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Business of Data Meets: KPMG CDO Jodi Morton

Jodi Morton, CDO at KPMG LLP, talks about what COVID-19 means for her firm’s data strategy, adapting to a fast-changing business environment and the firm’s plan for continual data and analytics improvement

What would you say have been your greatest professional achievements since becoming CDO of KPMG’s US firm?

I joined the firm about 12 months ago and was brought on board to drive and implement our data strategy. We’re looking at opportunities to help us operate more efficiently, deliver greater value to our clients and to help drive our own internal decision-making.

I’m very proud of how much progress my team has made over the past year. We have a lot of talented people doing great work for us right now.

We are focused on building our foundational data capabilities, such as our enterprise data lake, our metadata capabilities and our master data management capabilities, establishing standards and standing up data governance councils.

Another big thing that we’ve been working on is the communication of the data strategy, which is really all about sharing the data strategy internally across our business functions – from Audit to Tax, Advisory and throughout the back office.

We’re communicating to increase awareness of what we’re doing and to get them thinking how to work with and leverage the firm’s foundational data assets.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the work that you’ve been doing, in the first part of the year?

Data is foundational for driving insights in this ‘new normal’ where we’re reacting every day to what’s going on around us.

We’ve received quite a few requests for new data from teams across the firm that are looking to help drive additional insights for our clients. Our third-party data group is being leveraged to deliver that data.

There’s also a pretty consistent stream of questions from our senior leadership that had never been asked before, but which are now being asked in this new environment. My team is right in the thick of helping to drive insights that will help our leadership manage our firm in these unique and uncertain times.

So, what impact is today’s rapidly changing environment having on your data strategy?

I think the question is: Do you take this opportunity to slow down and be somewhat conservative? Or do you take advantage of a unique environment like this to accelerate some of your future-focused investments?

We’re moving forward with both our digital business transformation as well as the data strategy. The pandemic is highlighting new and existing opportunities that we’re now accelerating.

You’ve been a C-Level data leader for more than six years. What would you say are the greatest lessons you’ve learned in that time around data and analytics leadership?

We need to be nimble in what we’re doing. There’s so much changing around us, whether it’s this new pandemic environment or the emergence of new technologies, methodologies or data to help us drive deeper insights. So, don’t set a plan and say, ‘I’ve got to stick to that plan for five years.’

We need to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the market around us and then make good decisions about what capabilities to bring into the data and analytics program.

You can’t run after everything, otherwise you would never get anything done. It’s about being strategic about what the right capabilities are to bring into your data and analytics environments next.

How do you see KPMG’s data function evolving over the next three years? Which new capabilities do you want to add into the mix?

One of the things we’ve got to continue to do is to collaborate with the business to understand the evolving environment and where new data and analytics capabilities could add value.

It’s keeping those conversations going and making sure that we can deliver things that are efficient, resilient and scalable.

Take the focus on AI and ML, for example. They have been around for a while, but they’re maturing now. So, how do we plug into those tools and how do we help the business functions spend more and more of their time on delivering value through AI and ML?

I’m making sure we’ve got the right data foundation that sits behind them, and that means continuing to work across the businesses that are operating in these spaces to figure out how we can collaborate together.

A data lake today is very different than a data lake of tomorrow and five years from now. So, how do we position ourselves to continue to move as things progress and mature and innovate?

It’s a cycle of constant improvement, as we get smarter and more fluent about our data capabilities as well as what our business needs are.