(US & Canada) | Managing Data the Right Way Is Vital to Organizational Success — 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 her career trajectory, the importance of data governance, setting up a data governance program, and establishing dedicated job roles.

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

Cloud introduces herself as a leader who leads with a creative, collaborative, and enterprise mindset, connecting people, processes, and technology to generate customer value. Her team does everything from creating data products that enable business growth to providing world-class customer service while delivering data management strategy and governance solutions across the company.

Further, Cloud mentions data management as a critical aspect of managing operational risk, which requires trustworthy data quality. She states that in her career span of two decades at American Express, she has worked in a variety of roles, including service engineering.

In a detailed overview, Cloud mentions having been an industrial engineer, specializing in fraud risk management, and utilizing data and models. This background aids her in the current role of overseeing international point-of-sale solutions.

She has also led product development for lending platforms. Transitioning into tech, she has handled both product and software engineering for loyalty platforms, leveraging expertise in system functionality and data management.

When asked to shed light on the importance of data governance, Cloud asserts that initially, the word governance intimidated her. She adds that American Express operates in a data-driven environment, and things get intricate with all the product services and business units.

Therefore, looking at data as an asset and managing data the right way is vital to organizational success, says Cloud. She ensures that the organization has data governance embedded in individual business units, and those business units are responsible for managing that data.

However, with the increased inflow of data and evolving technology, the organization started figuring out ways to do things at scale and consistently while leveraging best practices. Speaking of her role in this, she mentions providing training, tools, monitoring methodology, and support to do it effectively, as well as iteratively.

Cloud mentions learning agile methodology from her technology experience, which emphasizes continuous improvement, which is crucial as technology, regulations, and business requirements constantly evolve. She uses the term "minimum viable constancy" to help maintain a solid foundation while evolving for the better.

Delving further, Cloud stresses that consistency helps in multiple dimensions. Doing things consistently makes it a lot easier to communicate with senior leaders, auditors, or external regulators and show work evidence.

From an efficiency and scaling perspective, consistency also brings cost-effective efficiency gains, says Cloud.

Commenting on when organizations should start setting up data governance programs, she states that there are two things to consider:

  1. Observing if multiple parts of the business are trying to do it

  2. How strategically does the company view the program

Reflecting on American Express, Cloud affirms that while starting the data governance program, the company had a senior advisory board, internally referred to as the “enterprise data committee.”

The committee members comprised senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents, who were well aware of the importance of data and set the right expectations in business units. Cloud affirms prioritizing engaging all business units and leveraging relationships with senior advisors to utilize the best aspects of the team and manage the governance program.

Adding on, she shares that the governance program has centralized aspects but also has a federated operating model. Further, when it came to scoping the program, multiple dimensions needed consideration.

The first dimension was focusing on sourcing trusted data consistently, looking at data ownership, data cataloging, data lineage, data quality, and data certification for lineage.

Then, it came down to recognizing that it is impossible to govern all data attributes or elements and prioritizing domains with critical things, such as financial and risk data domains, and customer domains.

According to Cloud, prioritizing critical data elements and managing that subset within those domains and the system lineage gave the organization broader data governance benefits.

Thereafter, managing and governing data became a side job for many teams, says Cloud. Therefore, it became crucial to establish dedicated job roles, and then the team supported business units to add those resources.

Cloud says that her team managed the funding and embedded the resources in defined roles across their organizations. Also, while advocating for enterprise investment, she emphasized the importance of critical data that was governed.

In conclusion, Cloud states that her team and she have successfully secured buy-in through their efforts.

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

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