Big data initiatives are quickly becoming strategic priorities for many credit unions.
But every credit union embarking on these initiatives should first ask these questions:
Your answers will be unique to your structure, size, and specific needs. But keep in mind that at the core of any successful big data enterprise is collaboration, according to “Big Data: Telling Powerful Stories and Expanding Growth and Relationship Opportunities,” a CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council white paper.
Managing the opportunities and challenges of implementing big data processes also demands oversight from top leadership.
C-suite buy-in can ensure you have the project resources and don’t waste them. And your leadership team must commit to implementing big data analytics, according to McKinsey Quarterly.
Your big data project leader will need to:
Accommodating these new responsibilities could mean adding a new C-suite position, while for others it may mean expanding an existing officer’s role.
Either way, experts agree big data accountability belongs in the C-suite.
Credit unions’ first experience with a big data project oft en is tied to improving marketing efforts, the white paper points out. That means the information technology (IT) and marketing departments must be on the same page.
“It’s important for IT to know what marketing needs data for, and how they intend to use it and apply it,” says Cathy Graham, in the white paper. Graham is vice president of marketing for $3.9 billion asset Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, Phoenix.
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Increasingly, the worlds of IT and marketing are overlapping. In addition to collaboration, effective communication is critical, Graham says. Marketers should make it clear to IT that they’re not just asking for a report, but also analyzing how to use that report to drive more business, she says.
Sometimes an effective staffing structure can be to split responsibilities based on expertise. For example, Graham suggests, maybe IT owns the data warehouse and marketing owns the member insights.
At $390 million asset Bellwether Community Credit Union in Manchester, N.H., “marketing manages the marketing customer information file [MCIF] and works closely with IT to coordinate core system data—which is managed by IT—with MCIF data,” says Madeline Anderson-Balmer, marketing manager. “It’s a ‘team approach’ to success.”
Often business development, marketing, and IT seem to be at “odds” with each other, she adds. But a full understanding of needs, availabilities, and shared goals can make the entire “machine” work smoothly.
“Understanding how technologies work and who is using them allows you to more tightly target campaigns,” says Anderson-Balmer. “In the end, it saves you money, and hopefully improves your results, which has an obvious positive impact on ROI [return on investment].”
A separate, strategic unit
The best scenario is a separate big data department or a dedicated staff person, says Rich Jones, president/CEO, Leading2Leadership LLC. Jones is formerly senior vice president of marketing and business development and business intelligence at $1.1 billion asset Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union in Indianapolis.
“Yes, IT will have to facilitate the pipes for data collection from third parties and provide access,” he says in the white paper. IT extracts key data points from the core processor, links core and data warehouse to segmentation software systems, and provides server capacity.
“But big data is so important to a credit union for strategy development, tracking, reporting, trending, segmenting, and learning that it needs to be a standalone unit,” he says.
Optimally, this means “creating a business intelligence unit that is the aggregator, collector, dissector, and segmenter of data,” Jones notes. “This data needs to be hardwired into the credit union general ledgers so we not only understand what members are doing with us, how they’re doing it, where they’re doing it, and what they’re not doing with us but doing elsewhere. And we also want to understand member, household, product, service, channels, branch, campaign, and promotional profitability.
“Ideally this should not be part of marketing, IT, or finance but should be a strategic unit whose whole purpose is to make the organization a truly data-driven business,” he adds. “We have the data—we just need to know how to collect, aggregate, and use it.”
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