Finger on the Pulse is a series where we explore the major trends shaping business technology. In each post, you’ll learn from one of our key partners and their perspective on an industry trend through the lens of their unique business. Our last post, Simplifying money movement to open new growth opportunities, explored how to successfully expand into new business and revenue models. This interview is focused on leveraging data to develop strategic insights that elevate your business.
Fostering data culture
What’s the difference between enterprises that extract the full value of their data and those that don’t? The truth is that, on its own, data doesn’t grow businesses. What drives growth is data-driven decision making, which is often called data culture.
Organizations that have robust data cultures empower both their employees and their customers to make better-informed decisions. But gathering and curating the data that people need to discover strategic insights is a lot easier said than done.
For many companies, data is buried in legacy software, email inboxes, manual spreadsheets, and siloed applications. Sorting through hundreds (or thousands) of information sources takes too long to be practical at scale. So many business leaders are forced to rely on their instincts, and with industries changing rapidly, those instincts aren’t as reliable as they used to be.
In this interview, you’ll discover how MuleSoft and Accenture solve these challenges by leveraging integration to break down the siloes that hold back data culture. We spoke with Nisha Sharma, Accenture’s Global Mulesoft Practice Lead, to learn how they’re helping clients around the world rediscover the power of data.
What is the history of Accenture’s relationship with MuleSoft and Salesforce, and why does the partnership make sense?
Accenture has worked with MuleSoft for more than 10 years to help our clients develop digital infrastructures that remove siloes and empower data culture in a wide variety of businesses. Integration has been a challenge for enterprises as long as technology has been around, so we’ve been a thought leader in the integration space for decades. Even when MuleSoft was just a startup, we knew a good idea when we saw one. It was obvious that there was a ton of potential for partnership.
We love MuleSoft because of the way it helps us solve our clients’ biggest integration challenges, and we also enjoy the open and collaborative partnership we have across all areas of the business. We receive updates on upcoming new features and capabilities, and also regularly communicate with their leadership team about features that could be even better, or opportunities to add capabilities that would have an even greater impact on our clients. It’s a true partnership that’s mutually beneficial.
Accenture has also been one of Salesforce’s largest partners for years. So when MuleSoft joined the Salesforce family, we were excited to take advantage of our knowledge of the Salesforce ecosystem and combine that with our MuleSoft experience to bring even more value to our clients.
What are some data-related challenges your clients are facing, and how does Accenture leverage MuleSoft to help overcome them?
The most fundamental challenge we see our clients facing in the journey to a data culture is that you can’t make data-driven decisions without having access to usable data. This is primarily due to a lack of integration and interoperability. Many companies are using legacy systems or siloed data that make it cumbersome or impossible to use the information they need to foster data culture. In many cases, different parts of the business are not even aware of data that other parts of the business may have which may be beneficial to them. They just haven’t been able to connect to all the data they have.
A lot of what we do is help our clients build the data foundation that’s necessary to generate meaningful insights and incorporate data into everyday decision making. That’s exactly the kind of task that MuleSoft was built for, and our clients have found it very effective. Accenture has found that integration projects broadly, and MuleSoft implementations in particular, unlock huge potential for all kinds of organizations by unifying the tools they use every day into a single ecosystem. That united ecosystem not only empowers them to overcome obstacles to data culture, but also streamlines and automates tons of operations and workflows at the same time.
What are some examples of business outcomes your clients realize as they foster a stronger data culture?
Imagine a retail company that sells home renovation hardware and appliances. The company has multiple teams with multiple goals: The marketing team is focused on attracting and maintaining customers, the sales team is focused on driving revenue, and the customer service team is focused on things like resolving customer issues.
The power of data culture is that it allows the retail brand to take the data generated by each of those teams: marketing data, sales team data, website data, customer service data, and other departments – and use all of it to improve offerings, change prices, optimize product designs, target marketing, and strengthen customer experiences so they can build more loyalty. The end-to-end journey for customers is a lot more seamless when you have a data foundation that every team works from to inform every customer interaction.
Better customer experiences is just one example of a business outcome. Building data culture with MuleSoft also has huge benefits for the IT side of the business. With MuleSoft, the retail brand has a much more streamlined, yet flexible architecture to work with. That flexibility lets the IT team adapt, resolve issues, and launch new capabilities or digital experiences in a lot less time than dated technology and legacy systems allow. We’ve also found that MuleSoft improves a CIO’s access to IT-related data, which helps them contribute to the organization’s data culture by incorporating that data into big-picture IT decision making.
Another business outcome flows directly from the benefits to IT. When your enterprise architecture is flexible enough to quickly introduce new capabilities like apps, websites, or other digital experiences, those new capabilities often create new revenue streams for the business. Combine that with the improved data visibility that empowers business teams to make more informed decisions that generate better outcomes, and you have a lot of practical benefits from leveraging MuleSoft to drive data culture.
What role do you see automation playing in helping your clients reach their goals?
If we go back to the example of the home renovation and appliance retail brand, there are often multiple stages of that customer journey. It usually starts with marketing, followed by a web visit and purchase, followed by customer service, and in some cases, there’s also an installation of the product.
With MuleSoft connecting all the systems involved at each of those stages, there’s a huge opportunity to automate previously manual tasks. For example, the company can provide their installation service technicians with an automated customer summary. When the rep arrives to do the installation, they have all the information they need to communicate with the customer in a way that will make them feel seen and valued. They could even suggest product or service enhancements right during the visit, place orders, and schedule follow-ups. That’s the power of data culture. It simplifies processes and improves customer experiences at the same time.
The time saved through automation also helps drive data culture by giving employees more bandwidth to think more strategically about their tasks. They end up with both the time and data they need to continually improve the work they do every day.
How does Accenture leverage MuleSoft to improve data transparency and maintain data security at the same time?
Sometimes, one of the obstacles to data culture is when data is regulated from either a security or a privacy standpoint (or both). One clear example would be public sector and government services, but it applies in a number of industries. When you have a variety of rules and regulations that have to be incorporated into your data governance, that can be intimidating and create a significant challenge for accelerating data culture.
The good news is that MuleSoft can have an immensely positive impact on data security and governance while simultaneously improving data visibility. MuleSoft has a number of built-in security measures that protect customers’ valuable data. And the streamlined integration platform that helps IT teams be more nimble and adaptable also makes it easier to manage and implement governance. Our MuleSoft teams at Accenture have extensive experience navigating security and privacy regulations in a variety of industries. So we are often playing a big role in helping clients use governance to balance security and data transparency.
If you’d like to learn more about Accenture, explore the Accenture + MuleSoft page or catch up with them at Dreamforce.