At NTT DATA, Shamlan Siddiqi is working to help government perform better.
As vice president of global data, artificial intelligence, automation and IoT — and visiting chief technology officer for public sector — Siddiqi says data is key to unlocking the potential of federal agencies. GovCons, too, can improve their own processes by making better use of the data they already have on hand.
What is your role at NTT DATA?
I lead an advisory group, and a transformation delivery group. On the advisory side, we provide advisory services around data, intelligence and automation. And our data transformation team delivers on those services. We help our customers on things like future visioning and data governance structures, and then our delivery teams go in and build it.
What are the big issues government faces in regard to its use of data?
With cloud coming into play, you have all this data storage moving into hyperscalers, and you need to protect all that data. Then you need to make it more efficient, to break it down the silos. That is where government is really struggling.
Large agencies in particular have so many different subdivisions and subgroups, each with its own set of data. Very little is actually done to bring that data together, to create patterns, to drive insights and outcomes. There’s no real fabric that’s connecting all these things together. That’s a fundamental issue, especially within government. Data is all sitting in different places, and it’s hard to make any sense of it in an actionable way.
How would better use of data improve agency outcomes?
Better use of data would mean everything from enhanced public safety, to better homeland security, to better proactive defense. It means better spending of taxpayer money, on things that actually matter.
Take a simple state-level example. Say you want to build a new bridge. Where do you want to build it? Ideally, you would have data at your fingertips: on weather patterns, traffic patterns, everything you would need to know. Then you could build it in the most optimal way, keeping public safety in mind, and also keeping taxpayer money in mind.
How can data help GovCons to improve their own operations?
We need to allocate resources to our customers, to put the best people in the right places. How do you predict and manage all of that? You’re predicting demand, you’re predicting onboarding and fulfillment.
So we’re taking our own HR data on fulfillment processes, on onboarding processes, all that data. By pulling that together, it gives us a better view into who we want to put on what project. It also helps us to make better decisions on recruiting, adding more recruiters when we know we are going to have higher demand.
What’s your growth strategy?
One of the hottest areas within government is the effort to migrate legacy applications over to cloud environments. We are definitely doubling down on efforts to help agencies plan and strategize that, and also focusing on supporting the actual implementation.
In terms of growth, we have both an organic growth strategy and a strategy of growth through acquisition. Along those lines we recently acquired HashMap, one of the leading vendors in the area of cloud solutions and services.
We’re also strengthening existing alliance channels, and working closely with our platform partners to align our offerings with their products. Those are all ways for us to get a better foothold in the market. And we also want to take advantage of the existing client relationships that we already have, expanding into new areas with them.
What’s your biggest business challenge?
Recruiting and retention is a challenge for everyone right now. Are we doing enough to keep our people happy? So we look at our rotational strategies, rerouting people from certain types of projects to other more cutting-edge type projects. That’s one thing that’s definitely been well-received.
In a virtual world, we’re always looking at better incentive programs, better recognition programs, creating more abilities for people to network across the organization. NTT DATA also invests in research, and we give people the chance to be a part of our R&D initiatives. That’s something that people are very excited about.
On a personal note, what makes this interesting and exciting for you?
I’ve always liked creating — the feeling of going into a customer and creating something. and then see the outcomes of that. For example, we worked on one of the largest transit ticketing systems in the world in Australia. It feels good to say: We did that, our teams did that. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing a program come to fruition and seeing our customers happy.
It excites me, too, when I see how excited our teams are about this work — knowing that they feel proud of the work that they do.