In his newly created role at IBM, Inderpal will leverage his extensive experience to lead the development of IBM’s data strategy.
Inderpal brings to IBM more than 20 years of experience in leadership roles at such leading companies as Cambia Health Solutions and Express Scripts/Medco Health Solutions. Prior to joining IBM, Inderpal served as Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer of Cambia Health Solutions where he led the development of Cambia’s data strategy and drove the transformation of the company’s consumer experience strategies.
Q: Was it a surprise to be included in Corinium’s Top 50 Data and Analytics Professionals for the USA and Canada?
Inderpal Bhandari: I can say it was very humbling and an important recognition – not only for me but for the great team here at IBM. I am very proud of the work we have accomplished here in IBM’s Global Chief Data Office, and I am very confident in our ability to make an impact as we move forward. IBM is one of the largest enterprises in the world so by successfully establishing a data strategy and AI capabilities here, it is a very good example for any other company, no matter the size, to follow. I truly believe the work we are doing here is revolutionary, so I am very happy to be included in this award.
Q: Why did you choose a career in data and analytics?
Inderpal Bhandari: My PhD was in applied AI, and while I was studying for that, I worked with one of the founders of AI – Herb Simon. Data is the underlying key to AI, so it was a natural path. Every opportunity I have had since then, while working in AI, had been founded in data. From my time at IBM Research, my Advanced Scout program that mined data for the National Basketball Association, running my startup Virtual Gold, being the first CDO in healthcare, then later on creating the CDO role in four different organizations – data has always been at the heart of my career.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career path in data and analytics.
Inderpal Bhandari: I hold a Master of Science Degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering from the University of Massachusetts and a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. That set the foundation for a more than 20-year career in leadership roles at such leading companies as Cambia Health Solutions and Express Scripts/Medco Health Solutions. Prior to joining IBM, I served as Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer of Cambia Health Solutions where I led the development of Cambia’s data strategy and drove the transformation of the company’s consumer experience strategies.
Prior to that, I served as Vice President of knowledge solutions and Chief Data Officer at Express Scripts/Medco Health Solutions, where I was responsible for maximizing the utility of the company’s data and its readiness to respond to emerging market trends. Prior to that, I founded Virtual Gold, growing the company into an international market leader for data mining of a call center and professional sports data.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career in the data and analytics industry so far to date?
Inderpal Bhandari: Establishing a legacy in the field by creating the Chief Data Office for four different companies. The senior leaders I hired in those companies are now all CDOs/CAOs/CTOs in their own right.
A close second is Winning the 2017 U.S. Chief Data Officer of the Year award has been the biggest highlight because the winner of the award is voted on by a large group of industry peers. There is no greater honor than to be recognized by one’s peers.
Q: What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?
Inderpal Bhandari: We are already seeing major enterprises adopt machine learning and other AI capabilities into their business processes. By the end of the year, we are expecting these technologies to actually generate revenue. Much of this will be due to more advanced data lakes that make it easier to access massive amounts of data and conduct analyses on this data.
In terms of actual data, the amount of information from the IoT will continue to grow, and merged with open source technology and machine learning, this will result in unlocking key business insights which will lead to better products and services.
Essentially, 2018 will be the year that businesses transition from adopting and implementing cutting edge technologies, to generating tangible value from them.
We will see companies begin to exploit the natural synergy between AI, blockchain and IoT. We will also see the first exploratory works in quantum computing applied to AI
Q: What are the best projects you have worked on in data and analytics so far in your career?
Inderpal Bhandari: My current project – transforming IBM into a Cognitive (AI) Enterprise as a showcase for our clients to replicate has been the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding project thus far. My time spent as a Chief Data Officer in the healthcare industry means very much to me as well, because it was all about improving the quality of care and lowering the cost of healthcare for people.
Q: What is the best thing about working in the data and analytics industry for you so far?
Inderpal Bhandari: It has been the growth of the Chief Data Officer position – from the “king of the data warehouse” to “Change Agent in Chief”, and being able to be a key and integral part of this evolution. Recently, it has been building the Cognitive Enterprise Blueprint. After garnering feedback from our internal driving of IBM’s transformation, as well as speaking with clients and analysts, we arrived at a four-part blueprint for the Cognitive Enterprise around Data, Technology, Business Processes, and Organizational/ Cultural Considerations. This is the culmination of the transformation we are driving internally at IBM and a strong foundation for our clients to use to accelerate building their own cognitive enterprises.
Q: If you were granted one wish to change something about the data and analytics industry, what would it be?
Inderpal Bhandari: It would be to bring the workforce along faster as we transition to increasingly efficient approaches. I would like to see universities keeping pace with the industry. Advanced analytics and AI programs are around, but I would like to see them more widespread and emphasized in education. I also wish our industry was able to move faster. Namely, speeding up our ability to retrain top technical talent with continuous emerging technologies, and speeding up our ability to scale the critical work we are doing
Q: What has been your toughest lesson in data and analytics to date?
Inderpal Bhandari: This role has not been so much about data and analytics as it has been about being a change agent – changing structure, culture, people and organizations. There is a culture of siloism across the industry and I have learned that these barriers must be broken down in order to make an impact.
Q: What do you think is the key thing or things that have revolutionized the data and analytics industry?
Inderpal Bhandari: The internet really ushered in the era of Big Data, as well as the largescale data collection that followed. The development of extremely powerful computers which, when combined with massive datasets, are able to learn at a rate and pace that we would not have thought possible even five years ago. These are really the foundations for the power of our industry today.
Q: Finally, if someone came to you for advice as they are thinking about starting a career in the data and analytics industry, what advice would you give them?
Inderpal Bhandari: The first thing I would say is: great choice. But do not just focus on data and analytics—focus on being a change agent – on changing the world. Extend yourself to understand, learn, and apply AI, and recognize the importance in changing the people around you for the better.