As a leading telecommunications provider, Celcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom) has a network that currently caters to over 14 million users, including mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) users. Celcom’s mission is to transform the next era of connectivity through their data governance, data cataloging, and data mastering vision.
By using accurate and trusted data to improve their data intelligence, Celcom can both satisfy policy mandates and develop stronger customer relationships through smarter decision-making based on market insights. Threading the needle between managing risk exposure and building customer value requires a reliable data governance program that improves data quality, allows transparency into data assets, and drives accountability across data stakeholders and consumers.
Data governance is critical to helping Celcom find the right balance between sharing data with line of business owners who are seeking to improve customer relationships, and staying compliant with communications industry regulatory mandates. At the heart is the ability to make smarter, data-driven decisions from data intelligence and use those insights to create value, without unnecessary risk exposure when stewarding customer data.
We sat down with Jacky Cheong, Head of Enterprise Data Governance at Celcom, to better understand how a winner of Malaysia’s Technology Excellence Awards in 2022 relies on data governance to achieve their data management goals.
Question: What’s your background and how did you get into the world of data governance?
Answer: Currently I’m the Head of Enterprise Data Governance for Celcom Axiata with more than 20 years of global and regional data strategy, governance and management experience. In this time, I’ve delivered global and regional data governance programs to more than 30+ countries, five continents and 40+ projects/programs – that’s approximately total CAPEX of more than MYR 135m (about US$30m), and as a global operations head, running OPEX of more than MYR 50m. Before Celcom Axiata, I was responsible for delivering global data governance, risk and compliance programs for two global systemically important banks (G-SIBs) on the following programs – BCBS239, FATCA, SOX, GDPR, CRS, UCITS V, Dodd-Frank, and country-specific data related law and regulations.
And we have been effective. In recent awards and achievements, our team won the Malaysia Technology Excellence Award 2022 – Information Management category, Informatica Data Privacy & Protection Award 2021 and Informatica Global Innovation Award 2021 (Honoree) for delivering an intelligent data governance solution using AI/ML. I believe in the right people, process, technology and data which is fit for the business purpose, and that impacts business values and outcomes. My personal motto – team, trust and action.
Question: Who are the best advocates for data at your organization?
Answer: Of course, we have both internal and external advocates. Internally, the best data advocates are those people in the functions who believe reliable, trustworthy data makes a critical difference in their work and purpose. Yes, we need more advocates and strong buy-in not just from the board, top and middle management, but also the people at the working level that we call the front-liners of the organization. Externally, we share our knowledge and experience with our shareholders, parent company, customers, partners and government agencies for the necessary transparency.
Question: How are you helping promote data literacy to better find, understand, trust and access data to enable data intelligence and improve use of reliable data?
Answer: Happy to provide an overview. Let’s start with Project Axon — this was established to: 1) set the foundation for high integrity, governed data to future-proof Celcom, 2) maximize the value of our data while using our data in an ethical manner, compliant with regulations such as PDPA2010, and 3) ensure regulatory compliance to MCMC requirements for accurate customer data.
With Celcom’s vision to be the nation’s “Most Inspiring Digital Organization,” data plays a critical role in terms of driving business decisions, achieving operational excellence, achieving excellent customer experience, and identifying opportunities for innovation and growth, to become an “ambidextrous” organization. But certainly, there are challenges along the way.
Like many organizations, we have had to overcome hurdles in implementing reliable data governance with a technological solution, for example:
- Huge volumes of data to govern: Celcom has over 14 million users on our network, over 11,000 network sites, and that’s over 34 years of operations
- Ambiguous ownership over data: Lack of alignment and understanding on data governance principles
- Manual processes: In the past, more time-consuming and resource-heavy processes to achieve data quality — taking valuable time away from our teams to focus on more strategic goals.
But our approach and outcomes are largely successful — a few areas that I can highlight:
- AI & ML automation: Implemented data governance tools with AI and ML capabilities to operationalize data Governance, partnering with market leader, Informatica
- Increased efficiency, reduced risks: Using our tools resulted in up to 30x increase in efficiency, reducing risks of regulatory non-compliance and enabling faster business decisions
- Increased ownership and engagement in data to improve literacy: Established the Data Governance Strategic Committee, along with various data working groups and forums to oversee and drive data governance best practices.
In addition, like many global organizations, we also had to effectively move forward to keep our momentum during the pandemic. Most of our recent data governance program had to be delivered remotely, coordinating across Singapore, India, Australia and Malaysia. Workshops, solution design, development and testing were completed virtually and successfully.
Question: What parts of your business benefit most from having trusted data?
Answer: In terms of change management, measures were implemented to transition employees into the new data governance practices and platforms. This includes data literacy and culture to cultivate data-driven individuals, aware of data governance capabilities. This is through the “must-do” of workshops, roadshows, e-learning, videos, infographics and so on — plus, a yearly Celcom Axiata Data-Driven Digital Forum to learn the latest in data-driven, digital technologies that, most recently, featured 29 speakers across 10 organizations.
We also focus on building core competencies. Among Celcom’s main thrusts in 2022 is to invest in people and capabilities. And among capabilities is further improving data governance and data management. Data continues to play a critical role as we focus on our strategic thrusts, including:
- Delivering an excellent customer experience
- Maintaining strong momentum in our core businesses
- A focused effort in emerging business areas (for our “Ambidextrous Future”)
- Investment in people and capabilities
Question: How have you helped to build a data culture and how does the future look bright?
Answer: We have a commitment to excellent customer service and that requires a balancing act that effective data governance can help us navigate. We can summarize our success by both:
- Protecting customer data by investing in various data protection and data security projects, some of which build directly upon Project Axon tools — this helps us to satisfy industry regulators and maintain the trust of our end users
- Building a deeper 360-degree view of customers by investing in master data management to expand from our existing focus on data governance and cataloging. This also enables us to identify relationships between customers and opportunities for innovation.
Please join Jacky and me on September 27, as we learn more how Celcom is able to thread the needle of a successful data governance program by both satisfying regulatory needs for data transparency, while building better customer experience programs with improved data sharing programs. We’ll be answering questions live, sharing insights into predictive data intelligence concepts, and connecting with other data governance leaders in this exciting, interactive event.