Asset 2
X On Deck

Overhauling data infrastructure

Context

On Deck is a tech company that supports a portfolio of founder, professional, and investor networks in the startup ecosystem. They provide a variety of products like knowledge hubs, professional fellowships, and mentorship programmes that enable technology professionals to level up their careers through network development and skills-building. As of 2022, On Deck supported a network of 2,300+ individuals across 650 companies that have cumulatively raised nearly $1bn.

Challenge

On Deck had scaled rapidly using an intricate collection of no- and low-code tools that individual functions implemented independently of each other. While this empowered the team to grow operationally, it resulted in messy data generated from over 400 SaaS tools that often produced conflicting metrics. There was no single view of a customer, which hampered their ability to generate business insights.

Objectives

      - Create a data strategy driven by business value
      - Connect the team’s high-priority data systems into a reliable, centralised architecture
      - Implement scalable processes that allowed On Deck to make modular technical decisions as the tech stack evolved

What We Did

Prioritisation with Story Analysis

To identify the core workstreams based on business needs and impact, we conducted interviews with stakeholders to identity the problems and requirements. Each story then went through a process of: - Full Story exploration, developing a product brief for each potential solution to their problems - A technical review of the Story upfront to create a costed delivery estimate which feeds through into planning - Building a backlog of agreed Stories and Epics, with a flexible and routine cadence to reprioritised to reflect changing business needs

Domain modelling the data

The blueprint for On Deck’s data stack was build on a domain model, which that captured the core areas of the business and mapped the relationship between them to provide a shared language for the entire business. With the domain model, we developed data layers in the architecture that allowed On Deck to de-couple changes from raw production tables for greater control of the changing data environment. With the domain model and data layers in place, we could support power users with access to raw, robust business data to feed their investigations. For other users, we generated curated datasets and dashboards that could be reliably trusted for business critical decisions.

Quality control with pipeline testing

Strengthening the stack through robust quality control made sure that the new architecture could adapt and scale with changes and new needs. We took a 3-pronged approach to quality control through tools, processes, and frameworks to support the team: **Tools:** We implemented a tailored data import platform, with bespoke pipelines that ingested data from no-code tools in a robust way, that sit along side SaaS approaches that are quick, cheap, and reliable for the team to manage. **Processes:** We trained the team in a development approach using git, rigorous code reviews, and unit testing that caught errors before deploying them to production. **Frameworks:** We implemented a dbt test framework to flag errors in the data and changes in structure before they hit production tables.

The Result

    - Created a centralised data strategy that reduced reliance on external solutions and allowed for best-of-breed tech tool selection
    - Implemented a reliable data pipeline that proactively flags inconsistencies and breakages
    - Enabled new forms of product innovation, like machine-learning matchmaking services, with clearer decisions based on measurable customer impact
    - Generated ongoing cost savings by reducing spend and reliance on other SaaS tools
    - Changed the team’s culture to focus on the business value of data work

Testimonies

The truth is that every startup and scaleup needs to have a data team — but not everyone knows that upfront. With agencies, you often worry that you have added overhead from managing their deliverables. Not with Tasman. They collaborate with us, day-in and day-out, and they feel like added members of the team.
Stef Lewandowski, Director of Product & Platform, On Deck