Creating a Data Quality Business: Moving from employee to entrepeneur, Wayne Wiggins interview - Data Quality Pro

Ever wanted to make the leap from working in a safe, stable salary position to the fear, risk and excitement of running your own data quality business?

In this session, long-time Data Quality Pro member, Wayne Wiggins, former head of Information Quality at Royal Bank of Scotland and former Director of Data Sourcing and Data Quality at Deutsche Bank talks about his switch from permanent employment to that of data quality business owner.

TRANSCRIPT OF WEBINAR RECORDING:

DYLAN JONES: The reason I invited Wayne along today was because he personifies the kind of opportunities I see opening up in the data quality profession.

We're a big fan of promoting innovation and startups on Data Quality Pro so it’s great to get Wayne along for this session and learn more about his journey and the new business he’s created.

So Wayne, it must be more than two years since we last featured you on Data Quality Pro, what have you been doing since we last spoke?

WAYNE WIGGINS: Hello Dylan and thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to you and your members again.

When we last spoke I was at Royal Bank of Scotland as Head of Information Quality.

I took a permanent role at RBS as Head of Asset Monitoring and Performance on the Government’s Asset Protection Scheme (The bailout).

It was a fascinating opportunity with many data quality challenges as well as the challenge of setting up a new data warehouse and reporting processes.

I then moved to Deutsche Bank as Director of Data Sourcing and Data Quality. This role offered me the chance to undertake a vendor evaluation process of the leading data quality offerings in the market place.

It was great to talk to the vendors and see how products have developed over the last couple of years and where there were still gaps in the offerings.

There were some common themes that emerged during this process that sowed the seeds for my new venture.

DYLAN JONES: Can you tell us some more about how you went about the vendor selection process?

WAYNE WIGGINS: Yes, first we defined our use case:

  • What exactly did we need a data quality tool for?
  • How would we use it?
  • What functionality was most important?
  • What was important to the various other stakeholders such as IT and Legal?

We then defined a very detailed scoring matrix which weighted scores against the various criteria. Next we selected the vendors and invited them to give a demonstration of their products against our high level use case. We allowed two hours for each presentation but we needed longer in every case to do justice to the process. We asked each vendor to complete the detailed matrix of questions to assist in our evaluation.

We shortlisted the most appropriate firms to take part in a month long evaluation with their products loaded onto our servers. This was very valuable because it identified compatibility issues between some software and our hardware.

Importantly, it also identified the firms that most wanted our business.

Once the evaluation was underway we were able to see the strengths and weaknesses of the software offerings and how supportive the various companies were.

DYLAN JONES: You mentioned that the process "identified the firms that most wanted our business”, I’m hearing this a lot lately.

I’ve spoken to at least 5 companies in the last 3 months who have been issuing RFP’s for services and products and it’s amazing how many vendors go to so much trouble to market their services and then really slip up when it comes to delivering a great pilot experience.

There is definitely a take-away there for any young start-up or anyone looking to hustle into what is an increasingly crowded services and tech marketplace.

Okay, so what else did you take away from the procurement process?

WAYNE WIGGINS: There were a few key points asI recall:

  • There was very little correlation between size and success of firms and quality of offerings that they presented.
  • No firms were able to present sales demonstrations with data that was particularly relevant to our industry. I thought they would have data and functionality that represented the target industry, that just wasn’t the case.
  • No tools came with solutions for the banking industry, profiling, matching etc were rather generic across all the vendors.
  • We worked out that every tool would need a lot of customisation to be able to deliver exactly what we needed.
  • The other thing was that prices were generally very similar, there wasn’t a huge variation in prices between the vendors.

DYLAN JONES: You said that these common themes sowed the seeds for a new venture?

WAYNE WIGGINS: That is correct. I’ve now left Deutsche Bank and have set up a firm called DQ Rule Books. We develop rule books to integrate into data quality vendor products to create value add for customers.

My particular area of expertise is around regulatory data management compliance. My firm develops validation rules for data attributes that maps these rules to the regulatory definitions of data quality. So anyone doing a Solvency II project will recognise such measures as Completeness, Appropriateness and Accuracy.

And what we’re doing for firms is to eliminate the work upfront by saying this is the range of rules and attributes you would need to manage and these rules represent completeness, accuracy, appropriateness.

DYLAN JONES: Yes, I recognise those definitions from the Solvency II presentations we’ve been doing and talking to the community members. Is Solvency II a target market and a big focus for you starting out?

WAYNE WIGGINS: It definitely is a big target area for us.

We have been talking to many Insurance firms. Solvency II has parallels to Basel II and I have helped several Banks implement Basel II data management frameworks so there is a good overlap there.

It was partly my experiences during this time together with the lack of subject matter expertise in this area from the software vendors which made me start thinking of this gap in the market.

DYLAN JONES: Ok, let’s dig deeper, what is the proposition, how can customers benefit?

WAYNE WIGGINS: We have developed a comprehensive suite of data quality rules for hundreds of attributes used in Insurance and Banking.

For every attribute we have then mapped these rules to the regulatory definitions of data quality and developed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the quality of the data.

We realised that for any firm undertaking this challenge in isolation was both costly and time consuming. We produced some metrics that suggest on average each data attribute will have 5 data quality rules and that the end to end process to design, develop, test, implement and document these rules takes about 2 hours per rule or a day per attribute.

In most organisations there will be many hundreds of attributes, therefore, once a firm has bought a data quality tool there will be hundreds of days effort to create the full suite of rules before measuring, monitoring and remediation can get into full swing.

Our firm offers an accelerated solution for this challenge that saves firms both time and money.

We support this with a blend of onsite and remote consultancy. We find many clients feel they are not yet ready to implement a data quality tool and a suite of rules and metrics on their own and are often daunted by the combined challenges alongside the general regulatory compliance burden.

However, it really is important that firms own their data management frameworks and processes and therefore rather than offering to send in a team of consultants to deliver for them we provide a small amount of onsite consultancy and offsite back up for when they really need it.

This keeps the cost down for our clients and allows us to focus on our core products - defining data quality rule books.

DYLAN JONES: Okay, there is an important lesson in there, the fact you’re being laser-like with your focus.

I’ve written a lot about this in the past after attending and hosting networking events where you speak to a DQ practitioner for 20 minutes and you still have no idea what they really do, they just list off every service they have ever delivered in the hope you know someone who can benefit.

That just doesn’t work, particularly for a startup.

Far better to focus on one proposition, make it memorable, get to the point and if you’re networking or marketing people will naturally start to refer you. Big lesson there for anyone looking to start out, chop all your propositions down to one, nail the benefits and go after the precise target market that needs it. Don’t boil the ocean when you start out. Offering a huge range of options is the quickest route to failure or poor growth.

So how are you packaging the product. Is it going to be integrated into existing data quality tools or are you building a new tool?

WAYNE WIGGINS: We are implementing the rule books into Pandora X88 because it is in my opinion the most impressive tool in the market currently. The power and performance is way ahead of any other tool I have seen. The company have the resources and commitment to develop the product to extract maximum value from the rule books, their product already has a very strong business glossary and the performance makes it ideal for simultaneously monitoring and measuring hundreds of data sources in real time.

This last point is very important as many of the rules require data to be measured across multiple points in time and compared against different sources such as between transaction and reference data and across different parts of the organisation. It is critical that the rules are applied consistently in these scenarios.

However, we recognise that many firms may already have a data quality tool either from another vendor or something they have built in house. So the rule book is available as a standalone document written in plain English so that clients can implement rules into their own product.

We hope to start talks shortly with a number of the other leading data quality vendors so that they can also offer the product in their tools or as an add-on to existing clients.

DYLAN JONES: I think that last point is a smart move. So many companies already have a DQ product kicking around on a maintenance contract etc., I can see how the rule books offering could really extend their original investment and gain more value.

Just before this webinar you told me about a potential collaboration with the Enterprise Data Management Council, can you share some details with our members?

WAYNE WIGGINS: Yes this is very exciting for me. For a while the Enterprise Data Management Council (EDMC) have been working on a proof of concept around a Common Data Quality Rule Book for the Financial Services Industry.

The idea is to define a common set of data quality rules across the members which are used to measure the data quality. The rules will be available to data quality vendors, data vendors and consultants.

It is part of a wider best practice initiative to improve firms data management maturity. If firms speak a common data quality language both to each other, vendors and internally very significant benefits start to accrue for the data management industry.

Large Banks often have thousands of systems and interfaces/ETLs. Every time a new system or ETL is built a set of validation rules will be implemented to try and enforce some degree of data quality. However, it is rare that a consistent set of validation rules are implemented every time. We aim to develop a rule book which can be applied consistently and which takes account of the different contexts in which data is stored, moved and consumed. So there are different rules to apply in the context of reference data than are used in transactional data.

DQ Rule Books will manage and facilitate the industry programme and donate its data quality rules to the programme. The Intellectual property of the "Industry Rule Book” will be owned by EDM Council on behalf of its member firms who will be licensed to use the "Industry Rule Book” and report the quality of their data against the rule book set. Data quality vendors , data vendors and consultants can likewise license the use of the "Industry Rule Book”

DQ Rule Books will test data quality vendor products against the "Industry Rule Book” and grant accreditation that attests that the product contains correctly implemented rules which give consistent results to each other.

DYLAN JONES: Ok, so let's clarify here, what are the main benefits that you see for firms adopting this approach:

WAYNE WIGGINS: I would say it's along the lines of the following:

  • Low cost development of data validation rules.
  • An assurance that firms have implemented effective and relevant data quality rules.
  • A common methodology to express the level of data quality and to support business cases for continued or increased investment in data management.
  • Common standards to measure data providers against to support firms data sourcing strategies.
  • Improving the level of product offerings from Data quality vendors.
  • Reduced cost and effort for Regulatory data quality initiatives.

DYLAN JONES: Okay, I get it, so how do firms get involved? Where are you at presently?

WAYNE WIGGINS: The EDM Council supports all financial services firms so Banks, Insurers, Fund Managers etc can join.

There is an annual membership fee which gives firms access to the resources, support and initiatives underway within the council.

Participation in the EDM Council Industry Data Quality rule book programme costs a further $20,000 plus an annual maintenance fee for Financial Services firms and $32,500 for vendors. During the development phase participation is only open to EDM Council members of which there are over 80 already. Firms that are not yet EDM Council members can contact the council to join in time to participate in the rule book project.

Participants take part in weekly conference calls and webinars to debate rules donated from DQ Rule Books and propose additional rules. When the members believe there is common understanding of a rule they vote on whether to promote it to the industry rule book.

We demonstrate how you use the rule and what the results look like with a dummy data set and using various data quality tools.

DYLAN JONES: What were your initial fears before moving from employee to business owner? How did you overcome them?

WAYNE WIGGINS: I had been freelance for several years previously so going it alone was not totally new to me. I researched the idea thoroughly with potential customers and had several backup plans. Including contract work.

So although I was taking a risk I knew I had a product that customers wanted and something to fall back on if business was slow.

I also extended my network as much as possible.

DYLAN JONES: I know you’re relatively early on in the development of your business but how have things changed for you from a personal perspective? Are you glad you took the leap? 

It has been very enjoyable.

I've had a lot of support not least from you and all the incredibly useful articles and tutorials on Data Quality Pro. There are several potential customers and several requests for consultancy work.

My work life balance has improved although I probably work longer hours now I work them on my terms. I have much more variety to my work and meet people from many firms rather than lots of people from one firm.

I have had to brush up on my powerpoint skills, spend a lot of time on skype as I deal a lot with US firms. I have also realised how much support you get in a big firm in terms of IT, Legal, HR etc. 

Overall I am glad I made the move but it is still early days.

DYLAN JONES: Let’s have a quick round-up of the key points I wrote down here before we wrap up.

  • The guest on this session was Wayne Wiggins, formerly head of Information Quality at Royal Bank of Scotland, then became Head of Asset Monitoring and Performance on the Government’s Asset Protection Scheme, or the bailout as it’s more commonly known.
  • Then moved to Deutsche Bank as Director of Data Sourcing and Data Quality.
  • Started looking at the latest DQ tools and their capabilities for internal projects, primarily around compliance initiatives.
  • Noticed that there were gaps in the current approaches, in particular a lot of generic type functionality that had little relevance to the problems they were solving.
  • Sowed the seed for a new concept, DQ Rule Books.
  • Has since launched new business of the same name focused on delivering DQ rule books to help accelerate compliance projects and reduce costs.
  • Collaborating with DQ vendors to integrate the rule books and also working with EDMC to roll this out as a service to financial institutions.
  • Simple idea, highly attractive, easy to market, scalable – some great tips in this interview for anyone else looking to start out.
  • Have a plan B, hope for the best but plan for the worst by building your network in advance and creating a safety net, perhaps as a contractor.
  • Don't underestimate the amount of additional work involved, talk to other business owners to get a feel for what admin you will need to do for example
  • Expect to work longer hours so be realistic about how this will impact those around you