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  • Writer's pictureAvi Sawant

Spreading Snowflake Excellence

For many insurers, Snowflake – the cloud-based data platform – is central to their data modernization journey.  Snowflake is more than a traditional database; it’s a data platform.  It houses data pipelines and connections to an ecosystem of assets within and external to the company firewall.  And here’s the kicker: pricing is usage-based, so users need to know what they’re doing.

 

But now more than ever, users are diverse and democratized with wide-ranging skill levels and workloads.  Actuaries, underwriters, finance experts, marketers, software engineers, and DevOps may go directly against the database.  We’ve found that a Snowflake Center of Excellence (CoE) is an effective way to get in front of Snowflake’s performance and cost challenges.

 

What’s A Snowflake COE?

 

At its core, a Snowflake COE is a team of practitioners dedicated to effectively guiding organizations in leveraging Snowflake. This involves implementing best practices and techniques while considering various dimensions crucial for the success of any enterprise-class information technology: performance, security, operational excellence, reliability, and cost optimization.

 

Many insurance companies have de-centralized data access and integration to include business users, data engineers, and report authors.  They have different needs, skill sets, and knowledge, but we know that a mistake can cost dollars and performance. 

 

Here are examples of the things a Snowflake COE might guide on

  • Techniques for cost optimization

  • How to construct data pipelines -- how you break the pipeline into multiple steps, write the SQL, and optimize the SQL on for platforms

  • Selecting a solution pattern to expose data to BI tools: a live connection or extract

  • How to interact with catalog and data lineage tools

  • Best practices for achieving optimal performance

 

How Does the COE Work with Stakeholders?

 

To bring the COE to life, you must partner with a few groups within the organization. If your company already has a data architecting organization, the COE needs to work hand-in-hand with them to define what that data architecture looks like to optimize cost, performance, and reliability. The COE needs a black belt hands-on practitioner and someone experienced in coaching stakeholders to work within usage guardrails and best practices.

 

The COE has to be about collaboration. It’s a liaison to the Snowflake user community to help sustainably drive adoption and usage because, again, this is a consumption-based platform. If you allow too many people too much room without guardrails, it becomes the Wild West, and there will be casualties. The COE can't mandate stuff, so it's about having the right conversations. It’s about striking the right balance between innovation and prudent control.

 

We recommend educational artifacts, lunch and learns, and code reviews for knowledge sharing.  Many companies have Confluence sites they leverage for these kinds of knowledge management purposes. The Snowflake series can have its own Confluence page where the COE publishes best practices for designing solutions, writing SQL, and guidelines for preview features.  For onboarding new Snowflake users, we’ve found it helpful to have a checklist pointing to material already packaged and available.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, the Snowflake COE’s role is to identify inefficiencies, address the “anti-patterns,” and employ corrective actions regarding security, reliability, performance, and cost. At the same time, it aids diverse users in using data to increase premiums, reduce claim losses, and engage customers.



By Avi Sawant

Managing Director, PremiumIQ


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