(US & Canada) | Centralization of Tooling is Critical to Data Governance — American Express SVP - Enterprise Data Governance and Platforms

Danielle Cloud, SVP, Enterprise Data Governance and Platforms at American Express, speaks with Nazar Labunets, Product Marketing Manager at Ataccama, in a video interview about how to choose technological solutions for data management, the journey of becoming a data-centric organization, having a federated operating model, data governance, and future initiatives and goals of American Express.

American Express is an American bank holding company and multinational financial services corporation that specializes in payment cards.

When it comes to choosing technological solutions to support data management, an organization must first understand its present and future needs, says Cloud. She remarks that by comprehending how people are using data and what data products are needed, organizations can select the right business insight tools for data management.

Adding to that, Cloud states that organizations may often end up using a mix of off-the-shelf products and custom-built solutions. However, it can be challenging to integrate into the existing environment’s system of records.

Therefore, it is crucial to critically evaluate the claims made by certain companies about ease of integration and implementation. Although she encourages organizations to pursue solutions, she asks them to be prepared to put in significant effort.

Further, Cloud advises allocating engineering resources to consider how to scale and manage the integration, especially when combining vendor-provided solutions with one’s infrastructure.

When asked about the journey of building a data-centric organization, she maintains that American Express has been data-centric for over two decades. The organization continues to invest in decision science, marketing capabilities, and data platforms, she adds.

In Cloud’s opinion, CEO Stephen Squeri has brought about a momentous change as he unlocked the thinking of winning as an enterprise. While this is a culture thing, he resets the performance metrics so that the entire company gets the same base performance rating, she shares.

This leadership move allowed Cloud and other members to align business unit goals and enterprise goals together, which in turn, led them to invest in data as an asset. Eventually, it became a top-down practice, and stakeholders at all levels recognized how data and technology fuel the enterprise.

While balancing an enterprise approach with solutions happening in individual countries is not easy, Cloud affirms that at least American Express has the right forums. The forums address the needs, ideas, and issues to work them out together.

Moving forward, Cloud highlights the federated operating model of American Express. She mentions the strong linkage between her team as an enterprise central team and every business unit that has a dedicated data office.

Cloud affirms that the federation between teams is a two-way exchange of needs, learnings, and practices, and then the data office teams come together. This initiates a data literacy culture wherein the teams learn to use the same terminologies and share best practices.

The company also encourages getting feedback by providing training, playbooks, and procedure guides that summarize the organizational learnings for everyone on board, says Cloud. In a nutshell, all of it stems from having a solid operating model that makes everyone feel heard, and everyone contributes to the decision.

From a data governance perspective, Cloud shares that Amex is on the journey of centralizing things and making them available while providing the right access level. The centralization of tooling is critical to data governance, whether it is cataloging, data quality, or data lineage, she says.

Furthermore, American Express wishes to keep leveraging emerging technologies in this domain to scale up, asserts Cloud. 

Considering broader data risks, the company has recognized that it must put more effort into applying the standards created for data quality and ownership to other data risks. Through this, American Express aims to expand its data governance program and bring more individual business unit practices into a central framework.

Additionally, Cloud says that organizational platforms are transitioning to the cloud to leverage the available tools and resources.

Speaking of the future, she mentions developing new initiatives using next-generation modeling and other technology to achieve scale. However, innovation is not always about creating something new; sometimes it is about iterating on and building from existing frameworks.

Continuing, Cloud states that it is imperative to balance them with the momentum that has been built. She shares that American Express has projects ongoing in both areas.

Moreover, Cloud affirms working closely with the enterprise architecture team, which ensures the company thoughtfully maintains multiple solutions, such as those for data movement and API strategies.

Thereafter, she maintains that a company must establish clear standards and avoid constant reinventing of methods for common tasks. Instead of having multiple data warehouses, the company should focus on building consistency in those areas.

Concluding, Cloud states that Amex is always innovating. She believes in being purposeful with innovation, ensuring that technology choices create value for users, customers, shareholders, and colleagues.

CDO Magazine appreciates Danielle Cloud for sharing her insights with our global community.

Also Read
(US & Canada) | Data Modernization Is Also About Understanding and Mitigating Data Risks — American Express SVP - Enterprise Data Governance and Platforms
(US & Canada) | Centralization of Tooling is Critical to Data Governance — American Express SVP - Enterprise Data Governance and Platforms

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