As one of the largest IT service providers in the world, TCS produces and depends on a massive amount of data to conduct and grow its business. But like many enterprises, its data practices made it difficult to derive timely, actionable insights from ever-increasing volumes of data, preventing the Mumbai-based multinational from becoming a truly data-driven business.
Specifically, TCS faced three major issues in dealing with its siloed data. First, there was the lack of customized reporting and the need to rely on application teams to develop those reports. Then there was the lack of a centralized, secure data management platform, with disparate data from various sources needing to be consolidated and validated, leading to high turnaround times and data quality issues. And third, without a central data platform, TCS was challenged to make use of AI-powered insights in helping business users run their operations efficiently and effectively.
“The company was unable to derive actionable insights from soaring volumes of data as it grappled with traditional information architecture supporting data silos, which are difficult to interpret, thereby leading to extended cycle times of data retrieval,” says Abhijit Mazumder, CIO of TCS, adding that a lack of data visualization interfaces further complicated the process of data-driven decision making for the IT services provider, which employs nearly half a million consultants across 46 countries.
Leveraging the power of platform
Confronted with these challenges, Mazumder and TCS set about developing a self-service data analytics platform that could act as a single source of truth for data generated in its internal IT ecosystem, a project that has earned TCS a CIO 100 US Award for innovation and IT leadership.
The mandate for the platform was clear: It had to empower business users to identify patterns, detect anomalies, and glean tangible insights from the vast volumes of complex datasets at their disposal; provide centralized data for regulating and controlling data access and interaction at all levels; provide intuitive visualization platforms to facilitate customized interpretations of data that would help foster faster, informed decision-making; and reduce dependence on IT to help make TCS more agile in acting on its data.
“We built the solution on the fundamental principle that data has shape, color, and texture. The aim was to enable users to understand hidden patterns and insights in data, effortlessly and quickly,” says Mazumder.
To realize the solution, TCS IT had to develop a new information architecture, Mazumder says, one that could provide consistent, reliable, near real-time data across all user roles. The architecture includes a common central data integration layer that serves all the analytics needs of the organization across business functions. It also relies on data marts to enable business functions to harness the power of self-service analytics capabilities. A multi-layered security solution was also designed to secure access to data based on role access and digital rights management systems.
To help business users make informed and timely decisions, self-service business intelligence with simple drag-and-drop features was built into the platform. This enabled users to create their own visualizations without scripting needing to be provided. There were also out-of-the-box interactive visualizations and enterprise dashboards that instantly respond to interactions and changes in context providing intuitive intelligence.
The platform also facilitated TCS making use of machine learning and AI. The former replaced manual activity for custom report generation, while the latter drove a conversational analytics experience to leadership, based on natural language queries, thereby providing a faster, easier way to ask questions, get insights, and make data-driven decisions.
“The storytelling feature of the platform provides multiple points of view with ability to dive back into source analysis at any point. It combines the narrative capabilities with data visualizations to deliver compelling and easily understandable insights. Besides, natural language queries with smart search helped to navigate complex information to accelerate data discovery,” says Mazumder.
Over 700 dashboards were deployed for use across 70 departments, with secure access ensured for 20,000 users across multiple geographies to enable data availability for business anytime anywhere. Moreover, the system now enables TCS business users to access data insights in near real-time, the CIO says.
“The solution enables interactive visualizations and enterprise dashboards that instantly respond to interactions and changes in context providing intuitive intelligence,” says Mazumder.
The cloud-based solution, which took nearly a year to build starting in 2020, relied heavily on the work of a centralized, highly skilled team of 30 people, who implemented the common data fabric and visual analytics framework, performed the necessary data modelling, and established governance guidelines and policies. Various data integration, data modelling, visual analytics, business intelligence, and data analytics tools were evaluated and selected for inclusion in the project based on flexibility, scalability, pricing, and several other factors keeping overall benefits in mind, Mazumder says.
The data-driven advantage
In addition to driving data insights, Mazumder says the centralized data architecture has greatly reduced resource utilization, cutting down data load times and data storage requirements by around 90%.
“There has been 85% reduction in projects with delivery risks because of proactive tracking enabled with interactive dashboards. The advanced use of analytics helped in tracking over 25,000 projects during remote way of working being practiced during the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Mazumder.
“There has been a reduction of turnaround time for delivery of analytics requirements by 50% compared to the earlier processes. It also improved productivity and enabled smart, quick decision-making across the organization with near real-time data analytics,” he says.
The in-house project has also helped the IT services provider streamline its IT operations. “With this new solution, TCS has been reducing enterprise technical debt by consolidating and retiring legacy platforms to the next-generation advanced analytics platforms,” says Mazumder.
But the biggest takeaway is how the homegrown self-service analytics platform has impacted business operations.
“The enabling of analytics- and insights-driven enterprise are creating new business opportunities to drive superior business performance by empowering [business users across the organization] with rapid and actional insights,” says Mazumder.