Ray McGlew, Manager of Data Architecture at Fulton Financial Corporation (FFC) believes that, “Some of life’s best lessons are learned at the worst times.” Presenting at the DATAVERSITY® Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference, McGlew shared lessons learned from a Data Management and organizational perspective, as well as his tips for investing in professional development.
Fulton Financial Corporation emerged from the 2013 recession in great shape by managing their core business properly. He credits their survival to FFC’s position as a “fairly conservative” lender that doesn’t offer a lot of complicated products, with a strong customer base, and a good corporate culture. McGlew said that at the time, however, they were “not the most data-aware folks,” and by 2014 it became apparent that Data Management required attention.
As regulations and compliance became more critical, regulators, who had started with the bigger banks and worked their way down to FFC’s level, found some issues with various levels of compliance and “Put the bank under a consent decree that keeps us from doing things like merging with other banks and opening new branches,” he said. For example, they had six affiliates, and customers at one affiliate could take money out of or put money into any other affiliate. Because FFC couldn’t aggregate across affiliates effectively, the regulators were concerned that customers could be pulling cash out multiple ways, he said, “So that was a major hole.”
Finding In-House Resources
FFC recognized that strong Data Management would be a major component of the solution, he said, and unlike other companies in similar situations, they didn’t fire the CIO and bring in a whole bunch of consultants.
“They recognized that our CIO, who had been there 25 years and had come up through the ranks (which is very unusual for a CIO), had been doing the right thing in terms of what the business needed. She was given the OK to hire a CDO, who then brought in Data Governance folks.”
And that’s when McGlew came on board. The team was assembled through in-house selection and outside recruiting. The CIO was charged with identifying and fixing the immediate issues, most importantly to address the regulatory compliance problem. The long-term goal was to install a comprehensive Data Management vision using best practices as outlined in the Data Management Book of Knowledge (DMBOK).
Data Management Assessment
Like many banks, FFC used vendors to manage their core systems, including their Data Warehouse, “They relied on the vendor for everything, although it was not much more than an Operational Datastore.” The ETL process was the vendor’s home-grown solution, “We had a lack of control over our ETL. Our organization didn’t write the ETL, so we didn’t really have an insight into how that data got moved around.”
The company had no administrative access, he said, “And it’s a platform built on Oracle. Oracle has a lot of neat tools for tuning and indexing.” Yet the bank’s DBAs had no access – it was all done by the vendor, he said. “And we suggested, ‘Maybe if you re-organize the indexes the performance will speed up,’” and the response from the vendor was, “‘No, that has nothing to do with it. We just do it once a month.’ We could clearly see the performance going downhill. It was terrible,” he stressed.
Additional issues were identified when the team attempted to integrate a new commercial lending origination system with the existing vendor-run Data Warehouse. The vendor was changing to a new BI tool and there were load performance concerns, he said. In addition, Fulton’s new projects required a robust set of reporting capabilities that the vendor was unable to provide which, “Gave us the reason to create our own Data Warehouse,” he said.
Tactical Program Development
“We started to fix the immediate issues by taking a lot of tactical steps,” and because they wanted to ensure credibility with all people involved at all levels, he said. “We did some interesting things, like taking teller training for the staff.”
Because of some of the issues with their teller system, the team knew they’d need to add some additional steps to the tellers’ workflow, so they decided to work with the tellers to make implementation as easy as possible.
McGlew approached the training department at FFC and asked for a half-day teller training session for Data Management staff so they could better understand the teller’s primary objective from a business perspective, “Because the tellers – they’re the ones generating the data,” he remarked.
Tellers are given incentives for cross-selling, “And if you add additional steps to their work, you’d better be able to be justify that and integrate it in as well as you can or else you’re going to get a tremendous amount of pushback.” Time and attention spent on those new steps will take them away from cross-selling
Once the team understood the tellers’ business goals, he said, they asked the tellers how they wanted to fit the new steps into their workflow, “Instead of us in IT coming down and saying, ‘this is how you have to do it.’” The team provided options and support, helping management to identify those tellers that were struggling the most with these new procedures, and providing help for them.
McGlew considers the training a good investment. “The teller training went very well, and other business units have started taking it.” He stressed the importance of understanding all operating units of the business and finding opportunities for quick wins with those who are particularly receptive. “Solve their problems – walk in their shoes, this is where corporate culture is important.”
Another policy the team implemented was changing the workflow for integration of Data Management into projects and systems. In the past, when a project was presented, the Data Management was an afterthought, he said.
“They’d say, ‘We’ll get to all that once the system is in place,’ and at the end, they’d stick some data in the core system. But because we built the credibility with the operating organizations, they [now] come to us first and say, ‘Hey, we’re doing this.’”
Recommendations and Best Practices
One of the first things a business needs to do is evaluate the Data Warehouse and find out what deficiencies there are, he said. “Ask yourself what you need to do to make it a single source, what new technologies are needed and what subject areas are missing?” Another thing he recommends forming early on is Data Governance:
“In our case we built both a Data Architecture team as well as Data Quality [team]. We also started creating a public Data Dictionary that we can use. It’s in-house, it’s not fancy, but it is getting the terms all into one place, and most importantly exposing them to the rest of the business so they can go back and tell us where we have no understanding.”
They also invested in the beginnings of a formal Data Stewardship process.
“We worked closely with the teller organization so we have the contacts there, and we are [now working] to get them trained and knowledgeable about Data Governance so that they understand their role in the picture.”
McGlew says that they are building out the target architecture, both in terms of the Data Architecture as well as the Information Architecture. One of the issues the regulators found was that,
“They couldn’t prove the data movement was comprehensive and that we weren’t dropping records, so we had to, sort of ‘bolt on’ some controls.” Now controls are built in from the beginning, he said. “It’s not an afterthought – it’s an integral part of the process.”
Tips for Investing in Your Professional Growth
Along with suggestions for best practices at the enterprise level, McGlew also offered success tips for individual professionals.
“One of the key things I hope you get out of this presentation is that associating yourself with organizations like DAMA is good preparation for doing the kind of things that I suggest here.”
Most chapter dues are between $50 and $75 a year, “Which is a low investment if you’re serious about this business,” he said.
As an individual, consider transitions as a great time to get involved in an evolving process, he said. “Look for roles where you can develop solutions. If you find a company in this situation, look for ways to offer your services” Ask yourself where you fit in, what strengths can you bring, and what are your areas of expertise?
What is the company culture? “You have to get your hands dirty!” When you’re stumped, he said, look for answers in the DMBOK, ask vendors, or talk to your professional networks. “Most importantly, learn from your mistakes.”
Due to regulations in banking, if you want to specialize in Data Governance, he said, “a financial institution is a great place to go, [because] you don’t have to make a really strong case for most of the aspects of Data Governance.” They know the value of good governance.
As a Data Management professional, he said:
“When you come into a bank [like this] you really can’t pigeonhole yourself and say ‘I’m only in the teller space,’ or ‘I’m only in the loan origination space.’ You’re going to have to learn new domains – both technical and business domains.”
It’s important to develop new competencies and good resources are easy to find:
“Look at the DMBOK. Subscribe to the TDAN Data Admin Newsletter. Rob Seiner has put in a lot of great articles over the years. Get different perspectives because not every solution fits every problem. Also, add to your company contacts within the business because they’re going to be the people who will be your best advocates, and they can be the biggest obstacles in your way. Early on, you want to get to know others in the business.”
Before presenting a solution for a Data Warehouse project, for example, “it’s important to know your stuff.” Understand the Data Warehousing concepts in the DMBOK and how data moves, he said. If you are uncomfortable standing up and giving a presentation, “Join Toastmasters,” he said.
Learn estimating skills, “This is the part that kills you – the better that you can do that,” the more help that you can give to the project manager, he said.
“Understand project management and understand that as you move through the process, you need to be able to help the project manager to adjust the timelines and feed [that] back to the other stakeholders.”
And lastly, “You’ve built your network and through this process, keep up those contacts. Strengthen the relationships through face-to-face contact as well as remotely.”
Invest in your network and it will bring you resources. The better you are with people skills the better you’ll do, he said. “This is a people business – this not strictly a technology business.”
If you are perceived to be a cost – costs must be controlled and lowered. If you’re perceived to be an investment – investments bring resources, he said, “so make sure you and your perceived as an investment.”
Here is the video of the Enterprise Data World 2017 Presentation:
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