Charting Your Course to Data Maturity

When passionate data experts get in the same room, great conversations happen. CUES recently pulled four such individuals together to share their perspectives on the credit union data transformation journey, and the dialogue was insightful and uplifting. The group demonstrated how, with great strategy and follow through, successful data programs are well within reach for the nation’s financial cooperatives.

Participating in the panel were Idaho Central Credit Union’s (ICCU) Director of Innovation & Engineering Aamir Khan, AdvantEdge Analytics’ Director of Product Management Jeff Allen and Client Strategy Consultant John Papadia. Advantage Analytics’ SVP of Strategy and Business Development Shazia Manus acted as moderator for the webcast, Charting Your Course to Data Maturity.

Many of the high points of the hour-long event are below. However, if you’d like to spend more time with the content, the entire webcast has been archived for you online. Check it out independently or gather your leadership team to watch as a group and talk through the application to your credit union’s data analytics strategy.

Light Bulb Moments for Each of the Panelists


As the panelists shared their career stories, each offered up a different “a-ha” experience that changed the way he thought about data within the movement.

Aamir, who spent several years on Wall Street, had not experienced the challenges of achieving data objectives within a patchwork of vendors. Now fully emerged in the CU space, he has gained an intimate knowledge of the intricacies required by multiple partnerships and many technologies.

Although he has held a variety of data leadership positions, John has also been on the ground floor of data execution. A former data engineer, he saw first-hand the tendency for leaders to overlook the practicalities of data analytics strategy. His experience fanned the flames of a passion for well-defined roadmaps to accompany any data vision.

Following years in the high-tech science field, Jeff entered the entertainment space. Through his work in the gaming industry, he encountered the ability of technology to change human behavior. Jeff now applies that lens to every product he develops, and he challenges his team to think about the relevance the innovation will have for its users and how it may potentially improve lives.

Getting Started with Data is Far From Simple

Acknowledging that taking the first step on the data transformation journey is tough, John says it’s much easier when you know where you’re going. He advises credit unions to understand the business ambitions – the problems you want to solve – first. Only then can you begin to develop a data strategy and roadmap. He also stressed the importance of starting small, achieving quick wins and scaling from there.

Reinforcing John’s thought, Jeff suggests credit unions engage a good partner in the development of a current state assessment. The outside perspective can help separate the wheat from the chaff, as he put it. An experienced data strategy consultant can also help a credit union identify its core competencies within the data discipline. As an example, a credit union without the in-house expertise to run an on-premise technology stack may be better off investing in a move to the cloud.

What it Takes to Achieve Data Transformation ROI

Aamir says support from the top has been a critical asset for his cooperative, as has the existence of a data analytics culture. Only when the majority of employees are empowered to realize the benefits of actionable data can a data program become truly valuable to the entire enterprise.

The ability to scale up and down is another plus Aamir pointed out. Especially as it relates to ROI, being able to access the “elasticity” and virtually unlimited storage of a cloud-based data warehouse has been key for ICCU.

Even the Best Can Stumble

Jeff, when asked about pitfalls credit unions should watch for, suggested most risks are found in the third leg of the people-processes-technology stool. “The best climbing gear does not make you a mountaineer,” he said. His point was credit unions should never build a data strategy around a particular technology. Instead, cooperatives should understand their members and internal customers and their needs completely before purchasing any of-the-moment solution and expecting immediate insights.

John agrees, adding that the velocity with which data analytics technology has been emerging can also lead to a lack of focus. Defined priorities, fully aligned with the credit union’s strategic pillars, can help damper some of the temptation to move in multiple directions too quickly.

Reiterating that you can’t accomplish each of your goals on Day 1, Aamir said solid data governance can also help credit unions maintain focus. Establishing good policies and procedures around data accuracy, lineage and access is one of the ways ICCU maintains order and sequencing with its data analytics program.

The panelists shared many more insights over the course of their 60 minutes online with CUES. Access the video if you get a chance, and certainly reach out with any questions you may have for the experts.