For nearly 40 years, GIC has worked hand-in-hand with leading tech founders to invest in and support leading tech companies across the globe.
One such trend is the rapid advancement of enterprise tech, given widespread digitalisation needs by businesses. Today, there is a proliferation of data across every single part of an organisation and data plays a critical role in driving strategy and decision making.
At a 2022 Bridge Forum Connects, GIC and Singapore ‘s Economic Development Board (EDB) brought together more than 70 business leaders from Asia and technology luminaries from Silicon Valley to discuss next-generation data infrastructure. Frank Slootman, Chairman and CEO of Snowflake; Guillaume Pousaz, Founder & CEO of Checkout.com; and Nathan Bell, Chief Digital Officer of M1, shared insights from their unique data infrastructure journeys.
In a wide-ranging discussion, these executives weighed in on the role of data in business, designing technology for scale, and leadership in a digital-first future.
The big shift in data
Snowflake, a digitally native company, helps thousands of organisations access, explore, share and unlock the true value of their data. With almost no legacy infrastructure, Snowflake was built from scratch as a data platform that harnesses the immense power of the cloud.
What is next for data and how can businesses reach further potential by mobilising its power? According to Frank:
- Data is becoming the beating heart of the modern institution. The role of data in business is moving from being used to inform analytics and populate dashboards, to a world where data will drive operations directly and programmatically. For example, companies are relying more on data today to optimise how they sell, how they market, and how they manage customer experiences in the future.
- The modernisation of data lies in the transformational aspects of using data. Customers are most interested in how to use data to maximise the impact of their businesses. They turn to Snowflake ‘s platform to extract the core value of data, where it is ready to be mobilised to enrich their businesses. Businesses should focus on the enrichment of data to open up new products, relationships, opportunities, and ways of leveraging data that we cannot even imagine. In fact, we are seeing increasingly innovative applications that integrate transactional and analytical characteristics today. Many new software companies know that they have to re-architect in order to look forward.
- There is an increasing need for infrastructure that allows for data to be shared and extracted without violating privacy and compliance rules. Data sharing is inevitably part of the business world because we live in an ecosystem which requires continuous interaction with partners, customers, and several other stakeholders. Every industry, vertical, and sub-vertical will soon see its own unique challenges and opportunities with data. There needs to be a more balanced and empowering relationship between tech companies and businesses to come together and decide how technology can be best applied for impact.
Designing tech infrastructure for scale
Checkout.com offers a seamless way for merchants to move money on a global scale. They are a digitally native company and have built a world-class, in-house infrastructure that spans the entire payments value chain.
How can businesses build a strong technological foundation designed for scale? According to Guillaume:
- Everything must be built with scale in mind. Beyond scaling your own infrastructure, you should consider engaging cloud-based providers that can scale in tandem with your business. For instance, customers will expect payments providers to continuously improve the speed and efficiency of transactions (e.g. from 50 transactions a second to 500 transactions a second). So those providers need to design and build technology that can scale with their customers from the start.
- Leaders must be able to make data-driven decisions. Having access to reliable, real-time data and being able to visualise it is critical. Leaders can only be as good as the data they see because it gives them the pulse of their business and allows them to address key issues in real time. Data is also extremely important for modern product design and management—both to develop new products and to monitor existing ones for improvements. Ultimately we are here to build for our merchants and data allows us to deeply understand their needs.
- High-growth tech start-ups should focus on getting the right talent. A company is only as good as its people and being thorough in the search for talent should form a core part of business strategy. Data should inform the skill sets and character traits that are important for the success of the business, and how to then recruit the right people at the right time.
Democratising data for a digital-first future
Established 27 years ago, M1 is a leading telecommunications company that has transformed into a digital services provider. While they have their own legacy systems and business models in place, M1 also has a digital platform that allows them to build products from scratch the way that digitally native companies would.
Why is it important to keep up with the role of data to prepare for a digital-first future? According to Nathan:
- Evolving trends in customisation and hyper personalisation, and creating bespoke customer experiences whilst balancing the cost to serve is changing the business strategies of many companies. At M1, by building a digital architecture from scratch, the business was able to launch a new set of products to create unique experiences. By building the whole platform in the cloud, M1 had the elasticity and flexibility to scale their platform on demand. To best leverage data for the future, it is important for business leaders to be exposed to what a digital-first future is really going to look like and understand how they can play a part in terms of moving it forward. It is about finding those champions in the business who get excited about new trends, how data can refresh the business, and what they can do with it in real time.
- It’s important to democratise data. Instead of maintaining multiple databases that must be constantly updated by different teams and which would require cross-correlating the data, M1 has found that a single data lake which supports every data need across the business has allowed them to solve the business problems that they previously could not address in real time. It is critical for companies to shift to a data platform and architecture that can bring about consistency, improve quality and drive the democratisation of data across the business.