What's in this podcast?

In this episode, Jason talks to Dan Kellett, the Chief Data Officer at Capital One UK about how important it is to create a centre of excellence, and form strong relationships outside the data team.

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One Big Message

A data team is an essential of any large business, however it is important to also recognise that it’s one part of a larger ecosystem within the organisation. Therefore, creating relationships and goodwill with other departments is vital to bring out the best results all round.

[00:56] Dan’s journey from studying mathematics into data

[03:30] The transition from hands-on data and programming, through to strategy

[05:09] A look at Capital One’s array of services

[06:10] Defining the CDO role at Capital One, and bringing a vision to life

[10:20] The balance between a ‘centre of excellence’ and having some decentralised parts of the team too

[12:50] The structure of Dan’s central data team

[14:22] Roles of data stewards, data analytics and data scientists

[16:26] How the technology team and the data team work together

[17:30] Allocation of resources depending on the business’ goals at the time

[20:30] Why goodwill between other departments is so important in helping the long-term vision

[22:10] Tying day to day data activities into a long term solution

[24:00] Some use cases of data within Capital One

[28:20] Dan’s 2-year plan for his data centre of excellence within Capital One

Centralised vs. decentralised data teams

Most people know that data and data teams can be centralised or decentralised; but you can also have a hybrid of both. With a centralised team, all the data is stored in one place and managed by one team. This option can be good if you have a lot of data or if you need tight control over security and access. However, it can also lead to bottlenecks if too many people are trying to access the data at once. A decentralised team spreads the responsibility for data management and analysis across multiple teams. 

A hybrid approach is the best of both worlds. By having a centralised team or a centre of excellence, you are able to maintain control over a central team; but at the same time can leverage others to help gather more information or resources as needed.


Hiring the correct people

When it comes to success in business, it’s not unusual to think that it all comes down to an individual leader. However, as anyone with experience in business will tell you, a team is what makes or breaks a company. A good team can take an idea and make it into a reality, while a bad team can ruin even the best concept. 

If you have a hybrid approach to your data team whereby you have a core team with other members who may work in a decentralised capacity, then your core should have certain experts that are able to fulfil key roles:


  1. The data analyst: These are the backbone of the data analytics team, and can interpret past information and give insights to management
  2. The data scientist: This role is about being able to take information to be able to predict future trends
  3. Data stewards who check that everything is above board and compliant


Create goodwill amongst different departments

Even though the data team is crucial in the success of any organisation, it is still one part of a larger ecosystem within the business. In order for a business to be successful, it’s important that all of its departments are working together harmoniously.

Departments within businesses can often be siloed off from one another. This can lead to a number of problems, including lack of communication and coordination. Good communication and coordination between all the various departments is vital, otherwise issues such as resistance to new ideas and friction may arise. By creating goodwill with other teams, you’re able to share ideas and move projects faster and more efficiently to help the business in the long term. 


Balance short term and long term projects

In the business world, there’s a constant balance to be found between long term and short term projects. On one side are those who argue that companies should focus on the future, expand their services, and work on new products in order to stay ahead of the competition. On the other side are those who believe that businesses need to satisfy customers today and provide what they want, when they want it. 

In data, the long-term goal is always about helping the business operate more efficiently, and usually short-term projects feed into a long-term goal. With clarity on what the business needs in the long run, a data team and become more efficient when planning short-term projects. 


To summarise

The field of data can be considered one big balancing act. However with the right preparation, clarity on long-term goals and incredible team members, a data department can be instrumental in securing the future success of a business. 


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