The Secret to Data Cloud Migration: A Strong Governance Foundation

By Matt Turner

Published on August 11, 2021

The future is here! It’s time to migrate your business data to the Snowflake Data Cloud. How do you capitalize on migration as a business-growth opportunity?

To answer this question, I recently joined Anthony Seraphim of Texas Mutual Insurance Company (TMIC) and David Stodder of TDWI on a webinar. The three of us talked migration strategy and the best way to move to the Snowflake Data Cloud. As Vice President of Data Governance at TMIC, Anthony has robust experience leading cloud migration as part of a larger data strategy. As Senior Director of BI at TDWI, David offers an expert’s perspective on the evolution of the data management space.

Watch the webinar now: Maximize Your Migration – Keys to Successfully Migrate to the Data Cloud.

There is a lot of opportunity to be had with a move from traditional data systems to Snowflake’s Data Cloud. Users enjoy more flexible access to data as silos are broken down and compliance and data security are centralized. But there are also challenges, including picking the right migration strategy, ensuring data privacy, and knowing which data to move.

In our conversation, it became clear that the secret to a successful data cloud migration is this: You must create a strong data governance foundation first.

This foundation answers questions key to migration: Which data is most useful, and who can use it how? Knowing your data this well can be hard, but without taking that step, your data cloud migration will be even harder.

Build a Plan to Deliver Cloud Potential

David Stodder revealed there are many benefits to migration. Data cloud architecture offers advantages like:

  • Breaking down silos,

  • Enabling better access, and

  • Creating an environment better suited for data governance

Consolidating data silos in cloud

There is also more than one way to get there. David shared that across the organizations he works with, he’s seen a range of strategies. For some organizations, a “lift-and-shift” approach can work, while others may start their migrations small, and then grow. Others are simply adding new systems in the cloud while some are balancing public and private clouds.

Across all these strategies, the keys to success are consistent; up-front planning and managing pipelines, alongside attention to governance and metadata are essential.

This makes sense: knowing your data and who can access it is a critical first step before any move. But David also found that there was a huge gap in the effectiveness of the tools in these areas.

David reported that, in a recent survey of data experts who’d overseen cloud migration, only 9% were satisfied with their data solution’s ability to put metadata into action.

David’s findings were confirmed by a poll we took during the webinar: knowing your data, in the form of a data catalog and data governance, were among the top factors respondents listed as being critical to cloud success.

Primary benefits of cloud migration

This underscores the importance of having a plan that fits your data strategy. Successful cloud migration leaders leverage key information about their data to effectively integrate data governance.

The Plan in Action

Anthony Seraphim of Texas Mutual Insurance Company took up the conversation and showed just how powerful this approach can be. TMIC is a mission-driven organization seeking to make Texas stronger and safer with workers compensation insurance. Anthony and his governance team use data to uncover customer insights, and to discover areas where they can improve safety.

Like many organizations, TMIC had a complex set of data sources and internal data warehouses. This complex landscape prevented business users from accessing important data, created distrust in reporting as answers would change from each report, and made it hard to know how data could be used compliantly and effectively.

In the Data Cloud, Anthony and his team saw a big opportunity to change how they managed their data. The cloud would enable them to curate trusted data, make that data more widely available, and provide transparency into how it can & should be used.

PLAN: Build a Cloud Foundation

A tall order, but Anthony and his team had a plan: build a data governance foundation. This entailed surveying the data ecosystem of the entire organization and creating data classification, retention, and quality standards, including data certification. They also added a modern data catalog, so that everyone could see and interact with the data. This helped them understand what data was actually being used, match it to their new data governance principles, and enable everyone to trust their data.

The catalog played a key role in their Data Cloud migration strategy: ensuring that data governance was active and that the business was on board. To do this, Anthony and his team partnered with their business leaders to create a program called Cloud Data Stewardship.

This program makes data governance a core part of the business process; governance, they decided, should not be an external checkbox, or a blocker to the everyday use of data. Under this program, they enlisted business leaders to be data stewards and made sure they had a seat at the table when governance and access decisions were made.

To achieve this wider, active data governance goal, Anthony and his team used Alation. Alation’s user-centric data catalog allowed Anthony and his team found it was easy to onramp stewards from across the business. This made it possible to include the business in every part of the data governance process.

The result? Anthony’s business units now know where their data is coming from. This foundation made their move to the Snowflake Data Cloud easier. It helped them focus on critical data and put their data governance principles into action in the cloud. The data catalog provided a single place where they could see everything about their data.

The Right Tool for Cloud Migration

For Anthony and the Texas Mutual team, knowing your data before you migrate to the Data Cloud is the right strategy. We at Alation could not agree more. We pioneered the modern data catalog space as a living, breathing system where data experts and business users can see and put data into action.

This human-centric approach surfaces key data details, like query logs, to show how your data is used. And collaboration and conversations connect those with questions to experts with answers. Wiki-like articles flesh out an asset so others can understand it fast. Governance is embedded at every step.

Alation doesn’t just leave this all up to the people that use the system. We pioneered the use of Machine Learning to not only better understand your data, but to also guide users to the right data. All these activities inform a foundation of how data should be used, and every interaction with the system improves the governance framework.

This unique approach makes the Alation Data Catalog the key to a successful migration to the Snowflake Data Cloud. This includes delivering the business results faster with guided navigation to the most important data. It also is a key tool in determining what data to move and how to move it.

There are many challenges in a Data Cloud migration. These include managing the workloads around your data and applying your policies and security as you move. Today, data leaders also position cloud migration as a means to realize innovation and business transformation, further upping the migration stakes and making them visible to the C-Suite.

Alation Powers Intelligent Cloud Migration

Alation supports your migration by:

  • Giving you access to data to deliver cloud migration results faster

  • Detailing what data you have so you can migrate what matters

  • Providing a central place to manage and apply policy, effectively scaling governance across all data

  • Making data governance part of every data activity, which protects your data and empowers your data stewards

Data Governance Supports Smart Cloud Migration

Moving data to the cloud is one of the most important strategic technology moves an organization can make. But it’s clear that delivering those benefits will continue to be a complex and challenging task. No single strategy will work for everyone, as many different types of challenges need to be addressed.

To counter this, organizations need to create a strong data governance foundation. Anthony and his team at Texas Mutual created a plan founded on strong data governance and their data catalog. They put that plan into action with Alation and Snowflake to deliver:

  • A cloud system that is based on their actual needs, not just a lift and shift

  • Data quality and stewardship for effective cloud governance

  • Better access to data to support the Texas Mutual mission of making Texas stronger and healthier

My conversation with David and Anthony was eye-opening and insightful. The bottom line: having a solid foundation of data governance is the key to your Snowflake Data Cloud migration success.

Watch the webinar now: Maximize Your Migration – Keys to Successfully Migrate to the Data Cloud.

  • Build a Plan to Deliver Cloud Potential
  • The Plan in Action
  • The Right Tool for Cloud Migration
  • Data Governance Supports Smart Cloud Migration
Tagged with