Attendees gathered in Las Vegas to learn about modern data capabilities in the cloud at Snowflake Summit 2023.

Jul 06 2023

Snowflake Summit 2023: How Capital One and Under Armour Became More Data-Driven

Data is being generated all around us, yet many organizations still fail to center it in their business strategies.

Data is everywhere. It’s being generated by every click on every device we use in our personal and professional lives. And it offers great value to organizations that are positioned to leverage it.

At this year’s Snowflake Summit, several Snowflake customers discussed the ways in which the company’s Data Cloud has enabled them to harness the power of the data they generate.

Patrick Duroseau, vice president of enterprise data management at Under Armour, outlined his company’s data mindset. “For me, a data-driven organization is one where you’re doing things that are leveraging the information that you’re getting,” he said. “When we can get our teammates to start making decisions truly leveraging data and not even thinking about the fact that they’re leveraging data, that to me is a culture that shows us the value of a data-driven mindset.”

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Salim Syed, vice president and head of engineering at Capital One Software, joined Duroseau for a fireside chat, “What It Means to Be a Data-Driven Organization: A Fireside Chat with Under Armour and Capital One.”

Syed described what it means for his company to be data-driven. “Capital One realized the power of data and technology that can create this amazing, individualized experience for our customers,” he said. “And if you think about banking, it’s really about managing large amounts of data securely, safely, accurately.”

Syed said that there has been an explosion of data in the cloud and that companies must adapt to manage it. “What we’ve learned is that you really have to think differently about the capacity now, the scalable back end, the real-time aspect of it. So, think differently about producing data, consuming data and governing data at that scale.”

Finding the Right Platform to Drive Business Outcomes

“The first step was learning as a leadership team and organization that we need to get from a siloed way of doing things to a more structured governance way of doing things that allows us to be more engaged and intuitive,” Duroseau said. He explained that Under Armour’s IT and data teams developed a framework that dictated several decisions relating to their technology stack.

Duroseau said the company prioritized selecting a data platform that allowed it to put all of its data in one place. Ultimately, the choice was Snowflake. “And then, we’re going to wrap that around a really true, solid framework where we have three core pillars — data governance, engagement and flexibility — three core pillars of our framework that are really the foundation of our data strategy,” he said.

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Syed said that Capital One had a similar experience. “This was six years ago, and we were looking at moving from on-premises to the cloud,” he said. “For us, it was really about scalability. Every data platform we looked at at that time had some kind of limitations. With Snowflake, their separation of storage architecture broke through that limitation and allowed us to go at the speed of the business.”

When Capital One moved to the cloud, Syed said, the company experienced an explosion of data. “For a centralized model, it becomes very difficult,” he said. “You don’t have domain knowledge at that scale. The centralized team will become a bottleneck to this, to innovation and to providing business value.”

Syed explained that Capital One’s need for scalability caused it to take a different view on its operating model. “We built self-service tooling, where centralized teams could go and enforce their policies and guidance, guardrails, and best practices,” he said.

“And then we handed that over to the back businesses to say, ‘Go ahead. Now you bought the data. You own the processing infrastructure. Just make sure you operate within the tooling.’” That model allowed users to go at the speed of their business “while making sure that centralized teams were not freaking out because they didn’t know who was managing the database,” he said.

Salim Syed
If you think about banking, it’s really about managing large amounts of data securely, safely, accurately.”

Salim Syed Vice President and Head of Engineering, Capital One Software

How Your Operating Model Can Help With Cost Optimization

According to both speakers, one of the obstacles to becoming a truly data-driven organization is convincing your C-suite that you’re actually bringing value to the business.

To convince executive leadership that data can be a value center instead of a cost center, Syed said, “Visibility is the first step. You have to know where the wastages in your environment are, and you need to have that visibility into it. The next thing you want to know is insights; you want to know exactly where the inefficiencies are happening.”

Syed noted that it’s not realistic to expect everyone to be an expert in cost optimization. “The way we’re thinking about is that we have to provide them recommendations on what action they need to take to remediate the issue that’s coming up,” he said.

Duroseau also addressed the importance of visibility. “One of the things that we were struggling with was visibility into the use of platform, the environment,” he said. “And the data is all there, so now I can communicate to my leadership, to my CFO what’s being used, how it’s being used. You can have this predictability,” he said. “It’s been a great tool for us to manage the value of data and analytics — the entire ecosystem for our organization.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles and videos from the event, follow us on Twitter @BizTechMagazine and join the event conversation at #SnowflakeSummit.

Photography by Snowflake

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