The final day of Informatica World was dominated by the breakout sessions and the closing keynotes. The closing keynotes featured two topics that were of particular interest. The first was the Informatica’s focus on customer personae. Specifically, Informatica is focusing on what they refer to as “data heroes”. A data hero is the person in the organization that can use data to make gain significant insights into the business. These people can be in the IT department or in one of the LOBs. The challenge with focusing on the data heroes is the difficulty associated with the using big data and analytics to uncover insights. In too many cases, the value of big data and analytics is limited by what people think to use the data for. As Seven Levitt discussed in the day 2 keynote, too many companies are limited in their thinking of how to use big data to the obvious use cases like targeted advertisements. While this is not a problem that Informatica can solve directly, it is a problem that they can make easier for customer to solve by improving collaboration. With greater collaboration between employees with diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and skills comes a greater chance the team will hit on the breakthrough idea. While improving collaboration may seem like a stretch for a data management company, it really is not. It is far easier for a team to collaborate on a project when they all have access to the same data and can benefit from each other’s work. Being able to effectively share data and the analysis of that data is critical to being able to extract substantial value from the data. In many cases, the data sharing is done through email and Excel and while Excel is a great general purpose tool for business users, anyone who has tried to work in a large team using email and excel understands the challenges associated with version control and data updates. Neuralytix believes that Informatica is trying to address this through the products and roadmaps that were laid out over the course of Informatica World.
The collaboration aspect played well into the presentation by Jake Porway from DataKind. DataKind is a non-profit that is dedicated to using big data and analytics to solve social problems. Currently, most of the common uses for big data are aimed at solving “first world problems”. Big data can help Amazon recommend things you might want to buy, it can help Netflix recommend a movie, or Google improve its search engine. These are all valuable activities but they are clearly problems of wealthy nations and citizens. Given the power of big data and inexpensive computing, can big data be used to solve problems that affect the less well-off countries and citizens? These are the problems that DataKind is trying to address. They provided examples of being able to analyze data captured through charities like Donors Choose, and organization that allows public schools to post requests for people to donate money that would go towards things the teachers need for their classrooms. This provided Donors Choose with a large data set of items requested and the schools location. Once the data mapping had been completed and the items categorized, analysis was done on requested items by income levels of the school district. The results of the analysis could then be presented to local and state officials to help influence funding and policy decisions. They discussed a project in which someone wrote an app that used Google earth to identify all of the swimming pools in Los Angeles. While interesting, the real value of the project came when someone else realized that the same app could be used identify pools in emerging or lower income areas that were not maintained and had become breading grounds for mosquitos that carried Malaria and Dengee Feaver. It is this type of collaboration that can move big data from a tool that can increase the effectiveness of target advertisements to a tool that can make meaningful changes, but to society as DataKind is doing and to a business.
The three days of the conference showed not only the extent to which the era of big data has arrived, but how far companies still have to go to truly be able to use big data to uncover meaningful insights. While data sources are exploding, data integration, data management, and collaboration are still major challenges for most, if not all, companies.