Data Driven Marketing

Want Data on Demand? Discover the Business-Changing Value of Federated Data.

Want Data on Demand? Discover the Business-Changing Value of Federated Data.

March 11, 2024 | David Ferber

Federated data isn’t “sexy” like AI. But in the world of data management, it’s a profound paradigm shift. 

That’s because federated data simplifies slow and painstaking data preparation processes and puts customized, multisource data in your hands within minutes. In turn, this helps you get powerful models, scores, and other analytic projects to market faster. “Ahead-of-your-competition” faster. 

Here, I’m sharing a quick primer on federated data and the business-changing value it can bring to your organization. 

“Shifting versus lifting.” 

Legacy data processes—specifically, accessing and managing large amounts of data—can be clunky and cumbersome. There’s the time commitment, usually a couple of weeks minimum. The back-and-forth operational inefficiencies. The slow query execution. They usually aren’t scalable and need several data engineers to deliver mass amounts of data. And they chew up insane amounts of storage and costs.  

Here are a couple of examples. 

Let’s say three different companies request the same data file on “John Johnson” at the same time. Using a legacy data process, a data provider must make three separate copies of the exact same data and then distribute it to all three customers. As you can imagine, this requires tremendous levels of storage and security to send and store all those copied data files, along with untold time, money, and resources. Likewise, the protracted and highly manual nature of the process increases the chance of errors. 

Or, say you’re building a customer acquisition model and you request a specific data set from your data provider. After a couple of weeks, you receive the data. You play with it in your sandbox, but it takes several more data requests before you find the right mix for your model build. For each request, the provider must go into its data repository, query the data, and then code and validate the data (i.e., copy it) before you receive it.

Query…copy…deliver. Query…copy…deliver. Over and over and over. 

But, what if all that repetitive “data copying” wasn’t necessary? What if giving you scalable access to new and expanded data sets was as easy as flipping a switch? Instead of lifting and copying the data, your provider could simply shift your access, in minutes.

Shifting not lifting. Data delivery on demand. That’s the power of federated data. 

Moving to the cloud: a game changer. 

Let’s quickly explore the concept of federated data because it can get a little confusing.  

Instead of a physical data center, a federated data system shifts data platforms to the cloud, providing better:

  • security controls,

  • uptime, 

  • scalability, 

  • and flexibility. 

Autonomous data sources are copied and transparently mapped to a single location in the cloud. This enables the data to remain autonomous at its source location while also creating a separate instance of the data that is virtually integrated so it can be viewed, scaled, and accessed by multiple customers in real time. Encryption techniques ensure that federated data is highly secure and only authorized users gain access. 

By using our data fabric cloud platform as the foundation of the Equifax federated data model, it allowed us to exchange data assets efficiently and securely across organizations and to our customers. We were able to curate a library of our most valuable data assets while operating at levels of speed and efficiency never seen before in my 30-year career working on big data delivery systems.

In short, it's been a game-changer at Equifax but there was one big benefit we didn’t see coming. 

The surprising benefit. 

When moving to the cloud, we understood the benefits of improved security, scalability, etc., but we were surprised by the unexpected benefit of the federated data model and the efficiencies it brings. That is, being able to virtualize our data lakes

This meant we could share views of all our data instead of making copies of the same data, over and over, for every project or customer need. Put another way, as long as the data remains constant we will never calculate the same score or attribute more than once for each record we have in our archive repository. Instead, we calculate that value one time, store it in our data lake, and share it virtually, over and over, on demand. 

The bottom line? Our customers can now get direct, virtual access to our most up-to-date, valuable data assets in minutes. It’s an honest-to-goodness “a-ha!” moment for anyone who’s ever been bogged down in the quicksand of data management. This paradigm shift has transformed our internal operations for data fulfillment.

Improved speed, service, and agility. 

The benefits of federated data have been immense for Equifax, culminating in increased data security, along with time, cost, and resource savings that are being passed down to our customers in several ways. 

  • Data delivery on demand. A transparent, “build-once-and-share” federated data model gives you near-instant access to 100 percent of our consumer data that is always updated, eliminating weeks (and sometimes months) of data prep. Simply review our vast troves of available federated data and then request access to the data you need. Within minutes, we will “turn on” your access and you’re good to go. 

  • Faster speed to market. Even gargantuan amounts of data—think: 15 years of data—can be accessed in as little as a day. As a result, your analytic projects can get off the ground and be deployed to market faster. And the faster you can get to market, the faster you’ll get to revenue. 

  • Increased scalability. Federating our data slashed our storage costs and reduced our in-person hours by 90 percent. Now with fewer steps and “human touches” involved, you can more efficiently access the exact amount and type of data you need to build and validate models, create marketing campaign lists and market benchmarking, at a moment’s notice. In today’s unpredictable economy where market conditions and consumer behaviors can turn on a dime, having the ability to deftly scale your data analytics on demand can mean the difference between leading or lagging. 

  • Instant monthly data refresh. You get the absolute freshest data available since our federated data includes an instant monthly data refresh for all clients. In fact, as soon as Equifax refreshes the federated data lake, every customer gets IMMEDIATE access to the latest data.  This means no more resource-intensive, time-consuming requests for updated data; instead, one data engineer can easily handle all monthly Equifax table refreshes.   

  • Improved resource optimization and support. The remarkable end-to-end efficiency of our federated data gives us the freedom and flexibility to better support customers of all sizes throughout their analytic projects, from initial data pricing and scoping through model deployment. Put another way, Equifax can serve as a true analytic partner, capable of meeting you wherever you are in terms of your data and analytic needs and taking you to the next level of success. 

  • Increased agility. Our federated data is customizable on a granular level with row and column-level access control to deliver unmatched precision and business agility. This can help you build a more nuanced and actionable understanding of markets and consumers, more accurately predict “next best” steps, and quickly pivot your analytic strategies based on specific, “right-now” market data and consumer behaviors.  

How it works within Equifax Ignite. 

So, what does federated data look like in the real world? Here’s a peek at how we do it at Equifax.

Our federated data is available within our cloud-based Equifax Ignite data analytic ecosystem, an inclusive space that houses everything you need for a faster analytics-to-production process including multisource data, along with the latest analytic tools and cloud-native technology. 

  • It allows you to automate key data tasks. This includes uploading your data and appending differentiated Equifax data assets in minutes. Not only does this save your time and resources, but it can shave days (if not weeks) off your analytics production process.  

  • It’s also keyed and linked. This means our federated data assets are assigned a common entity key that you can quickly leverage to create unified consumer profile views and better understand consumers from all angles. It also means you’ll be accessing the same data assets that our data scientists use to build the most predictive analytical solutions on the market.

  • The data itself is vast and comprehensive. It contains over 8700 data elements including: consumer and commercial data, score models, attributes and raw data.

Imagine a 360 degree view of consumers and businesses in the U.S. Nearly any insight you might want to better understand your customers and grow your business is included in our federated data. Things like their financial health, their payment behaviors, their ability to spend, their interest and likelihood of making a purchase, their preferred communication channels, and all the demographics and profiling nuggets you could ever want. 

What’s more, the expansion and distribution of new data assets is far easier and faster now that it’s loaded into our federated data platform. 

  • Accessing the data couldn’t be easier. Simply review the federated data available within Equifax Ignite, submit a data request, and access the data for your analytic projects. It’s there for you to explore, test, and use—on the spot—within Equifax Ignite. Continue revising or expanding your data set within Ignite until you get exactly what you need. Then, you can seamlessly move that data into production, even deployment, without ever leaving Equifax Ignite. But, that’s another story you can learn more about here

In today’s breakneck market, where organizations are increasingly relying on operational transparency and speed to move their business forward, federated data is a herculean step in the right direction. It eases dreaded data prep with lightning-fast, on-demand data delivery. It supplies fresh, inclusive insights that can keep your business aligned with your customers and the larger market. And, ultimately, it’s the competitive edge you need to modernize your analytic strategies, get to market faster, and blow past your competition.  

Learn more.

David Ferber

David Ferber

SVP, Analytical and Technology Capabilities Consulting

With over 20 years of experience in the credit industry, David has focused on the technical development and growth of Equifax's data platforms. His experience includes leading major technology transformations from legacy mainframe platforms to the latest massively parallel processing and Cloud technologies. David was t[...]