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Episode 1 –
Using Data To Increase Innovation In a Century-Old Industry With Xavier Riley of Standard Industries

RESOURCE CENTER   ❯   Identity Revolution Podcast 12-1-20

Episode Summary

On any given day, you can probably find Xavier Riley tinkering with the data.

As the Head of Digital Strategies and Innovation at Standard Industries, the world’s largest waterproofing and roofing company, Xavier commands the company’s data bank — its central repository for data.

Now, Standard Industries is the holding company for GAF and BMI, two of its operating companies that are well over 100 years old. So how do you use data in such, well, old companies and industries?

Xavier’s mission is to make data accessible to everyone at the company, and folks have caught onto the excitement. Using data, he’s finding new, innovative ways to make roof shingles “sexy again.” He’s studying ways to bring interest to the industry and drive innovation.

On this inaugural episode of Infutor Data Solutions’ Identity Revolution, Xavier talks about the power of data and how it helps him drive innovation, predict industry trends, serve its customers and, perhaps most importantly, stay ahead of its competition.


  • Name: Xavier Riley
  • What he does: As the Head of Digital Strategies and Innovation at Standard Industries, the world’s largest waterproofing and roofing company, Xavier focuses his efforts on gathering and working with data as well as coming up with innovative ways to solve business problems for Standard Industries’ operating companies.
  • Company: Standard Industries
  • Key Quote: “Be like water. You have to be flexible in this day and age. Nothing is prescriptive.”
  • Where to find Xavier: Twitter | LinkedIn

Key Insights

  • It’s all about data these days. Xavier uses data to inform Standard Industries’ innovation strategy. He says if you pay close attention to data, especially from the client side, it can help you stay ahead of industry trends and beat out your competitors.
  • If you can make roofing shingles sexy, you can make anything sexy. Xavier uses data to develop ways to make factory processes more efficient, reduce waste, lower costs and increase the company’s overall profits.
  • Data isn’t only useful in production and client satisfaction. It’s also a great way to gain insights into how your employees operate, especially in light of COVID-19. Xavier plans to start collecting data around this, so Standard Industries can better serve its personnel as the company moves forward.

Episode Highlights

Collecting data is like collecting money…

“As I began my journey here at Standard, it was, ‘How do we construct something that is usable by everyone that everyone can dip into and is like a central repository for data. We effectively internally call it our data bank because if you think of data like currency, you want to save your money — you want to save your data. Your money gains interest; if you do the right things to your data, it gets more and more valuable. Then eventually you want to take money out, too — to do things or buy things — and you do the same thing with data. You take it out to exercise it, to make it do work for you. So there’s a lot of parallels to us calling our internal data repository a data bank.”

How do you make roof shingles sexy?

“If you look inside our factories, they really haven’t changed germanely in 40 or 50 years, so how do we make those processes more efficient? How do we bring digital into that play? … And so my team and I have partnered with universities and other startups to not just ideate but actually bring true innovation into our factory so we can do things more effectively — reducing our waste, lowering our costs and hopefully making us a little bit better profit.”

Why low-code and no-code machine learning and AI could be good or bad

“There are a lot of companies springing up recently that are low-code or no-code ML and AI. I think that’s an opportunity and a risk for a lot of companies. I think at some point every company needs at least one or two good data scientists and data engineers who can take potentially some of those solutions, and it kind of gives them a multiplicative effect within their internal companies. The reason why I think it’s good or bad is that if you don’t have that, it’s really difficult to qualify if you created a successful algorithm or you’ve created an algorithm with a ton of bias.”

Using data to understand not only your clients but also your employees

“The one thing we really learned over the last nine months is we don’t need to work the same way we used to, so remote work is going to be much more prevalent. I think companies and corporations really need to adjust to that. And just like we are trying to collect data on our clients, we need to start collecting data on how our personnel works and what sort of changes can we make with our business to better fit our employees so they can be much more efficient in the future.”

A candid take on CCPA and GDPR

“I think laws like CCPA and GDPR in Europe and around the world, I think they’re trying to set a kind of a base level of understanding of what data is and what private data should be and how it should be managed. I do struggle with it sometimes because sometimes the laws and the rules around can be somewhat punitive if you, as a data provider or a data consumer, use it in not the prescribed way unknowingly.”

Looking forward to how data can be used — and sold

“I think over the next five years, as companies get more educated about the data assets they have — and that’s how companies are being valued now … — I think that’s going to be a disruptive shift when you have companies that try to acquire data and how much they can acquire and what it can sell and what they can’t sell over time. I think it’s going to sneak up on a lot of folks over time — how data can be used and who’s going to sell what.”

Should you collect data on your competitors? (Yes)

“I think any good business always has an eye out for what their competitors are doing, and we’re no different. Nobody wants to be snuck upon and overtaken, but, really, we spend probably 10% of our time or less focusing on that. If you’re always looking forward and driving for new innovations, it’s always easier being the lead dog and having your competitors try and catch you versus you looking over your shoulder and trying to see what they’re doing. You’re unbearably going to run into a wall or a tree at some point, if you’re constantly looking back. So I keep us driving forward and trying to continually innovate.”

Top quotes:

[08:40] “With the election, the pandemic and ever-evolving social sphere, the answers that came yesterday would likely not be the same next year. So it’s really just about planning where you’re going to be doing your spending. That’s what I’d be focusing on right now.”

[13:35] “If you think something is right and you truly believe in it, stand by it. You’re most likely right.”

[26:26] “Stay in front of your customer. They’re going to tell you what they want if you listen, and it’s truly that simple, and they’ll tell you far in advance of the market turning or you having to do something special.”

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