This part of my journey is about creating value.

I was now a Solution Architect tasked to build Customer Experience platforms that integrates various data points across different operating companies within Axiata group of Telcos. When I started, the business case or proposition already had a lot of gaps and a project that has over-ran it’s budget and timeline multiple times. The designated vendor assigned to finish the project was not only faced with data issues – there were regulations, technology and the worst of all resistance from various parties in all aspect. That project failed after a year I came on-board. Digital customer experience, analytics and big data was over-rated. The team was in shambles…

It was the start of a new year when I sat my team down and discuss a new strategy in place. I never told them at that time, the unit will close if our business unit shows no value by year end (we were merely supported by a handful of leaders that still believes the power of data). The purpose was clear as I told my team members, ‘At the end of the year, we will build a product that people would use and you guys can graduate as data scientists. We have to start somewhere’.

That was the time, we started scribbling on a blank sheet of canvas and listed what are the useful features we have learnt from past years engaging with stakeholders. Focusing, drilling down and identifying the product from scratch. At that moment in time, the only platform we had was a big data machine crunching terabytes of raw data daily – and none of my team members knows Hadoop, mapreduce, nosql … the jargons of big data and science.

This was our only principle, mantra or goal post to help every data-centric marketer – whatchamacallit. (no kidding!)

You never can describe how momentum and progress starts or works but it magically just happens. 3 months after the blank canvas, our team built a mini data lake, processing real-time data in T+1 cycles and a nice looking Customer Analytics dashboard that shows an aggregated view of demographics, location, e-commerce trends and time series of transactional data. I wrote multiple concepts on how the product would fit marketing and network teams. It was then when stakeholders from operating companies started to be interested in the amount of data we are processing and how we manage to do it. It was also at that time we organised a Data Science Forum within the group, gathering like-minded individuals on board and shared our methodologies. The support of our unit grew and our work was presented to the board – who was excited to see the value of data right before their eyes. And finally we got the consent to continue building data science models, in hopes of generating value for clients and operating units within the Telco. That was the tipping point in my career as a Product Manager where I learnt in the hardest way, value creation in a product is what drives success not modules.

The good part of this journey was when stakeholders were willing to put a price tag on our product and we got interests to start our first project building chatbots and delivered a workable solution. Although I cannot claim that it created a tremendous impact on operational efficiencies as we continue to enhance, improvise and learn through pockets of failures. But I daresay that it certainly changed the careers of the team members that walked this part of the journey with me as they have now hold the data scientist titles – bringing great value to the organisations that they serve.

And this from the start, is propagated through our Axiata leaders who belief, trust and value people including the guidance that lead us to a path less traveled. This is something I will forever be grateful for.