You can also then start to untap a lot of the potential in and around that data. So I think that's the key part to unlocking it and getting actual, real, real value out of it, is just having that basic level of understanding of what you've got.

Juan Sequeda: This has been a phenomenal conversation about business. And I think, trying to wrap up this discussion, we've been here at Gartner, walking around hundreds of different vendors. And you walk around and you look at all the taglines around that. And it's pretty daunting to figure out what exactly is going on here, because a lot of them say the same thing or overlapping things. And I think it is up to leaders and actually not just the leaders. I mean, everybody with an organization is to be critical and to really ask those questions, why, how, why, how. And I think before we get to the takeaways, I know for me, that's already a takeaway, ask more why's, ask more how's. All right, I think it's time to go to our lightning round. We've got a couple of questions. The lightning round is presented by data. world, the data catalog for successful Cloud migration. With data. world, you can ensure business continuity and visibility at every stage of the migration process. I'm going to go first. So WPP is a big company and you've been putting all these amazing training programs together, right? About data and AI, you have all these partnerships with Oxford. Can smaller companies do that too?

Vip Parmer: Oh, of course, of course. It's much harder for us to do on a large scale, but a lot of organizations can do it. There are a lot of partners out there or learning providers, that you can partner with. And the content that we are creating, a lot of it is our own content, right? Who better than to use your business to teach the rest of the business and to create content around that and do that in creative ways, all right? We live in a time where we don't need to get people into classrooms to teach all this stuff. We can produce videos and more interactive materials, so hell yeah.

Tim Gasper: Awesome. Love it. Next question is, so the chief data officer or the person who wears that hat, right? Do they bear a heavy responsibility in bridging IT in the business?

Vip Parmer: Oh, absolutely. And I think if they're not, then they shouldn't be a CDO, right? I know that's controversial, but that's what they should be doing. The chief data officers are there to not only make sure that there is order and structure and all the good things are going on within their sphere or span of control within those data departments. It's also about making sure that they are working with their peers, their peers in the C- suite and making sure that they're aligned in what they're doing, what their challenges are and then how they can work together to help, not only resolve those challenges, but identify those opportunities. Because you're not going to ask for, you're not going to do things if you don't know that they exist, right? So they have to have that culture. And going back to what I said earlier, it's down to them to drive that culture of collaboration and cross pollination across all of the departments down through the chain of their organization.

Juan Sequeda: Well, that was also actually a theme when I was at the MIT CDO conference. All the CDOs we're talking about the business, how do you define success from a business perspective? Not that much about technology. And I agree with you, if you're not doing that, then you're not the CDO, you should not be the CDO.

Tim Gasper: Yeah. Good answer.

Juan Sequeda: Next question, our companies like WPP, seeing the idea of knowledge rise in relevance from them versus just data?

Vip Parmer: Oh, agree. I mean, I'm a huge advocate of knowledge. And I mean, I made the statement earlier on about being data rich and knowledge poor. And I'm not just saying that about our organization, I just say this is prevalent in all organizations. So we need start making more of the connection between data all the way through to information, all the way through to the insight and knowledge, right? And I think there's a stat from Gartner around it's like, 87% of data is unused, right? Because there's no meaning around it. So absolutely we should be ensuring that we are transforming data into knowledge. And if we are not, then that data is just not serving a purpose, it shouldn't be there. And we should really be questioning why we have it and what we're doing.

Juan Sequeda: Love this.

Tim Gasper: Yeah. Last question, so Vip, fast forward 10 years from now, will we have by and large solved this data and business literacy problem? Is this something that we're going to actually solve for, or are we in this for the long haul?

Vip Parmer: I think we're going to be in it for the long haul. I think we're going to be a lot more poised around the approaches that we are taking. I think there's going to be more appreciation of the business value chain across technology and across the business departments. I think what is going to change, is the types of challenges and the types of ways in which we're doing business, right? But I think we are going to have some solid foundations in terms of bridging those two things together. I read something a while ago where someone said, the business of the future won't have a chief debt officer, because the mantra of data will be embedded into the organization, you won't need it. And they also mentioned about Amazon, the world's most biggest data driven business, yeah? Who's the CDO? They don't have one.

Juan Sequeda: They don't have one.

Vip Parmer: So I think we'll see more people, especially in senior roles, our C- suites, that are more technology focused and more technology driven and more data literate as well as business literature.

Juan Sequeda: This brings up another interesting thought, will not having a CDO means you're being successful?

Vip Parmer: Not necessarily. It might mean that you've potentially got to that Nirvana point as well. But I think there is still a time and a place for having a CDO in that organization. It's when all of your ducks line up, it's when everyone has that level of understanding across business and technology, you reach that point. But it's not a bad thing having one, I just think organizations that are really technology driven and technology focused will probably be the first ones that will be potentially clipping those roles.

Tim Gasper: All right.

Juan Sequeda: All right. Time for TTD Tim. Take us away with your takeaways, go first.

Tim Gasper: Yeah. Oh my gosh. So many good takeaways, Vip, thank you so much for this conversation that we've been able to have today. So we talked a lot about this need to bridge the business and technology groups and how to do that and the big challenges around that. And you had mentioned that business and technology groups always have these demands of each other. And that a lot of times they're not speaking the same language and that you must accept that this problem exists. It reminds me of the multiple stages of grief or something like that, right? I acknowledge that there is this issue that there is this problem and that everyone has to play a role in solving it. You mentioned about understanding being a really clear goal that we have to understand each other. We have to ask how, we have to ask why. You need to create a culture and empower the people on your team and across the organization to ask why, to understand the value and to encourage them to make it clear that they're not trying to be belligerent or cause confusion and delay, that asking why is a good thing, because it highlights the value. It makes it clear to them what they should be doing so that they do the right thing and it's the most impactful thing. And it makes sure that we as an organization prioritize properly, right? And throughout all of this, it's a journey that everyone's going on together to understand the business more as a whole. And to have these, what you call grown up conversations, to really qualify those wants and needs. How do you get people to ask why? Well, you should ask why when you're asked to do something, so you should make sure that those people are asking why. You should, as a manager, make it clear to your team that they're empowered to do this. And you also talked about that it's important for people to know the strategic objectives of the company. What is the company trying to do? What does the company do? And those are going to be key factors in helping them to ask the right questions and have smart why questions to ask. So I thought that was a really good setup on making sure people are asking the right questions and understanding. Juan, what about you? What were some of your big takeaways?

Juan Sequeda: I got several here. So how do we establish this culture? So we've talked about the literacy. Yes, we need have data literacy, but we're in this agreement that we need to start thinking about this business literacy. And we did talk about these data translators, and hey, we acknowledge that they can be unicorns in a way, and it's hard to go find them too. So it is not just about having that particular role that exists. This needs to be something that other people are going to have within their existing job, because otherwise they're going to think it's somebody else's job.

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: And not want to go do that, right? You need to embed the responsibilities as well, so it's not someone else's job. But you need to empower them, you need to give them the tools and make it clear, make it easy around this. We've talked about the team structures. And I think it's very clear that the whole decentralization push, your data scientists, your analyst, engineers into those different departments. I think that's one of the important aspects. You said something I'll never forget, think customers, not rows. That is a brilliant, brilliant takeaway, because that's the knowledge first suspect right there. Data first, it's rows, knowledge first, oh, those are customers actually. And you really want to identify groups that are working against each other and protect against those car crashes.

Vip Parmer: Yeah.

Juan Sequeda: That's a really important takeaway right there. So how do we enable these data and business literacy within an organization? Well, it's education, right? Like you guys at WPP, you've established all these programs around AI, doing things with Oxford trainings, having a lot of guest speakers, having special workshops. Learn from others who have done it before, we're talking now about how we could possibly do this with employee onboarding, a lot of possibilities of things to go do there. You said something that I really loved, when you have the knowledge, you ask better questions and I think this is another brilliant takeaway. What roles can technology play? It's in assisting with the understanding, because when you understand that data again, you can leverage that data more. You can ask those better questions. So technology there is to make you really understand better that data. And I think just that last takeaway that we talked about, the CDO, I think that the goal should be that the CDO economy of becomes irrelevant. I mean, look at those big companies, they don't even have CDOs around that. We did a lot, how did we do on takeaways? Anything we missed?

Vip Parmer: No, no, I think you've covered it. Both of you have covered it brilliantly. Wow, wow. We did get through a lot there.

Juan Sequeda: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Let's wrap it up. We got three questions for you.

Vip Parmer: Okay.

Juan Sequeda: What's your advice about data, about life brought on purpose? Second, who should we invite next? And third, what are the resources that you follow? What are the things that you read, people that you follow, conferences that you go to?

Vip Parmer: So I think in terms of my approaches or ways to think about things, I just think be curious, don't ever be afraid to challenge. And this is my whole personal mantra, which is make sure you learn something new every day, have one take away every single day. And it might be something simple, right? I learned how to cook sausages or whatever, but make sure you reflect and you learn something new every single day and have that mind and I think that's the thing. And don't be afraid or failing, don't be afraid of changing your mind. Don't be afraid of saying, you might think that that sausages are the best thing today and tomorrow is just like," Well, it's bacon tomorrow." Don't be afraid of that. Don't be stuck in your ways. So I think that's something that's I've always grown up with as well.

Juan Sequeda: Who should we invite next?

Vip Parmer: Oh, who should we invite next? Wow. I mean, you've had a real, real great number of speakers on here. Wow.

Juan Sequeda: Or a topic or a type of person...

Vip Parmer: I don't know. I think trying to... What I would love to hear more about, is from an organization or a person or someone who's really good at this, to understand what we're missing, right? We're all talking about ones that we think we're good, but who are those key organizations that are really, really nailing this and how will they actually do this? It doesn't have to be a large organization, but it could be a small one, right? Because I really feel as though I'd like to learn from one another and how they're approaching things.

Juan Sequeda: Well, anybody who's listening in, do you want to share your story? Please reach out to us. Finally, what resources do you follow? So I don't do a lot of reading a lot. I pursue the right people on LinkedIn and making sure that I'm reading the right blog posts as well. And I just think, for me, it's about absorbing the right information from the right people and debating in your mind everything that you hear, listen and learn as well. So there's various folks that I follow, but I just think it's around the people that are around you. They're going to be very key to your immediate learning and understanding as well.

Tim Gasper: Love that. You're big on building that network and being able to share knowledge with each other and I love that. It's a very connected approach to knowledge sharing

Juan Sequeda: And that's something I've been following a lot and finding the right people, connecting with them, trying to go talk to them, have one on ones with intellectual people. I'm very privileged that I get to talk to you and we get to-

Vip Parmer: Likewise.

Juan Sequeda: Chat and just share what's going on in the world.

Vip Parmer: Absolutely. And I think given everything that's happened in the last couple of years, that level of connectivity has dissolved a bit, right? We don't always have those impromptu conversations. We don't always have those things that we hear someone else talking about whilst we're in the office, that peak our interest. Those are the things... I think we've lost the ability to be able to listen, learn, and connect with people outside of a screen. So being here and meeting people, talking to people, understanding what they're doing, listening, learning is really, really key. And sometimes to me, that's more powerful and it's going to be more valuable than reading any book.

Juan Sequeda: And with that, after this, we're heading to dinner to continue talking about and discover things.

Vip Parmer: Oh, of course.

Juan Sequeda: So next week we're going to be chatting with Raoul Pott. He's from Vopak and Vopak is a company I find fascinating. The company's been around for 400 years. And I remember talking to them and them saying," We need to be around for another 400 years." That is thinking about being resilient. So that's one of the conversations we're having next week with Raoul and we're actually going to be all live in Austin. We're going to be in the data. world headquarters, so it's going to be really fun to have that and conversation over there. And well, thank you very much for all our listeners. This episode, again, was brought to you by data. world, the data catalog for the data mesh who can help you do the data mesh in a whole new paradigm for data empowerment. So to learn more, visit data. world. With that Vip, Tim, thank you so much.

Vip Parmer: Thank you guys. Thank you for having me. It's been an honor and privilege to be here.

Tim Gasper: This was great. Looking forward to choosing you in person in just a few weeks time, hopefully.

Juan Sequeda: Cheers.

Vip Parmer: Brilliant.

Tim Gasper: Cheers.

Speaker 1: This is Catalog and Cocktails. A special thanks to for supporting the show, Carly Bergoff for producing, John Moines and Diane Jacob for the show music. And thank you to entire Catalog and Cocktails fan base. Don't forget to subscribe, rate and review wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Catalog & Cocktails is BACK! Tune in for the SEASON FOUR PREMIERE with hosts Juan Sequeda and Tim Gasper!

Bridging the gap between business and IT is an age-old problem. IT doesn’t understand the business. The business doesn’t understand IT. Everyone looks at IT and business as if they were separate and point fingers, when they should actually be together. 

Join Tim, Juan and Vipul P., Global Head of Data Management at WPP where they discuss approaches to bridge the gap between business and IT.

Today's Host

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Tim Gasper

|VP of Product,
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Juan Sequeda

|Principal Scientist,

Today's Guests

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Vip Parmar

|Head of Global Data Management, WPP