Susan Twadell was living a dream come true. As someone who grew up near Atlanta, she was excited to be working in finance for the city’s iconic media conglomerate, Turner Broadcasting, helping close the deals that made special broadcasts like NBA on TNT come alive.
Today, she’s working for another supreme local firm—Cox Automotive—as the software company’s associate vice president of enterprise data management and enablement. It’s a complicated title, but Twadell has a simple goal: finding new ways to help the business leverage the mountain of information it has access to for crucial business activities.
Twadell is quick to acknowledge her nontraditional background as a data management leader. She didn’t study computer engineering, rise through the ranks in IT, or pursue an advanced degree in business administration.
However, she says her deep background in finance and her experience partnering with large corporations helps her uncover opportunities others may overlook. “Accounting was a great way to get a full understanding of how businesses work and how to use new tools to run them well,” she reflects. “I’ve seen how businesses run from the inside, how products and services help customers, and what levers you can pull to make an enterprise successful.”
That experience gave Twadell a broad perspective that helps guide her data management strategy today. She started with Cox as a financial analyst at its subsidiary Manheim in 2007 and helped deploy an Oracle financial management platform. Over time, Twadell migrated away from finance to process improvements, where she centralized transaction processing and found new ways to reduce financial errors. Then, leaders asked her to put in a new enterprise resource planning and financial system to measure business progress. That led her squarely to the field of data and analytics.
Again, Twadell used her nontraditional background to guide her approach. “You shouldn’t have to have an advanced degree in tech to leverage data for business purposes. I want to make the use of data less intimidating and easier for my colleagues,” she says. She joined Cox Automotive in 2015 to get data into the hands of the data scientists and project engineers who are creating and enhancing key products at brands like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
Having the right data in the right place at the right time ensures employees at Cox Automotive can build the latest and most effective tools like machine learning models and powerful algorithms into their products.
Twadell’s team has cataloged eight hundred data sets to build its enterprise data marketplace, a one-stop shop for discovering, sharing, managing, and accessing data safely across the enterprise. This information is gathered from millions of online visits, vehicle sales, credit applications, and service records.
The data marketplace is a key part of Cox Automotive’s DRiVEQ—a brand that uses Cox Automotive’s unparalleled data and dynamic AL/ML intelligence to create relentlessly innovative products for its customers. The project has far-reaching internal and external applications. Last year, Cox Automotive launched ten thousand product enhancements and dozens of new products and integrations backed by DRiVEQ.
Customers and clients are finding many ways to use DRiVEQ. Innovations from DRiVEQ reach many of Cox Automotive’s products that are designed to use consumer, market, and vehicle intelligence to better service the full vehicle lifecycle across shopping, buying, ownership, and disposition.
Twadell is most proud of the data marketplace because she and her colleagues have made data and insights accessible. “People don’t want data; they want information and insights,” she asserts “They want something actionable, and that’s what we’ve provided by putting data at their fingertips so they can use it to power their lives and their businesses.”
Industry leaders agree. In 2022, Collibra named Cox Automotive as its data program of the year. Cox Automotive joins former winners from massive tech-centered companies like American Express, T-Mobile, and Freddie Mac.
If building a massive and powerful platform sounds intimidating, Twadell encourages others who aspire to impact customers through data to start small: Find out what customers are struggling with, ask what they need, and then ask why again. “Data is there to be analyzed and discussed. Talk about it and remember that relationships matter because collaboration brings results,” she advises. “Don’t get so focused on the ones and the zeroes that you rush by and leave people out of the value creation.”
For now, Twadell is focused on having deep conversations at Cox Automotive about how to scale its data marketplace. Her team is adding in automation, increasing data quality, and looking to do even more. Connected data is changing the automotive industry, and Twadell has Cox Automotive in the driver’s seat.