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Data isn't just for nerds, show your staff its value: ASIC's Darshil Mehta

ASIC CDAO Darshil Mehta discusses data culture and strategy development

One topic that repeatedly comes up when discussing data strategies is the importance of having support and interest in data right across the organisation.

Building a culture where more company stakeholders are cognisant of data is a non-technical endeavour that CDAOs can find challenging.

However difficult, Australian Securities and Investments Commission CDAO Darshil Mehta says it is critically important, and he has thoughts on why some attempts to foster greater data thinking goes awry.

“Based on some past experiences and discussion with some of my industry peers, a common characterisation I hear is that ‘data is for nerds’ and that dashboards are not useful for non-data people,” he says.

“That’s not true and I think it’s a fundamental problem if people feel this way. Data is for everyone in the same way that security is everyone’s responsibility. It is helpful for people at any level of the organisation for any job.

People in different levels of an organisation can be convinced that data is useful for them provided data leaders are able to understand and make it relevant to their work, Mehta says.

“It’s important to ensure that when we talk about data literacy, the messaging, the communication and the training is tailored to the employees’ roles and responsibilities so that they understand what is in it for them,” he says.

“In addition to that, setting the tone should start from the top, where the organisational leadership not only understands the value of data literacy, but they are using it. That will cascade down.

Mehta adds this can take any form.

“It’s not about tools or technology, it’s all about using data to make decisions.”

There are of course different levels of requirement and access to data for certain roles and individuals, which means there isn’t a one-size fits all approach to enabling all staff with data.

“There needs to be a mixed bag of tools which will be helpful at different levels of the organisation,” Mehta says.

“It does come down to data maturity of individuals or teams, they need to be willing to go on the journey, but we need to show them that it matters and that it is worth investing their time in.”

“There are many ways by which you can make information and data available to everyone. There might be predefined dashboards, or self service solutions, SharePoint drives or certain internet portals.

“We do need to make it easy for them by making sure when we do provide access, the information is ready, up-to-date and in a usable format.”


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Evolving Strategy

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is Australia’s corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator.

It’s data strategy, which Mehta is driving, is organised around four pillars, being to “collect more and better data to systematically enhance our regulatory work; use data to prioritise our regulatory activities; use data to automate internal processes; and maintain high standards for privacy, information security and data governance in how we store, manage and protect data”.

“This is the first time the organisation has ever done a data strategy,” says Mehta, who joined the organisation in 2020, and later took over ownership and execution of the data strategy when he was named Chief Data and Analytics Officer in late 2022, not long after the strategy was conceived.

“It’s been a very good way to get in and understand the whole organisation's remit and what they do as a regulator.

“It is important to have a holistic data strategy for the whole organisation focusing on elevating end-to-end data management capability. This includes an investment in technology, in governance and in people. Our data strategy encompasses all of it.”

The plan, which is available on the ASIC website, covers 2021-2026, but Mehta says it will evolve as time progressing given the rapid technological and regulatory changes that occur.

“We have done two years of data strategy implementation. The world has moved along, though,” he says.

“Technology has evolved, and the regulatory landscape has evolved. It is therefore important that we continuously reevaluate and consider what the future data strategy should be, given the latest technological and regulatory advancements and also helping to achieve our goal to be digitally enabled and data-informed regulater. That’s going to be my focus for the next couple of months.”


Darshil Mehta will be speaking at CDAO Melbourne in September. Click here to check out the agenda and register to attend.