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How to build a sustainable, value-focused data culture

Jodi Morton and Robert Parr | Jan. 20, 2017
Financial services CDOs weigh in on how regulation, growth and cost drives their current efforts and how each will affect future endeavors.

2. Cultivate strong partnerships. The relationship with IT, including Architecture and IT Delivery, has been at the foundation of the program in both design and execution.   IT leadership in particular has been critical in helping align and refocus accountability for data with the business, and for jointly establishing and staffing a big data center of excellence to help bring advanced analytics to fruition. Partnership with third parties was also core to their approach. She used them to provide acceleration and put wins on the board early in her journey, reducing the “trial and error” time that her new and growing team would likely experience on their own.

3. Focus on strategic value alongside control. While data control and governance are one pillar of accountability, from the beginning Freddie Mac focused on building a foundation of capabilities that empower the business lines through more efficient access to different types of high quality data. This helps the business innovate and ultimately make better informed decisions. In doing so, the impact of data investments is more directly felt in business.

4. Examine the entire “data supply chain” for benefits. Freddie Mac is driving simplification and reuse from data sources in the front-end systems to where models, reports or analytics consume that data. They strive for data to be captured once, quality-checked and reused again and again. This has the benefits of cutting costs, shortening development time, and improving confidence levels for the business.

5. Transformation requires constant, consistent communication. Freddie Mac has adopted an internal brand focusing on empowerment, simplification, reuse and control.   This simple message is at the forefront of all communications and training -- driving the employees at Freddie Mac to think about data and their role as data producers and consumers differently. This has also been an important ingredient in helping to manage expectations of the business lines and helping them connect the dots between Morton’s group and business value.  

These efforts are clearly starting to pay off, as demonstrated through the results of a recent employee data survey. The results showed that not only did the vast majority of the 300 analysts and modellers know what metadata is, but they also understood its strategic value in cutting down on the time spent using the “friends and family” network to find, assess and define data needed for their reports.   Given this importance, communication planning and execution utilizes 50% of a fully dedicated individual, along with approximately 30-40% of Morton’s time.

6. 100 wins in 100 days program – Early on, Freddie Mac recognized that “wins” drive momentum. Wins come in many forms – whether they are decisions made, delivery of new capabilities or achievement of operational benchmarks.   Programs like this helped to cement a culture of urgency where it’s everyone’s job to create momentum for the team. There are few big-bang events when transforming an organization’s data culture. Celebrating wins, big or small, demonstrates progress and connects value to the many milestones achieved along the way.


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