From Data-Rich to Data-Driven: How to Make the Leap

By Nishant Upadhyay, Vice President, Data and Analytics – UW Credit Union

It is not uncommon to hear from business leaders: “We don’t have data.” I would surmise that in most cases, what they are trying to say is that their data is scattered and unorganized. While most organizations are data-rich – it exists everywhere, from systems and spreadsheets to emails to voice files – the challenge is integrating and organizing data in a way that drives successful business outcomes. Often enough, this is a daunting task that gets put on the back burner. Unfortunately, this leads to missed opportunities and efficiencies. Data drives change.

Cloud gives you the elasticity in the storage and computing that you will need but also the agility to incorporate new tools and techniques efficiently. 

Here are four tips for moving from a data-rich organization to a data-driven organization:

  1. You don’t need a data strategy.

Yes, you read that right. Data strategy cannot sit on the side by itself. Your business strategy comes first, always. I believe that you have to integrate data into that business strategy. You absolutely should have a technology strategy around your data platform that speaks to your architecture approach, tools and technologies and how you are going to deliver. But the most important thing is for Data and Analytics teams to partner with business leaders to prioritize and integrate data into their business strategy. Data is so integral to the success of a business strategy that it cannot sit outside of it.

  1. Move beyond use cases.

I believe we are past the phase of “pick a use case to show the value of data.” There is more than enough evidence and literature out there that proves how foundational data is to businesses. Relying on a use case driven approach to data program limits your ability to pivot and scale to address the next business problem quickly. In a sprint to show value and success, companies inadvertently build use case specific data solutions that aren’t suited to address the next set of business challenges. Building a modern data platform that collects, cleans and conforms data – plus offers it in a usable format – is an essential business capability. Keep in mind that this requires today’s business leaders to fund their data programs appropriately. Data can only go so far; its impact is informed by proper funding.

  1. The future of data is in the Cloud.

In the past decade, there has been explosive growth in the volume, velocity and variety of data businesses must consume and conform to for respective platforms. Traditional on prem data warehouse will not give you the ability to scale quickly to meet this rapid growth. Cloud gives you the elasticity in the storage and computing that you will need but also the agility to incorporate new tools and techniques efficiently.

With the flexibility in storage and processing power that Cloud platforms provide, you can take advantage of new techniques to design more convenient, accessible data solutions. Additionally, the proliferation of PAAS and SAAS options in the cloud decreases the cost of making mistakes. You are not locked into long-term contracts or new tools and databases; it allows you to experiment. Finally, the cloud opens the world of open-source models. Recent advancements in LLMs availability in open source require a data platform that provides “plug and play” training capabilities. Cloud data platforms support modern API-based architectures that will turbocharge your ability to operationalize AI/LLM into your desired business arenas.

  1. Have an open mind.

Being data driven means incorporating data into your ongoing business operations and decision making. Just because you have data in the cloud doesn’t mean that it is going to start raining insights. Having colorful dashboards will not address business challenges automatically. You must get your teams ready to speak, read and write in data. As your data program matures, many long-term beliefs and assumptions will be challenged. If you don’t have employees with open minds who are ready to embrace change and build on insights, information will just reside somewhere as interesting white papers. Going from a data-rich to a data-driven organization requires nimbleness, not just modern technology platforms. If your organization isn’t ready to take advantage of data, then your data platform doesn’t matter. Being data-driven is about taking insights and applying your organizational values and experience to work and lead differently.

At UW Credit Union, we are on a multiyear journey to incorporate data into our day-to-day operations. This progress is exciting, not because we have the most modern data platform in the cloud, but because we unanimously agree that data is a key driver of our business strategy. I’m honored to work with business leaders who are engaged and eager to incorporate data into their strategy and operations. It’s a team effort, and we look ahead confidently to the future of data-driven innovation, specifically AI.

About UW Credit Union
UW Credit Union is a growing, federally insured financial institution and a leading provider of a full range of financial services to University of Wisconsin communities. UW Credit Union’s more than 900 employees serve the financial needs of more than 333,000 members through world-class technology systems, and through a convenient network of 32 branch locations and over 100 ATMs. With over $5 billion in assets, UW Credit Union is ranked nationally among the leading credit unions. Founded more than 90 years ago by members of the University of Wisconsin faculty and staff, UW Credit Union continues to operate as a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative with locations in the Madison, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Whitewater and La Crosse areas.