Why Celcom Axiata Dialed Into Data Governance Early for DX

Image credit: iStockphoto/Chaay_Tee

Celcom Axiata faced what all traditional telcos typically faced: data hubris. 

Like many telcos, it was not short of customer data; it was swimming in it. After all, the company was the oldest mobile telecommunications operator in Malaysia.

But Celcom Axiata wanted to do more than collect data for operational and compliance needs. It wanted to understand its customers better. This was part of the motivation for the company to embark on a four-year digital transformation journey that began in 2019.

The telco also wanted to be more proactive about data privacy and compliance. With the regulatory environment evolving quickly, it wanted to stay a step ahead.

It knew that digital transformation was the answer. But, the trick was knowing where to start.

Celcom Axiata started where many often begin in the middle of their digital transformation journey: data governance. And it is how it began its relationship with Informatica.

Evaluating data governance as a starting point

Celcom Axiata had strong ambitions as a digital transformation proponent. The company, which has 14 million users, was already playing a pivotal role in digital advocacy in Malaysia. Now, it wanted to up the ante and drive data-driven innovation.

“Celcom has a clear focus on driving operational excellence and growth through innovation, digitalization, and new business areas,” said Datuk Kamal Khalid, chief corporate & transformation officer of Celcom Axiata, in a press release.

As a telco, it also has to remain compliant. So, the company wanted to use data to reduce its manhours spent on compliance.

“Overall, they had a mandate to look at being a data-driven organization. And they called it the Celcom Journey,” explained Anand Ramamoorthy, director, APJ head of data governance and data security at Informatica.

Often the difficulty with starting at data governance is justifying the cost. It is why the compliance department drives this project, as the cost of non-compliance can be readily calculated.

Celcom Axiata took a different approach. From the very top, it saw a strong link between data governance and becoming data-driven.

It’s a thinking that followed the same argument as laid out in McKinsey & Company’s article “Getting your data house in order.” In that editorial, the consulting firm saw data governance as a critical enabler and self-funding, addressing innovation and investment angles.

“It talks about, you need to have the business buying that vision, and what is the business goal. And having a data strategy tied to that, and then data governance underpinning it. So they see data governance as a foundational requirement,” said Ramamoorthy. 

And that is how the conversation began with Informatica, which saw Celcom Axiata deploying the company’s enterprise data governance solution. It uses the CLAIRE metadata-driven AI engine to do the heavy lifting in improving data quality.

The advantages of getting the data house in order

Celcom Axiata also saw the urgency in data governance. It knew that the surge in data volume would create problems in the future in the form of dirty, disorganized, and poor-quality data.

“It's equivalent to having corporate governance for corporate management; you need data governance for data management. But, with the explosion of data, it's hard to maintain, in a traditional sense, visibility,” Ramamoorthy explained.

The focus on data governance from the onset had two immediate effects. One is that the data became more portable and analysis-ready. It allowed the different departments to quickly use the data to gain better customer perspectives instead of cleaning or preparing the data.

In turn, it also improved data trust. Knowing that robust data governance is at the back, people trusted the analytical outcomes or the information that the data represented. This reduced double work, encouraged data-driven decision-making, and set the stage for data-driven innovation.

Another impact was that it made Celcom Axiata more proactive to new regulations.

“Celcom has MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) to report to, so they have no other choice. You can either wait for an event to happen, or you can be proactive,” said Ramamoorthy.

The company decided to do the latter. It used Informatica’s enterprise data governance solution to cut down the manhours spent on compliance from 150 hours to just five. It also allowed the company to adapt quickly to new regulations.

In the end, it’s about customers

For Celcom Axiata, the four-year transformation journey was about operational and service excellence.

“It's about customer focus. So how do I provide a better service to my customers, at the same time being operationally efficient, so that I can be competitive in the world,” added Ramamoorthy.

Celcom Axiata believes it is now on the right track with the new enterprise data governance solution.

“As we place great importance on acquiring high-quality and trusted data in our digital transformation journey, our collaboration with Informatica will ensure the delivery of the highest standard of service experience to our customers,” said Datuk Khalid.

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends, DigitalWorkforceTrends, and DataOpsTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Chaay_Tee