Tips from the DataOps Trenches: Bremer Bank’s Advice for Jump-Starting Your Customer 360 Data Project

Our CEO, Susan Cook recently had the pleasure of chatting with Leilani Moll, VP of Analytics and Data Services at Bremer Bank (and one of Susan’s favorite data thought leaders) for a webinar on customer-centric DataOps. Moll had a wealth of useful information to share with the audience. So much so, that I highly recommend you watch the webinar because I can’t possibly summarize it all here. But, I will provide you with five key takeaways gleaned from the start of Bremer Bank’s  journey to build golden records for a 360-degree view of their customers, and their take on DataOps best-practices.

5 Tips for Starting Your Customer 360 Data Project

1. Start with a blank slate.

Luckily, Bremer Bank was able to start their project by building a brand new data lake. Working under the premise that there is no “single source of truth,” they set out to build a “single version of truth” and were adamant that their data lake would not become a data swamp. By starting fresh and not trying to force their BI tool to also function as a data management platform, this allowed them to control the process from the beginning, where all data could be known and classified.  A key function Bremer searched for in a data management platform was the ability to leave the data where it is so they don’t lose track. A tool that makes it easy to ingest data into the platform but keeps the data where it is, ensures a clean lake – not a swamp.

 

2. Address people, process and technology simultaneously

Managing change is never an easy task, but to establish alignment on desired outcomes, Moll stressed the importance of addressing people, process and tools at the same time, right from the beginning. Here’s her advice:

People: The people who are your BI tool users will probably not be the same users of your data management platform. Dedicate or hire a good Data Architect. This role will be key.

Process: Go with DataOps. This will solve a lot of the challenges that come with the nuances from each data source.

Technology: Avoid a heavy learning curve. Pick a data management platform that’s easy to use, combined with the right partner. It’s important not to let the complexity of the new technology overwhelm users. And the relationship with your vendor shouldn’t just be transactional. Find a true partner that provides value and will be willing to work through challenges with you.

 

3. Do your homework.

Think about what you want and what you need to get there. Plan with the end goal in mind. Where are customers onboarded in your organization? Probably in more places than you realize. At Bremer Bank, Moll discovered that new apps for customers were spun up without the IT team knowing about them. You’ll need to understand all customer data sources to get that single version of truth, but you can start with your most critical data sets knowing you can scale later. This will also help in planning what you want your 360-degree customer view to look like. Having this information ahead of time allows you to create a record design layout, for example. 

 

4. Engage the business early.

I believe this golden nugget of advice came up at least three times in the webinar. The input from the business side of your organization is critical. Initially, they may resist involvement because of the volume of work, so find someone with a vested interest in the outcome. With the use case of Customer 360, Moll found a true champion from the marketing department who needed a clean customer data view for marketing purposes. Moll cemented this partnership by including him as part of the agile team.

 

5. Be prepared for mistakes and learn from them.

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery”
– Samuel Smiles, The Lives Of George And Robert Stephenson

Moll advised, “Brace yourself.” You’re going to find challenges you didn’t anticipate. Even after following all of the tips above, you still need to be prepared to learn from your mistakes. At Bremer Bank, Moll and her team ran into unexpected challenges with the non-existence of metadata and the inability to trust the schema. They quickly learned the need to verify all data during the ingestion process.

 

In conclusion…

One of the most interesting things I learned about Bremer Bank’s data operations project was that golden records or customer 360 was actually NOT their starting point. They started down a path of digital transformation, as so many other companies are doing now, and realized they needed to prioritize accurate, governed and timely records. That led them to starting with customer data and taking a customer-centric approach to their digital transformation journey. 

I hope you’ll give the webinar a listen to learn more about building golden records through a DataOps approach. And if you’d like to learn more about how Zaloni’s data management software can help you with your Customer 360 initiative or other big data project, please request a demo of Arena.

 

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