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Vijay Sharma, Vice President and Senior Partner, IBM Global Business Services

Path to power

Originally from India, I came to the UK for higher education. After completing my computer engineering degree and a couple of graduate roles, my first career defining move was joining Cisco Systems. Working ground up, I spent over six years delivering various data related projects, building data-driven closed loop marketing solutions, micro-segmentation based e-marketing campaigns and helping drive better business results by leveraging the power of data and insights. 


Moving to HP was the next significant step in this direction, where I delivered various large scale data and analytics solutions for our strategic enterprise clients, across various industries. It was here that I also led the launch of cloud based SAP and data solutions. Maturity in the cloud was the start of the data evolution.


Since joining IBM in 2016 as a global partner and now a vice president, I have been leading our European data business since 2018. During this phase, we have launched various data and AI focused solutions, in particular our Hybrid Data Cloud solution. 


The evolution of data is directly linked to my career growth. I remember discussing BI solutions at an IT level at the start of my career, whereas now data is a board level agenda where organisations are seeking new and innovative ways to leverage data and AI to drive their businesses, becoming a disrupter and not getting disrupted.


What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

There are many proud moments I have had during the course of my career. From delivering my first data project successfully to helping clients with large-scale data transformation programmes, each success brings a sense of satisfaction. 


With data and analytics at the core, helping my clients achieve their business objectives and outcomes is always fulfilling and rewarding. Most recently working with Yara, a global fertiliser company, we launched a joint strategic partnership with IBM for sustainable digital farming, helping reduce carbon footprint and minimising deforestation. 


To enable this, we are building the world’s largest digital farming data platform (DFDP), capturing 7% (93 million hectare) of farming land data to help farmers with actionable insights during the harvest lifecycle.


Who would have said that with the power of data, we can make a real impact to our society and the environment? Launching this platform truly gives me the satisfaction and by far the proudest moment of my career.


Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

I have two, both women. Firstly, my mother; everything I am today is based on my upbringing; she was my best friend. Second my wife. She is my rock and has always supported me throughout my career, being my inspiration and fuel every day. Both have taught me that nothing is impossible.


Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

2019 turned out even better than expected. Not only did we grow our data business in Europe, we are helping our clients drive disruptive transformation by harnessing the power of data and embedding actionable insights across the enterprise. This is happening in various shapes and boundaries, right from defining data driven customer experience for front office transformation to leveraging data to re-engineer existing back office business processes and in turn reducing operational costs and transforming the legacy back office operations to data driven back office. Furthermore, launching the Yara partnership with IBM and making an impact across the globe in 2019 made it ever so sweet. 


What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

2020 for data and analytics is a year of scale and transparency. When I meet senior executives and discuss data, I hear two major challenges – one focused on challenges faced by the majority is scaling across the enterprise and secondly in ensuring the new decision science models have transparency and zero bias.


Clients have implemented multiple data and analytics experiments successfully, however; they are struggling to scale. Data is not just about building dashboards and reports anymore, data is now truly seen as the value object to bring the complete enterprise together, connected with data, driven with consistent insights and intelligence.


Data is changing at pace which is very exciting.


Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

The biggest opportunity as I see is to use the power of data and modern technologies to drive a sustainable and environment friendly society. Similar to Yara solution, data and exponential technologies when combined can really help transform the business, our economy and society. 


Leveraging data and AI to provide personalised support for the elderly, researching ground-breaking medical solutions, helping protect wildlife, sustainable farming… I can carry on, opportunities are exponential. Data is allowing us to rethink and build disruptive solutions to tackle societal challenges.


What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

There are two challenges. One is scaling and the second is dealing with legacy estate, while transforming and implementing digital strategy. Every organisation has a set of legacy applications and technologies, so the biggest challenge is how to drive two parallel worlds into one connected digital enterprise. 


My advice – always align your top level business strategy to your enterprise wide data strategy. Use digital transformation as the vehicle to re-engineer your business processes. With a data first and application second principle, build an enterprise technology architecture blueprint driven by data, where data is decoupled from applications, enabling hybrid cloud architecture to maximise the value from legacy data and modern technologies. 


Secondly, if planned well, the majority if not all digital transformations can be self-funded, bringing in the savings by consolidating legacy and driving business benefits and outcomes by implementing value driven use case execution approach. 


Combine them together and you are on a self-funded digital transformation journey, where each iteration will drop business benefits. 

Vijay Sharma
has been included in:
  • 100 Enablers 2020 (EMEA)