The Best Practices of Data Driven Credit Unions

The following is an article written by Trellance’s Vice President of Professional Services, Suchit Shah. The article originally appeared on

The year 2025 is not far off, and yet that’s when consulting firm McKinsey predicts that in the business world, employees will use data to optimize nearly every aspect of their work.

Credit unions, too, are moving toward becoming data-driven enterprises where humans and technology tools work together seamlessly to maximize the impact of every decision. In fact – some credit unions are already there.

How are these forward-looking credit unions winning the day with data? It turns out, we’ve noticed they have a few things in common. Here are the key best practices any credit union, large or small, can implement to do more with data.

Begin With a Roadmap – or Just One Goal

For success mastering your data, begin with the end in mind.

For some credit unions, this means establishing an organization-wide vision for transforming into a data-driven credit union and building the roadmap for systemic change.

But for many, this is too much elephant for one bite. If tackling data transformation from the top down seems like an overwhelming undertaking, a bottom-up approach can be effective, too. Incremental steps taken by achieving one data goal at a time is a path to continual progress.

When you orient your efforts around a vision and goal, you’ll find many roads to success.

Think in “S’s”: Standard, Simple, Scalable

If you want to boil success with data down to three key principles, keep this alliteration in mind:

Standard. Simple. Scalable.

Standard means establishing common processes and formats for your data so it can be accessed, processed and analyzed universally and consistently.

Simple means eliminating unnecessary charts and KPIs so key takeaways can be understood quickly and clearly.

Scalable means implementing enterprise-wide systems and creating efficient, universal processes that allow a credit union to progress in data maturity quickly.

Be Realistic About Needed Resources

We’ve seen credit unions that are serious about the data journey do not shy away from getting help. Getting started, in particular, can feel difficult and overwhelming. Outside help is not only about overcoming the obstacle of getting started, but getting started right. Building a solid foundation in data management is critical, and without it, every subsequent step of the journey will be much harder.

Identify where you have or can add skills in-house, and where it makes sense to engage partners. As you advance in data proficiency, you can reassess where you have increased competency to bring more things in-house.

Have an Internal Champion – or Three

Success in data analytics is never a one-person show. That said, having a “data champion” who coordinates among stakeholders, establishes processes, and drives progress forward can be instrumental to achieving your set goals. This is easily a full-time job.

In addition to the important role of data champion, there are two other key “personas” we see consistently among successful credit unions:

  • The “Owner,” who is someone at the leadership-level that sets the vision and takes ownership for the overall success.
  • The “Facilitator(s),” who help the staff charged with specific data tasks overcome challenges and maintain forward progress.

Having an internal champion alone is a huge asset – having all three is the “success trinity.”

Remove “Perfect” and “Done” From Your Vocabulary

What is one key cultural characteristic data-driven credit unions share? A willingness to get started – and keep going.

The reality is, there will never be a perfect time, a perfect tool, or a perfect process. Your data will never be as complete or good as you’d like. But data-driven credit unions don’t get hung up on perfection. They know success is achieved through the ongoing process of optimization. Flexibility and creativity are the best partners to travel with.

And continuing that theme, the data journey is one with no final destination. There won’t be a point where you have achieved all the potential of your data. The data maturity curve will always extend as analytics capabilities continue advancing and market conditions change.

Measure Your Success

There’s only one way to objectively know if your analytics roadmap is leading you toward your goals – track and measure! Even the best-laid plans run off-course without regular check-ins and signposts of progress.

Equally as important, be prepared to iterate or pivot based on what the metrics tell you. This is where true transformation happens. Continuous small changes produce powerful forward momentum and compound into incredible results. But, the only way to know how to optimize in the right direction is to measure.

Data is democratic. Though building a data-driven credit union takes time, commitment, and a plan –any credit union can be successful. Follow these best practices, and soon, every important decision will begin and end with data.

Suchit Shah is the vice president of professional services at Trellance.

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