We use cookies and other similar technologies (Cookies) to enhance your experience and to provide you with relevant content and ads. By using our website, you are agreeing to the use of Cookies. You can change your settings at any time. Cookie Policy.

Building a Gen2 Data Warehouse in 4 months with a Limited Budget: A Spotlight Q&A with Sharon Odom and Su Rayburn of Delta Community Credit Union

Originally published October 21, 2013

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Sharon Odom, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Performance, and Su Rayburn, Director of BI Services, at Delta Community Credit Union. Ron, Sharon and Su discuss how they resuscitated a data warehouse and developed a thriving BI and data warehousing environment.
Sharon, from the business side, can you give me a little insight into what you have done from a data warehousing perspective?

Sharon Odom: Certainly. We have been in the second generation of our data warehouse project for the past nine months. As part of that, one of the foundational projects that we worked on is member analytics. In the credit union space, members are customers. We've focused on understanding those member attributes and dimensions that drive business performance, and also looking at our deposit performance, which is another foundational product for us, and then working on business lending. So those three projects have been relatively successful in the past nine months.

Su, initially you were brought in because the first data warehousing effort was impossible to complete. Can you provide a little background on that?

Su Rayburn: Sure. Part of my due diligence when I first came in was to talk to the people involved in order to understand what had and had not worked the first time around. What was immediately obvious to me was the business side did not feel IT understood their needs.† There was a great need for a lot of data analysis and† a lot of time was being spent by various business units redundantly scrubbing, prepping, integrating the same data and creating reports, sometimes in time frames that made the data almost irrelevant. Also there was some skepticism about what I would bring to the table.

Iíve been in data warehousing since the mid Ď90s, and one of the biggest issues with data warehousing is really the time it takes to complete one. The big push is for agile data warehousing or agile business intelligence. Also, when I looked at what youíve done at Delta Community Credit Union, it seems that the synergy between business and IT is one of the success factors.

Su Rayburn: I would say that is the single most important factor. When I came in and after listening to everyone, it was obvious to me that the business and their needs needed to be heard clearly and that the company needed to see results fast. So I was sold on agile, but agile in a vacuum does not work. You need to have a good partnership and communication between the business constituents and the team thatís building these capabilities. So I went about first understanding what the priorities were, and I definitely saw the need to partner effectively with Sharon to understand what the growth strategies were for the business. We held an off-site meeting with all the business analysts /SMEs (subject-matter experts) and people like Sharon in functional leadership positions† and spent a day to identify key capabilities the credit union desired from the new BI system. Out of that session, we came up with a BI product roadmap to move toward.

Sharon, from a frustration perspective, did you feel this was the best step to move it forward?

Sharon Odom: It was hugely successful because what I saw was someone who was willing to listen to the business, didnít require us to complete a long requirements document, took the time to really understand what the business was trying to get done, and figured out how to embed our voice into that process. As a result of this partnership and collaboration, Su was able to extract that priority process, which was a key component of our success.

Many times when a data warehousing project isnít working as expected, companies blame it on the technology. And then they throw the technology out. You moved forward with the existing technology and infrastructure, but then you added a couple of new technology components that made things move faster. Can you elaborate?

Su Rayburn: The database platform was Teradata, and we had MicroStrategy as our reporting platform Ė both of which are proven technologies. We had cobbled together some ETL with BTEQ scripts and SSIS. There wasnít any documentation whatsoever. So I didnít know what this Gen 1 system did Ė how did the data move from point A to point B? When I looked at that and the charter before me in terms of needing to deliver something quickly that would address some of the pain points of the company, I felt like I needed something that would work well in an agile fashion and that would use the best features of this powerful database platform that we had.

A Teradata data warehouse environment with one person!!

Sharon Odom: Well, before Su there was no one.

Over 20% of our audience uses Teradata. What did you bring in to make it agile so that you could actually move these projects forward? What product did you bring in?

Su Rayburn:
We looked at different options. I came from a DataStage and Informatica world, but looking at those toolsets they seemed overly complex. So we looked at WhereScape RED, and it seemed much closer to what I was looking for immediately. I wanted something that would use the best features of the Teradata database while being Agile friendly. The other redeeming characteristic about this toolset was that it was self-documenting. I knew that I would not have a big team to create documentation for how data moved from Point A to Point B.

Self-documenting in the IT world Ė thatís the one area that gets left behind.

Su Rayburn: Thatís right and I loved the fact that RED kept it simple and focused on data warehousing Ė which was the immediate need Ė not data quality or data integration. To me, this was much simpler to understand because that is the problem I was trying to solve. I didnít want to pay for things that I was not going to immediately use.

Sharon Odom: The business wasnít ready to write her another check after we had already invested in the tools that we had. So part of what Su had to do was deliver quickly with a limited budget.

And you were able to do that with WhereScape RED?

Su Rayburn: Absolutely. I worked with Mark Budzinski and other people on the WhereScape team who helped me get up to speed in terms of understanding all the capabilities.

And you implemented three different areas for the business. What was the typical time that it took to implement each one?

Su Rayburn: Well, the first project was a little slow because I had no team and a new tool. So we used some professional services from WhereScape to come up to speed. It took about 4 months.

Four months to get a working data warehouse up and running.

Su Rayburn:
That was for the first project. The second project was even faster. We did it in about 2 months, and this was around building self-service BI capabilities for membership data. I did not want to do extremely complex things in the beginning. It was going to be a pilot project that proved that we could get this off the ground. It still had to be relevant to what the business wanted.

I do have to add that one of the key factors for our success has to do with the BI governance framework and BI competency center we have implemented.

The BI Governance framework consists of two levels. We have an executive steering committee where we have an interface into management at the executive level Ė CEO, CLO (Chief Lending Officer), COO and the CIO etc.† This committee provides executive level championship of BI projects and we meet with them about every six weeks. And then we have a working committee that includes management from various functional areas. This group owns the BI Program and priorities.† The BI Competency center consists of business analysts and SMEs across the enterprise who come together once a month to agree on our business glossary and definitions that we employ to calculate our KPIs.

Sharon Odom: I think that flexibility has been part of whatís been successful because as we have evolved the business, having started with understanding the member better, now itís how we can deepen the member relationship. How can we grow cross sales? With Su being able to help us get our arms around that, it really shows that she can adapt to the strategy.

From a change perspective, are changes implemented relatively quickly with your new infrastructure?

Su Rayburn: Yes, that has been very successful from a business standpoint because any time they ask us to change something or tweak something, most of the time we are able to accommodate it even within that iteration, or at worst case scenario in the next iteration. But it is a challenge from my teamís perspective, They donít love it as much.

Sharon Odom: Itís because theyíre shifting gears a lot.

Thatís really what you need today. The business environment is constantly changing, especially in finance. I see the dynamics there that it is really hard. So you really have to have an agile BI environment and agile data warehousing. A lot of people in our audience are trying to implement an agile environment, and they hear it, but then they have such a huge structure.

Su Rayburn:
In a sense it was easier for us because weíre smaller. I think it would be much more difficult in a bigger company to win over various groups. Here, because we had already hit the bottom in terms of not being able to deliver. They were willing to try out anything that I suggested. So, in a sense, they were skeptical on one side, but on the otherÖ

Sharon Odom:
Very supportive.

Su Rayburn: Yes, very supportive. Letís give it a shot. And because of BI Governance and grassroots level support with the BI Competency Center we have been able to build consensus with the Business units.

Sharon, obviously from a strategic planning perspective you have your metrics for the years. How has the result of this data warehouse affected your growth in the last two to three years?

Sharon Odom: Itís huge. Basically over the last 5 years, the Credit Union has grown by about 59%, which is huge in and of itself. But starting to see the opportunity around how to deepen those relationships is going to open up another avenue of profitability for us.

Su touched on one thing that was really big, which is the single version of the truth. Part of having all those analysts from different groups getting together as part of the BI Competency Center to talk about business terms and definitions meant that when the executive audience came together, they didnít have to debate the definition. They could settle in on ďHow do we move the needle on this number?Ē That in itself is effectiveness because a lot of conversations were centered on whether or not that was a good number. Now it is about how to change that number. So weíve literally switched the dialog by using data thatís already been vetted because the people who own the data are developing the definition of what that means. So itís been huge.

Sharon and Su, itís really great to hear about a really successful organization doing things right with data warehousing. If our audience wants to contact either of you with questions, can they just call the Delta Community Credit Union and ask for you?

Sharon Odom: Absolutely.

I really appreciate both of you taking the time to talk with me to show us how it all can be done with data warehousing.

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.† Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at†rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com.

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

Recent articles by Ron Powell



Want to post a comment? Login or become a member today!

Be the first to comment!