The Data Chief
The Data Chief
Mar 23, 2022
Unilever’s Vandana Khanna and Deeksha Singh on Demystifying Data, Dreaming Bigger, and Inspiring Business Users with The Art of the Possible
Play • 49 min

If you look around your home, it’s very likely you have at least one item from the Unilever family of brands lying around. From the soap in your shower to the ice cream bars in your freezer, Unilever delivers everyday products that help people get more out of life. And they rely on data to ensure they’re doing so sustainably. 

Today’s guests are Unilever Director of Digital Finance Transformation, Vandana Khanna, and Director of Data and Analytics, Deeksha Singh. On this episode, the two leaders join Cindi to share exactly how they’re using data to impact everything from supply chain decisions to employee belonging. They also dive into how they are demystifying data at every level, eliminating manual reporting and data visualization work, and using data and AI to be a more sustainable company. All of this and more in today’s episode with Vandana Khanna and Deeksha Singh. 

Get even more insights from data and analytics leaders like Vandana and Deeksha on The Data Chief

 

Key Takeaways

  • Change starts with inspiration: When an organization is used to manually creating dashboard reports for every business question or visualizing data in Excel, it can be hard to break these habits and change behaviors at scale. The key is inspiring people with the art of the possible. Show users what good looks like and how technology can empower them to be faster and smarter, and the rest will follow.
  • Digital transformation goes hand in hand with opportunity: It’s common for business people to run for the hills when they hear the word “transformation.” As a leader, it’s important to communicate that there's nothing to fear. There is no transformation without people. You need both to move the needle, and often people’s roles become even more important because they’re needed to ensure the technology is working as it should.
  • You may never be bias-free, but you can be bias-aware: People and data are inherently biased, but thankfully bias awareness is growing in corporate culture. One of the most effective ways that global brands like Unilever are achieving less bias and more diversity is by bringing more diverse leaders into the fold. These leaders bring new perspectives and context to processes that increase the inclusivity of your product and organization overall. 

Key Quotes

Vandana:

“So an example would be when we started working on RPAs, we started taking away all the manual reporting. Imagine the width and the breadth of the manual reporting we had! As soon as RPA were put in place we had triggered momentum across the sourcing units with these RPAs. They became the biggest hit because people said, ‘Oh, wow, I'm able to save so much time.’” 

“Human beings have biases. We cannot eliminate our biases. No matter how we try, we will never be bias-free. We will be bias-aware.” 

Deeksha:

“I also believe that data is one of the key strategic assets for any transformation to happen for any organization for that matter. And it's growing, it's growing in variety in volume in velocity. Any organization will be able to manage the complexity and make sense of this data in a timely manner, which I think will thrive when it comes to digital transformation today and in future.” 

“Sustainability is at the core, the heart of everything we do. Unilever's purpose is about making sustainable living commonplace, and yes, a large amount of data is being used – in terms of how we enable a reduction in carbon reduction in plastic deforestation and its impact and even sustainable sourcing. So if I were to pick an example, a case in point of sustainable sourcing. We've partnered with a third party who provides us with the cloud services that, along with the satellite data that is available – in terms of monitoring the impact of these ingredients that are being sold from different locations across the globe, coupled with the power of AI. We mix all of this [and] we get very rich geospatial data, which we are using in a lot of decision making when it comes to, where we are sourcing from. So for example, if these ingredients are being sourced from a location, which is impacted by deforestation and has a future impact of deforestation, we can take a quick decision of not sourcing from those locations, from those places where there is deforestation in act.”

“I feel that as an organization, what we have also realized is the power of data and digital literacy, which is around raising the floor and bringing people along – in terms of making them literate [and] making them aware of things that are coming their way, rather than just giving them a surprise, blow to their heads to say that we are changing tomorrow.”

“Everybody wants change, but nobody wants to change.” 

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Vandana Khanna

As a digital transformation Leader and Director of Digital Finance Transformation at Unilever, Vandana has extensive experience in Finance, IT, Supply Chain, and Product Management — delivering analytics, data science, and automation capabilities that help companies thrive. With deep expertise in CPG, Telecommunications, Retail, and Pharma, I lead diverse teams of direct and indirect reports and drive results through finely-tuned business acumen using Agile practices. 

She is responsible for leading the design and delivery of complex projects leveraging BI and Data Analytics to answer critical business questions, detect consumer behavior and provide creative solutions for a wide range of business challenges.

She incorporates technologies like IoT, Cloud, Big Data to improve the financial performance of any organization. I have developed business intelligence and reporting solutions through ETL, Data governance, and Data Visualization.

Deeksha Singh

Deeksha is the Director of Data and Analytics at Unilever, who is an information technology  leader, with more than 10 years of experience. She is well-versed in Platform, Operations Management, Data & Analytics, and Digital Transformation. She has proven expertise in managing complex transformation initiatives, navigating ambiguities, and partnering with Senior Stakeholders. Deeksha is recognized for cost-effective system improvements, operational streamlining, efficient change management, and a positive leadership style. Currently, she is setting up the Global Analytics Platform for Unilever simplifying access to data and insights, while crafting seamless user experience and joined-up user journeys.

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