Snowflake had the chance to hear from EQT Group’s Head of Data Management, Pedram Birounvand, at Data Innovation Summit Sweden to find out how the private equity firm is leveraging agile data architecture to support its mission of future-proofing the companies it invests in—driving superior returns, and making a positive impact on the future.

Enabling Data-Driven Leadership

EQT Group is a purpose-driven global investment organization entirely focused on active ownership strategies, while responsibly investing in, owning, and developing companies. To understand which companies to invest in, it is using Snowflake to store and analyze large amounts of internal and external data. Snowflake is not only an enabler on a tech level, but also a part of its data-driven leadership model, where the top executives at EQT have near real-time access and knowledge of the data driving their business. 

Birounvand explained: “Our executives don’t have to prepare a single slide or pdf when they go into a session; we build an entire story based on live data in meetings, so when we want to drill down we click and have conversations there and then.” The EQT data lake provided by Snowflake enables this kind of agile and time-saving approach to decision-making within the organization and Birounvand takes this approach when working directly on the EQT mission of developing the companies in which it invests.

Driving Buy-In from Key Stakeholders Through Targeted Iteration

“We look at the super-frustrated users within an organization”, said Birounvand. “The top executives that sit very close to C-level executives, they usually have an MBA degree, are very senior within the organization, but they are tasked with tedious jobs, such as copying and pasting stuff in Excel.”

By targeting these users, Birounvand and his team are able to focus on improving areas where productivity blockages occur and time is wasted; they then provide solutions for their key target users, iterating repeatedly on that process until they hit upon an optimal solution. But being able to be iterative in your data strategy requires good technology—and that is where Snowflake comes in.

“Being able to be iterative in your strategy really requires you to have good technology, and that is something I truly believe we have managed to do at EQT,” Birounvand said. EQT uses Fivetran for its data pipeline, which is able to smoothly and cleanly transfer source data to the persistent data layer of the operation, provided by Snowflake, without the need for an internal team to keep up with API versions and changes in the source systems. 

Importantly, Birounvand does not do any kind of transformation at this stage, using the newer ELT process to move data from source to a data lake, enabled thanks again to the use of Snowflake. Birounvand explained: “We have persistent data in our Snowflake data lake, but for all other transformations we only build views and then we simply build data products based on those views. This allows us to modify our data model in a very simple way: We can change the data model sprint by sprint, without needing to account for big data migrations between different environments.”

By building data products, Birounvand and his team are able to assign small, agile teams to a specific data domain, allowing them to fully own their part of the business, get to know their customers at a deep level, and provide a superior service.

Enterprise-Level Data Security

Snowflake also synergizes with data catalog providers, enabling better data governance and compliance. Birounvand continued, “Snowflake has dynamic data masking, and this is incredibly important when you are working with GDPR; we have a lot of sensitive data about our investors, and it’s mission-critical to prevent both internal or external leaks.” 

Data owners can tag data as being personally identifying information (PII) and mask it from other users. Once that data is tagged, a log of access history is then possible, making regulatory compliance a much easier task. “When an auditor comes in and says, ‘Who has accessed sensitive data within your organization?’ we can do a very simple query and get that information out straight away.”

In sum, what Birounvand and EQT have built is a comprehensive data catalog that enables anyone in the organization to simply find the data they need, see the controls on that data, know who owns it, and determine whether it is trustworthy information, and all of that is done by having Snowflake at the heart of the data operation.