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#34 Pilot Flying J’s Ameet Shetty on Cloud Data Infrastructure, Governance, Analytics Talent

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Data governance. It’s a “dirty word” in business often associated with being told “no,” but from the perspective of the CDO it’s a crucial part of managing data quality and trust. How are employees being held accountable? Do people have the right access to insights? And is your own business’ data infrastructure and governance policies fostering innovation or stifling it?

Ameet Shetty is Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Pilot Flying J, a company that serves more than 1.3 million consumers daily while operating more than 750 locations stateside. On this episode of The Data Chief, Ameet joins Cindi for a conversation on data governance and how to organize your analytics team. Ameet explains why governance gets a bad rap while also touching on the importance of balancing accountability with innovation, having the right technology foundation in place, and the most successful CDOs are natural connectors.

Main Takeaways

  • Lean on data as a driver for customer insights and intimacy: Data is key to creating unique personalized touchpoints for your customers. By allowing customers to willingly provide information across all the business touchpoints, this creates a chance to drive insights and move the organizations forward. Companies can use this information to create a stickier connection with the user by providing more personalized experiences in-store or across its apps, but this also gives the business a chance to enhance every touch point and provide a consistent user experience.
  • Building a holistic team pushes you forward: A single individual cannot pull the boat forward, but a team rowing together can get the boat to where it needs to go. When building teams, make sure you are taking a holistic approach and bringing in members from different fields of expertise and backgrounds to close the gap in areas where you are not as strong
  • Over-governing stifles innovation: The term governance is a dirty word for a lot of enterprises, but it’s more important to think about governance not as a burden or regulatory issue but more as data management. It’s important always to maintain data quality, but you must have a balance because you don’t want to govern your data to the point that it stifles innovation.

Key quotes

“It’s not just about the operational things that are happening, but the amount of information that we’re capturing end-to-end, and then the uses for that information — whether it’s operational or creating loyalty programs — Pilot’s got a lot of opportunity to use data to drive insights and to really drive the organization in several areas.”

“The biggest struggle that anybody sitting in the role of the CDO has, is how do you ensure that you’re able to convince your organization to make those infrastructure investments that are so foundational? If you aren’t able to get access to all that data at the speed, at the volume and all the other components that you want, your ability to drive insights out of that data is truly challenged.”

“When you think about the operating model of the CDO, you really have to tailor it to the company and to the culture. That is the winning formula…The relationship to the CIO always remains critical in every one of them, but If your infrastructure isn’t in place and strong then it’s really hard to do anything else. The relationship to the business partners who run lines of businesses is important. If you don’t know what business problems you’re solving, you really can’t make an impact.”

The word governance may get gat [a bad reputation]. Governance can also be about maintaining quality and ensuring that the right oversight is there so we know where things are going. People are much more open to the word data management than they are governance. That’s the approach we’ve taken. We want to have structure. We want to make sure people are accountable. There’s a balance to it. That’s the real challenge.

“The key is making sure you bring a holistic team, it’s no one human that pulls all of these things together. It’s a group of leaders and individuals who work together and row the boat in the same direction. I think about it from industry to industry, different challenges in different industries. If you’re coming from the financial sector, you’ve got a lot more regulation that gets in your way. On the other hand, if you look at  the QSR space, it’s harder to create that customer intimacy because you don’t have as many touch points in that day-to-day or with the client.”

About Ameet

Ameet Sheet is the Chief Data Officer at Pilot Flying J. Prior to joining Pilot, Ameet served as McDonald’s first Chief Data Officer. Ameet is helping to define and infuse data across the global enterprise.  He is creating the roadmap to identify the technology, team, process and culture change required for enabling enterprise data transformation and establish best-in-class processes for data strategy and governance and evangelizing these changes throughout McDonald’s.

Prior to McDonald’s, Ameet was the Chief Data & Analytics Officer for SunTrust Banks, Inc.  In this role, he led the Enterprise Data & Analytics office, with responsibility for driving the strategic vision and effective deployment of data and business intelligence capabilities to improve efficiency, reduce risk, and enable strategic business growth.

Ameet earned an MBA in Marketing from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Georgia.

Episode 35