Category Archives: Data Governance

In a Data First World, Knowledge Really Is Power!

Knowledge Really IS Power!

Knowledge Really IS Power!

I have two quick questions for you. First, can you name the top three factors that will increase your sales or boost your profit? And second, are you sure about that?

That second question is a killer because most people — no matter if they’re in marketing, sales or manufacturing — rely on incomplete, inaccurate or just plain wrong information. Regardless of industry, we’ve been fixated on historic transactions because that’s what our systems are designed to provide us.

“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” gives a great example of what I mean. The book (not the movie) describes Billy Beane hiring MBAs to map out the factors that would win a baseball game. They discovered something completely unexpected: That getting more batters on base would tire out pitchers. It didn’t matter if batters had multi-base hits, and it didn’t even matter if they walked. What mattered was forcing pitchers to throw ball after ball as they faced an unrelenting string of batters. Beane stopped looking at RBIs, ERAs and even home runs, and started hiring batters who consistently reached first base. To me, the book illustrates that the most useful knowledge isn’t always what we’ve been programmed to depend on or what is delivered to us via one app or another.

For years, people across industries have turned to ERP, CRM and web analytics systems to forecast sales and acquire new customers. By their nature, such systems are transactional, forcing us to rely on history as the best predictor of the future. Sure it might be helpful for retailers to identify last year’s biggest customers, but that doesn’t tell them whose blogs, posts or Tweets influenced additional sales. Isn’t it time for all businesses, regardless of industry, to adopt a different point of view — one that we at Informatica call “Data-First”? Instead of relying solely on transactions, a data-first POV shines a light on interactions. It’s like having a high knowledge IQ about relationships and connections that matter.

A data-first POV changes everything. With it, companies can unleash the killer app, the killer sales organization and the killer marketing campaign. Imagine, for example, if a sales person meeting a new customer knew that person’s concerns, interests and business connections ahead of time? Couldn’t that knowledge — gleaned from Tweets, blogs, LinkedIn connections, online posts and transactional data — provide a window into the problems the prospect wants to solve?

That’s the premise of two startups I know about, and it illustrates how a data-first POV can fuel innovation for developers and their customers. Today, we’re awash in data-fueled things that are somehow attached to the Internet. Our cars, phones, thermostats and even our wristbands are generating and gleaning data in new and exciting ways. That’s knowledge begging to be put to good use. The winners will be the ones who figure out that knowledge truly is power, and wield that power to their advantage.

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Posted in Data Aggregation, Data Governance, Data Integration, Data Quality, Data Transformation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Five C’s of Data Management

The Five C’s of Data Management

The Five C’s of Data Management

A few days ago, I came across a post, 5 C’s of MDM (Case, Content, Connecting, Cleansing, and Controlling), by Peter Krensky, Sr. Research Associate, Aberdeen Group and this response by Alan Duncan with his 5 C’s (Communicate, Co-operate, Collaborate, Cajole and Coerce). I like Alan’s list much better. Even though I work for a product company specializing in information management technology, the secret to successful enterprise information management (EIM) is in tackling the business and organizational issues, not the technology challenges. Fundamentally, data management at the enterprise level is an agreement problem, not a technology problem.

So, here I go with my 5 C’s: (more…)

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Posted in Application ILM, Big Data, Data Governance, Data Integration, Enterprise Data Management, Integration Competency Centers, Master Data Management | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scary Times For Data Security

Scary Times For Data Security

Scary Times For Data Security

These are scary times we live in when it comes to data security. And the times are even scarier for today’s retailers, government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare organizations. The internet has become a battlefield. Criminals are looking to steal trade secrets and personal data for financial gain. Terrorists seek to steal data for political gain. Both are after your Personally Identifiable Information, like your name, account numbers, social security number, date of birth, ID’s and passwords.

How are they accomplishing this?  A new generation of hackers has learned to reverse engineer popular software programs (e.g. Windows, Outlook Java, etc.) in order to find so called “holes”. Once those holes are exploited, the hackers develop “bugs” that infiltrate computer systems, search for sensitive data and return it to the bad guys. These bugs are then sold in the black market to the highest bidder. When successful, these hackers can wreak havoc across the globe.

I recently read a Time Magazine article titled “World War Zero: How Hackers Fight to Steal Your Secrets.” The article discussed a new generation of software companies made up of former hackers. These firms help other software companies by identifying potential security holes, before they can be used in malicious exploits.

This constant battle between good (data and software security firms) and bad (smart, young, programmers looking to make a quick/big buck) is happening every day. Unfortunately, the average consumer (you and I) are the innocent victims of this crazy and costly war. As a consumer in today’s digital and data-centric age, I worry when I see these headlines of ongoing data breaches from the Targets of the world to my local bank down the street. I wonder not “if” but “when” I will become the next victim.  According to the Ponemon institute, the average cost to a company was $3.5 million in US dollars and 15 percent more than what it cost last year.

As a 20 year software industry veteran, I’ve worked with many firms across global financial services industry. As a result, my concerned about data security exceed those of the average consumer. Here are the reasons for this:

  1. Everything is Digital: I remember the days when ATM machines were introduced, eliminating the need to wait in long teller lines. Nowadays, most of what we do with our financial institutions is digital and online whether on our mobile devices to desktop browsers. As such every interaction and transaction is creating sensitive data that gets disbursed across tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of databases and systems in these firms.
  2. The Big Data Phenomenon: I’m not talking about sexy next generation analytic applications that promise to provide the best answer to run your business. What I am talking about is the volume of data that is being generated and collected from the countless number of computer systems (on-premise and in the cloud) that run today’s global financial services industry.
  3. Increase use of Off-Shore and On-Shore Development: Outsourcing technology projects to offshore development firms has be leverage off shore development partners to offset their operational and technology costs. With new technology initiatives.

Now here is the hard part.  Given these trends and heightened threats, do the companies I do business with know where the data resides that they need to protect?  How do they actually protect sensitive data when using it to support new IT projects both in-house or by off-shore development partners?   You’d be amazed what the truth is. 

According to the recent Ponemon Institute study “State of Data Centric Security” that surveyed 1,587 Global IT and IT security practitioners in 16 countries:

  • Only 16 percent of the respondents believe they know where all sensitive structured data is located and a very small percentage (7 percent) know where unstructured data resides.
  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents say not knowing where the organization’s sensitive or confidential data is located keeps them up at night.
  • Only 19 percent say their organizations use centralized access control management and entitlements and 14 percent use file system and access audits.

Even worse, those surveyed said that not knowing where sensitive and confidential information resides is a serious threat and the percentage of respondents who believe it is a high priority in their organizations. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agree it is a significant security risk facing their organizations. But a much smaller percentage (51 percent) believes that securing and/or protecting data is a high priority in their organizations.

I don’t know about you but this is alarming and worrisome to me.  I think I am ready to reach out to my banker and my local retailer and let him know about my concerns and make sure they ask and communicate my concerns to the top of their organization. In today’s globally and socially connected world, news travels fast and given how hard it is to build trustful customer relationships, one would think every business from the local mall to Wall St should be asking if they are doing what they need to identify and protect their number one digital asset – Their data.

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Posted in Data Governance, Data Integration, Data Privacy, Data Quality, Data Services, Data Warehousing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Information Difference Pegs Informatica as a Top MDM Vendor

Information Difference MDM Diagram v2This blog post feels a little bit like bragging… and OK, I guess it is pretty self-congratulatory to announce that this year, Informatica was again chosen as a leader in MDM and PIM by The Information Difference. As you may know, The Information Difference is an independent research firm that specializes in the MDM industry and each year surveys, analyzes and ranks MDM and PIM providers and customers around the world. This year, like last year, The Information Difference named Informatica tops in the space.

Why do I feel especially chuffed about this?  Because of our customers.

(more…)

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How Informatica Tackles the Top 5 Big Data Challenges

Tackle the Top 5 Big Data Challenges

Tackle the Top 5 Big Data Challenges

In my last blog post I discussed the top 5 Big Data challenges listed below:

  • It’s difficult to find and retain resource skills to staff big data projects
  • It takes too long to deploy Big Data projects from ‘proof-of-concept’ to production
  • Big data technologies are evolving too quickly to adapt
  • Big Data projects fail to deliver the expected value
  • It’s difficult to make Big Data fit-for-purpose, assess trust, and ensure security

Informatica has extended its leadership in data integration and data quality to Hadoop with our Big Data Edition to address all of these Big Data challenges.

The biggest challenge companies’ face is finding and retaining Big Data resource skills to staff their Big Data projects.  One large global bank started their first Big Data project with 5 Java developers but as their Big Data initiative gained momentum they needed to hire 25 more Java developers that year.  They quickly realized that while they had scaled their infrastructure to store and process massive volumes of data they could not scale the necessary resource skills to implement their Big Data projects.  The research mentioned earlier indicates that 80% of the work in a Big Data project relates to data integration and data quality.  With Informatica you can staff Big Data projects with readily available Informatica developers instead of an army of developers hand-coding in Java and other Hadoop programming languages.  In addition, we’ve proven to our customers that Informatica developers are up to 5 times more productive on Hadoop than hand-coding and they don’t need to know how to program on Hadoop.  A large Fortune 100 global manufacturer needed to hire 40 data scientists for their Big Data initiative.  Do you really want these hard-to-find and expensive resources spending 80% of their time integrating and preparing data?

Another key challenge is that it takes too long to deploy Big Data projects to production.  One of our Big Data Media and Entertainment customers told me prior to purchasing the Informatica Big Data Edition that most of his Big Data projects had failed.  Naturally, I asked him why they had failed.  His response was, “We have these hot-shot Java developers with a good idea which they prove out in our sandbox environment.  But then when it comes time to deploy it to production they have to re-work a lot of code to make it perform and scale, make it highly available 24×7, have robust error-handling, and integrate with the rest of our production infrastructure.  In addition, it is very difficult to maintain as things change.  This results in project delays and cost overruns.”  With Informatica, you can automate the entire data integration and data quality pipeline; everything you build in the development sandbox environment can be immediately and automatically deployed and scheduled for production as enterprise ready.  Performance, scalability, and reliability are simply handled through configuration parameters without having to re-build or re-work any development which is typical with hand-coding.  And Informatica makes it easier to reuse existing work and maintain Big Data projects as things change. The Big Data Editions is built on Vibe our virtual data machine and provides near universal connectivity so that you can quickly onboard new types of data of any volume and at any speed.

Big Data technologies are emerging and evolving extremely fast. This in turn becomes a barrier to innovation since these technologies evolve much too quickly for most organizations to adopt before the next big thing comes along.  What if you place the wrong technology bet and find that it is obsolete before you barely get started?  Hadoop is gaining tremendous adoption but it has evolved along with other big data technologies where there are literally hundreds of open source projects and commercial vendors in the Big Data landscape.  Informatica is built on the Vibe virtual data machine which means that everything you built yesterday and build today can be deployed on the major big data technologies of tomorrow.  Today it is five flavors of Hadoop but tomorrow it could be Hadoop and other technology platforms.  One of our Big Data Edition customers, stated after purchasing the product that Informatica Big Data Edition with Vibe is our insurance policy to insulate our Big Data projects from changing technologies.  In fact, existing Informatica customers can take PowerCenter mappings they built years ago, import them into the Big Data Edition and can run on Hadoop in many cases with minimal changes and effort.

Another complaint of business is that Big Data projects fail to deliver the expected value.  In a recent survey (1), 86% Marketers say they could generate more revenue if they had a more complete picture of customers.  We all know that the cost of us selling a product to an existing customer is only about 10 percent of selling the same product to a new customer. But, it’s not easy to cross-sell and up-sell to existing customers.  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiatives help to address these challenges but they too often fail to deliver the expected business value.  The impact is low marketing ROI, poor customer experience, customer churn, and missed sales opportunities.  By using Informatica’s Big Data Edition with Master Data Management (MDM) to enrich customer master data with Big Data insights you can create a single, complete, view of customers that yields tremendous results.  We call this real-time customer analytics and Informatica’s solution improves total customer experience by turning Big Data into actionable information so you can proactively engage with customers in real-time.  For example, this solution enables customer service to know which customers are likely to churn in the next two weeks so they can take the next best action or in the case of sales and marketing determine next best offers based on customer online behavior to increase cross-sell and up-sell conversions.

Chief Data Officers and their analytics team find it difficult to make Big Data fit-for-purpose, assess trust, and ensure security.  According to the business consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, “At some organizations, analysts may spend as much as 80 percent of their time preparing the data, leaving just 20 percent for conducting actual analysis” (2).  This is not an efficient or effective way to use highly skilled and expensive data science and data management resource skills.  They should be spending most of their time analyzing data and discovering valuable insights.  The result of all this is project delays, cost overruns, and missed opportunities.  The Informatica Intelligent Data platform supports a managed data lake as a single place to manage the supply and demand of data and converts raw big data into fit-for-purpose, trusted, and secure information.  Think of this as a Big Data supply chain to collect, refine, govern, deliver, and manage your data assets so your analytics team can easily find, access, integrate and trust your data in a secure and automated fashion.

If you are embarking on a Big Data journey I encourage you to contact Informatica for a Big Data readiness assessment to ensure your success and avoid the pitfalls of the top 5 Big Data challenges.

  1. Gleanster Survey of 100 senior level marketers. The title of this survey is, Lifecycle Engagement: Imperatives for Midsize and Large Companies.  Sponsored by YesMail.
  2. “The Data Lake:  Take Big Data Beyond the Cloud”, Booz Allen Hamilton, 2013
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Data Governance: Another Hidden Compliance Opportunity?

Data Governance:  Another Hidden Compliance Opportunity?

Data Governance: Another Hidden Compliance Opportunity?

I previously wrote about how regulatory compliance could be used as an opportunity to build the foundations for a flexible data environment.  This opened up a few conversations with some colleagues, which makes me think that I actually missed a key point in my previous blog:  Why is it that compliance is so hard?  After all, regulators are simply asking for data about everyday business activities.  Surely you just reach into your body of knowledge, draw out the salient facts and provide them in a specified format?

But it’s not as easy as a couple of queries.  The reality is that the body of knowledge in question is seldom in a shape recognizable as a ‘body’.  In most corporations, the data regulators are asking for is distributed throughout the organization.  Perhaps a ‘Scattering of Knowledge’ is a more appropriate metaphor.

It is time to accept that data distribution is here to stay.  The idea of a single ERP has long gone.  Hype around Big Data is dying down, and being replaced by a focus on all data as a valuable asset.  IT architectures are becoming more complex as additional data storage and data fueled applications are introduced.  In fact, the rise of Data Governance’s profile within large organizations is testament to the acceptance of data distribution, and the need to manage it.  Forrester has just released their first Forrester Wave ™ on data governance.  They state it is time to address governance as “Data-driven opportunities for competitive advantage abound. As a consequence, the importance of data governance — and the need for tooling to facilitate data governance —is rising.”  (Informatica is recognized as a Leader)

However, Data Governance Programs are not yet as widespread as they should be.  Unfortunately it is hard to directly link strong Data Governance to business value.  This means trouble getting a senior exec to sponsor the investment and cultural change required for strong governance.  Which brings me back to the opportunity within Regulatory Compliance.  My thinking goes like this:

  1. Regulatory compliance is often about gathering and submitting high quality data
  2. This is hard as the data is distributed, and the quality may be questionable
  3. Tools are required to gather, cleanse, manage and submit data for compliance
  4. There is a high overlap of tools & processes for Data Governance and Regulatory Compliance

So – why not use Regulatory Compliance as an opportunity to pilot Data Governance tools, process and practice?

Far too often compliance is a once-off effort with a specific tool.  This tool collects data from disparate sources, with unknown data quality.  The underlying data processes are not addressed.  Strong Governance will have a positive effect on compliance – continually increasing data access and quality, and hence reducing the cost and effort of compliance.  Since the cost of non-compliance is often measured in millions, getting exec sponsorship for a compliance-based pilot may be easier than for a broader Data Governance project.  Once implemented, lessons learned and benefits realized can be leveraged to expand Data Governance into other areas.

Previously I likened Regulatory Compliance as a Buy One, Get One Free opportunity:  Compliance + a free performance boost.  If you use your compliance budget to pilot Data Governance – the boost will be larger than simply implementing Data Quality and MDM tools.  The business case shouldn’t be too hard to build.  Consider that EY’s research shows that companies that successfully use data are already outperforming their peers by as much as 20%.[i]

Data Governance Benefit = (Cost of non-compliance + 20% performance boost) – compliance budget

Yes, the equation can be considered simplistic.  But it is compelling.


[i] 17 Big data and enterprise mobility, EY, 2013.
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Takeaways from the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit (2014)

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit. At this event, Gartner analysts and security industry experts meet to discuss the latest trends, advances, best practices and research in the space. At the event, I had the privilege of connecting with customers, peers and partners. I was also excited to learn about changes that are shaping the data security landscape.

Here are some of the things I learned at the event:

  • Security continues to be a top CIO priority in 2014. Security is well-aligned with other trends such as big data, IoT, mobile, cloud, and collaboration. According to Gartner, the top CIO priority area is BI/analytics. Given our growing appetite for all things data and our increasing ability to mine data to increase top-line growth, this top billing makes perfect sense. The challenge is to protect the data assets that drive value for the company and ensure appropriate privacy controls.
  • Mobile and data security are the top focus for 2014 spending in North America according to Gartner’s pre-conference survey. Cloud rounds out the list when considering worldwide spending results.
  • Rise of the DRO (Digital Risk Officer). Fortunately, those same market trends are leading to an evolution of the CISO role to a Digital Security Officer and, longer term, a Digital Risk Officer. The DRO role will include determination of the risks and security of digital connectivity. Digital/Information Security risk is increasingly being reported as a business impact to the board.
  • Information management and information security are blending. Gartner assumes that 40% of global enterprises will have aligned governance of the two programs by 2017. This is not surprising given the overlap of common objectives such as inventories, classification, usage policies, and accountability/protection.
  • Security methodology is moving from a reactive approach to compliance-driven and proactive (risk-based) methodologies. There is simply too much data and too many events for analysts to monitor. Organizations need to understand their assets and their criticality. Big data analytics and context-aware security is then needed to reduce the noise and false positive rates to a manageable level. According to Gartner analyst Avivah Litan, ”By 2018, of all breaches that are detected within an enterprise, 70% will be found because they used context-aware security, up from 10% today.”

I want to close by sharing the identified Top Digital Security Trends for 2014

  • Software-defined security
  • Big data security analytics
  • Intelligent/Context-aware security controls
  • Application isolation
  • Endpoint threat detection and response
  • Website protection
  • Adaptive access
  • Securing the Internet of Things
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Posted in Big Data, CIO, Data Governance, Data Privacy, Data Security, Governance, Risk and Compliance | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New type of CFO represents a potent CIO ally

The strategic CFO is different than the “1975 Controller CFO”

CFOTraditionally, CIOs have tended to work with what one CIO called a “1975 Controller CFO”. For this reason, the relationship between CIOs and CFOs was expressed well in a single word “contentious”. But a new type of CFO is emerging that offers the potential of different type of relationship. These so called “strategic CFOs” can be an effective ally for CIOs. The question is which type of CFO do you have? In this post, I will provide you with a bit of a litmus test so you can determine what type of CFO you have but more importantly, I will share how you can take maximum advantage of having a strategic-oriented CFO relationship. But first let’s hear a bit more of the CIOs reactions to CFOs.

Views of CIOs according to CIO interviews

downloadClearly, “the relationship…with these CFOs is filled with friction”. Controller CFOs “do not get why so many things require IT these days. They think that things must be out of whack. One CIO said that they think technology should only cost 2-3% of revenue while it can easily reach 8-9% of revenue these days.” Another CIO complained by saying their discussion with a Controller CFOs is only about IT productivity and effectiveness. In their eyes, this has limited the topics of discussion to IT cost reduction, IT produced business savings, and the soundness of the current IT organization. Unfortunately, this CIO believe that Controller CFOs are not concerned with creating business value or sees information as an asset. Instead, they view IT as a cost center. Another CIO says Controller CFOs are just about the numbers and see the CIO role as being about signing checks. It is a classic “demand versus supply” issue. At the same times, CIOs say that they see reporting to Controller CFO as a narrowing function. As well, they believe it signals to the rest of the organization “that IT is not strategic and less important than other business functions”.

What then is this strategic CFO?

bean counterIn contrast to their controller peers, strategic CFOs often have a broader business background than their accounting and a CPA peers. Many have, also, pursued an MBA. Some have public accounting experience. Others yet come from professions like legal, business development, or investment banking.

More important than where they came from, strategic CFOs see a world that is about more than just numbers. They want to be more externally facing and to understand their company’s businesses. They tend to focus as much on what is going to happen as they do on what has happened. Remember, financial accounting is backward facing. Given this, strategic CFOs spend a lot of time trying to understand what is going on in their firm’s businesses. One strategic CFO said that they do this so they can contribute and add value—I want to be a true business leader. And taking this posture often puts them in the top three decision makers for their business. There may be lessons in this posture for technology focused CIOs.

Why is a strategic CFO such a game changer for CIO?

Business DecisionsOne CIO put it this way. “If you have a modern day CFO, then they are an enabler of IT”. Strategic CFO’s agree. Strategic CFOs themselves as having the “the most concentric circles with the CIO”. They believe that they need “CIOs more than ever to extract data to do their jobs better and to provide the management information business leadership needs to make better business decisions”. At the same time, the perspective of a strategic CFO can be valuable to the CIO because they have good working knowledge of what the business wants. They, also, tend to be close to the management information systems and computer systems. CFOs typically understand the needs of the business better than most staff functions. The CFOs, therefore, can be the biggest advocate of the CIO. This is why strategic CFOs should be on the CIOs Investment Committee. Finally, a strategic CFO can help a CIO ensure their technology selections meet affordability targets and are compliant with the corporate strategy.

Are the priorities of a strategic CFO different?

Strategic CFOs still care P&L, Expense Management, Budgetary Control, Compliance, and Risk Management. But they are also concerned about performance management for the enterprise as whole and senior management reporting. As well they, they want to do the above tasks faster so finance and other functions can do in period management by exception. For this reason they see data and data analysis as a big issue.

Strategic CFOs care about data integration

In interviews of strategic CFOs, I saw a group of people that truly understand the data holes in the current IT system. And they intuit firsthand the value proposition of investing to fix things here. These CFOs say that they worry “about the integrity of data from the source and about being able to analyze information”. They say that they want the integration to be good enough that at the push of button they can get an accurate report. Otherwise, they have to “massage the data and then send it through another system to get what you need”.

These CFOs say that they really feel the pain of systems not talking to each other. They understand this means making disparate systems from the frontend to the backend talk to one another. But they, also, believe that making things less manual will drive important consequences including their own ability to inspect books more frequently. Given this, they see data as a competitive advantage. One CFO even said that they thought data is the last competitive advantage.

Strategic CFOs are also worried about data security. They believe their auditors are going after this with a vengeance. They are really worried about getting hacked. One said, “Target scared a lot of folks and was to many respects a watershed event”. At the same time, Strategic CFOs want to be able to drive synergies across the business. One CFO even extolled the value of a holistic view of customer. When I asked why this was a finance objective versus a marketing objective, they said finance is responsible for business metrics and we have gaps in our business metrics around customer including the percentage of cross sell is taking place between our business units. Another CFO amplified on this theme by saying that “increasingly we need to manage upward with information. For this reason, we need information for decision makers so they can make better decisions”. Another strategic CFO summed this up by saying “the integration of the right systems to provide the right information needs to be done so we and the business have the right information to manage and make decisions at the right time”.

So what are you waiting for?

If you are lucky enough to have a Strategic CFO, start building your relationship. And you can start by discussing their data integration and data quality problems. So I have a question for you. How many of you think you have a Controller CFO versus a Strategic CFO? Please share here.

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The Power and Security of Exponential Data

The Power and Security of Exponential Data

The Power and Security of Exponential Data

I recently heard a couple different analogies for data. The first is that data is the “new oil.” Data is a valuable resource that powers global business. Consequently, it is targeted for theft by hackers. The thinking is this: People are not after your servers, they’re after your data.

The other comparison is that data is like solar power. Like solar power, data is abundant. In addition, it’s getting cheaper and more efficient to harness. The juxtaposition of these images captures the current sentiment around data’s potential to improve our lives in many ways. For this to happen, however, corporations and data custodians must effectively balance the power of data with security and privacy concerns.

Many people have a preconception of security as an obstacle to productivity. Actually, good security practitioners understand that the purpose of security is to support the goals of the company by allowing the business to innovate and operate more quickly and effectively. Think back to the early days of online transactions; many people were not comfortable banking online or making web purchases for fear of fraud and theft. Similar fears slowed early adoption of mobile phone banking and purchasing applications. But security ecosystems evolved, concerns were addressed, and now Gartner estimates that worldwide mobile payment transaction values surpass $235B in 2013. An astute security executive once pointed out why cars have brakes: not to slow us down, but to allow us to drive faster, safely.

The pace of digital change and the current proliferation of data is not a simple linear function – it’s growing exponentially – and it’s not going to slow down. I believe this is generally a good thing. Our ability to harness data is how we will better understand our world. It’s how we will address challenges with critical resources such as energy and water. And it’s how we will innovate in research areas such as medicine and healthcare. And so, as a relatively new Informatica employee coming from a security background, I’m now at a crossroads of sorts. While Informatica’s goal of “Putting potential to work” resonates with my views and helps customers deliver on the promise of this data growth, I know we need to have proper controls in place. I’m proud to be part of a team building a new intelligent, context-aware approach to data security (Secure@SourceTM).

We recently announced Secure@SourceTM during InformaticaWorld 2014. One thing that impressed me was how quickly attendees (many of whom have little security background) understood how they could leverage data context to improve security controls, privacy, and data governance for their organizations. You can find a great introduction summary of Secure@SourceTM here.

I will be sharing more on Secure@SourceTM and data security in general, and would love to get your feedback. If you are an Informatica customer and would like to help shape the product direction, we are recruiting a select group of charter customers to drive and provide feedback for the first release. Customers who are interested in being a charter customer should register and send email to SecureCustomers@informatica.com.

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Reflections of a Former Analyst

In my last blog, I talked about the dreadful experience of cleaning raw data by hand as a former analyst a few years back. Well, the truth is, I was not alone. At a recent data mining Meetup event in San Francisco bay area,  I asked a few analysts: “How much time do you spend on cleaning your data at work?”  “More than 80% of my time” and “most my days” said the analysts, and “they are not fun”.

But check this out: There are over a dozen Meetup groups focused on data science and data mining here in the bay area I live. Those groups put on events multiple times a month, with topics often around hot, emerging  technologies such as machine learning, graph analysis, real-time analytics, new algorithm on analyzing social media data, and of course, anything Big Data.  Cools BI tools, new programming models and algorithms for better analysis are a big draw to data practitioners these days.

That got me thinking… if what analysts said to me is true, i.e., they spent 80% of their time on data prepping and 1/4 of that time analyzing the data and visualizing the results, which BTW, “is actually fun”, quoting a data analyst, then why are they drawn to the events focused on discussing the tools that can only help them 20% of the time? Why wouldn’t they want to explore technologies that can help address the dreadful 80% of the data scrubbing task they complain about?

Having been there myself, I thought perhaps a little self-reflection would help answer the question.

As a student of math, I love data and am fascinated about good stories I can discover from them.  My two-year math program in graduate school was primarily focused on learning how to build fabulous math models to simulate the real events, and use those formula to predict the future, or look for meaningful patterns.

I used BI and statistical analysis tools while at school, and continued to use them at work after I graduated. Those software were great in that they helped me get to the results and see what’s in my data, and I can develop conclusions and make recommendations based on those insights for my clients. Without BI and visualization tools, I would not have delivered any results.

That was fun and glamorous part of my job as an analyst, but when I was not creating nice charts and presentations to tell the stories in my data, I was spending time, great amount of time, sometimes up to the wee hours cleaning and verifying my data, I was convinced that was part of my job and I just had to suck it up.

It was only a few months ago that I stumbled upon data quality software – it happened when I joined Informatica. At first I thought they were talking to the wrong person when they started pitching me data quality solutions.

Turns out, the concept of data quality automation is a highly relevant and extremely intuitive subject to me, and for anyone who is dealing with data on the regular basis. Data quality software offers an automated process for data cleansing and is much faster and delivers more accurate results than manual process.  To put that in  math context, if a data quality tool can  reduce the data cleansing effort  from 80% to 40% (btw, this is hardly a random number, some of our customers have reported much better results),  that means analysts can now free up 40% of their time from scrubbing data,  and use that times to do the things they like  – playing with data in BI tools, building new models or running more scenarios,  producing different views of the data and discovering things they may not be able to before, and do all of that with clean, trusted data. No more bored to death experience, what they are left with are improved productivity, more accurate and consistent results, compelling stories about data, and most important, they can focus on doing the things they like! Not too shabby right?

I am excited about trying out the data quality tools we have here at Informtica, my fellow analysts, you should start looking into them also.  And I will check back in soon with more stories to share..

 

 

 

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