Enterprise Data World 2012 Conference Overview

by Paul Williams

As the Georgia spring turned from April into May, over 600 data professionals converged on Atlanta for the 2012 edition of Enterprise Data World. This year’s conference was highlighted by the keynote address of Internal Revenue Service CTO, Terry Milholland, as well as a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of John Zachman’s seminal framework for Enterprise Architecture.

Over five days, EDW 2012 featured a host of sessions led by industry professionals covering the latest topics of interest in the data professional world, including Big Data, NoSQL, Data Governance, Master Data Management, and Enterprise Information Architecture. All sessions belonged to one of ten different tracks, making it easy for attendees to focus on a particular area of interest.

The conference exhibit hall offered nearly 30 companies and organizations the opportunity to present their products (and swag!) to an interested audience. Hors d’oeurves, including the alluringly decadent meatloaf-on-a-stick, along with other libations and delicacies helped to make the exhibit hall reception a memorable part of EDW 2012.

What sets EDW apart from many other data management conferences attended by this reporter is the tangible sense of community among the participants.  DAMA President, Dr. Peter Aiken commented on this, “as a result of these gatherings we are ensuring the organizations will have access to the knowledge and talent required to meet their individual data challenges. Together we are elevating the data management practice, empowering individual data managers, and enabling organizations to make use of their most valuable organizational asset.”

DATAVERSITY™ founder and conference co-host, Tony Shaw, remarked on the attendees’ hopes for the conference:

“The top three reasons that attendees tell us they come to Enterprise Data World are, one, to stay current with the important topics in enterprise data management, two, to learn about and evaluate new trends and technologies, and three, to learn best practices from their peers.  With those objectives in mind, the hot topics this year were definitely Big Data, Data Governance, and the new non-relational (NoSQL) technologies.”

Atlanta, especially the area surrounding the EDW-hosting Omni CNN Center, provided a plethora of opportunities for leisure during what little downtime was available between conference activities. Attendees sampled the local cuisine, as well as nearby attractions like the Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola.

EDW 2012′s Memorable Keynotes and Speeches

Terry Milholland’s decade-long career in IT management may end up being known for his current role as CTO for the Internal Revenue Service. His EDW 2012 opening keynote speech focused on his work for the IRS highlighted by two major accomplishments:

First, after decades ranking at Level 1, the bottom of the Capability Maturity Model scale (CMMI), the IRS is poised to reach Level 3 later in 2012.  The significance of this accomplishment cannot be understated. Additionally, after 50 years of using an archaic tape-based system for taxpayer records, the service looks to rollout an enterprise database model for their taxpayer system later this year.

Combine these accomplishments with a move from weekly to daily processing, and it is easy to see why the Government Accounting Office awarded the IRS with Best Practice awards in nine different success factors. Milholland’s keynote emphasized the data-centric nature of his successful approach and thus was perfect for Enterprise Data World.

Maureen Clarry’s closing keynote, “Influencing Successful Data Projects,” fit nicely with Milholland’s; in fact, she referenced the opening keynote multiple times in her speech. Clarry, an organizational transformation expert, focused her talk on giving EDW attendees methods for implementing what they learned at the conference in their own organizations.

Clarry feels data management success relies more on overcoming obstacles or “potholes on the journey,” as opposed to a mere reliance on quality ideas and plans. Her talk, rich in practical tactics and lessons, served as a relevant closing to the entire conference.

Sandwiched in between the two keynote addresses were a host of memorable talks, not including the celebration for the 30th anniversary of Zachman Framework, covered later.  Business technology thought leader, John Ladley gave a humorous preview of EDW’s exhibit reception, covering most of the companies with booths in the exhibit hall.

Enterprise Data World’s Lightning Talks deserve a special mention. Essentially a quick-hitting series of five minute speeches by data industry leaders with DATAVERSITY founder, Tony Shaw, serving as moderator, the Lightning Talks served to both entertain and enlighten.

The various talks ran the gamut from Master Data Management to writing and publishing one’s own book on data. Some speakers used the opportunity to demo their organization’s latest product, while others used it to provide a measure of humor and levity to the proceedings, especially InfoAdvisor’s Karen Lopez and her rumination on Big Data, “Size Doesn’t Matter.”

“The Big Panel on Big Data”

Wednesday afternoon at EDW 2012 featured “The Big Panel on Big Data,” a moderated discussion highlighted by a collection of heavy hitters in the data industry, including IBM’s Anjul Bhambhri and Informatica’s John Haddad among others. The panel featured the shock-radio style moderation of Eric Kavanagh. This sometimes humorous approach made sense, considering Eric’s role as a host for the Bloor Group’s DM Radio program.

Probing questions on the main role of Big Data in today’s IT world triggered a thoughtful response from Constellation Research’s Neil Raden. Neil hoped that the uses of Big Data would go beyond mere commerce and provide benefits in the world of medicine and health care. In short, Big Data should “do something good for humanity.” Anjul Bhambhri echoed this sentiment, remarking that the knowledge gleaned from Big Data has the potential for improving all of our lives.

Concerning the set of challenges involved in working with Big Data, many of the experts remarked on the need to grow relevant knowledge in both the business and technical roles.  10gen’s Paul Pederson commented how people are still using old models to solve new problems.  Robin Bloor of the Bloor Group summed up the panel as a whole, stating that Big Data’s biggest challenges are “the same problems we haven’t solved with Little Data.”

Session Highlights at EDW 2012

As mentioned, the sessions at this year’s Enterprise Data World each followed one of ten tracks, some of which were sponsored by EDW’s corporate supporters, including Informatica, Adaptive, and Global IDs.  Included with the normal sessions were a Monday filled with more in-depth tutorials, along with an afternoon of seminars on Thursday.

Master Data expert, David Loshin, gave an excellent introductory overview on Master Data Management, a rapidly maturing discipline in the world of data professionals. David emphasized the point that MDM is a “set of disciplines, not a shrink-wrapped package.” He also stressed the need for Data Governance as part of MDM, “If a standard falls in a forest and nobody follows it, it’s not a standard.”

Joseph Shaffner from Sybase/SAP talked about his company’s latest products in the world of Big Data. SAP Hana is an in-memory database currently sporting query results 355 times faster than disk-based products. Also, their SAP IQ product is a columnar database well suited for data warehouse and analytics applications.

Cambridge Semantics were a notable presence at EDW 2012. Company VP of Marketing, Lee Feigenbaum, demoed their Anzo line of semantic web products useful for combining information on any topic from a wide-array of web-based sources and formats. His baseball-themed demo did a fine job in illustrating Anzo’s capabilities in handling data from the highly-structured to the unstructured.

Cap Gemini’s Jojy Mathew covered his real-world experience with operationalizing Data Governance and Data Quality in a detailed walkthrough rich with tips and tricks. This session was sponsored by Adaptive, who let Jojy speak more on his project successes as opposed to an aggressive marketing push. This proved to be an excellent approach for this kind of session.

Maximizing the value of data using Data Management was the focus of a session by DataFlux’s Brett Dorr. His company is a provider of software and services that support DM. Brett feels that a lack of both leadership and ownership remains one of the reasons companies still need better Data Management practices.

The CLAPR framework for Enterprise Database Architecture was the subject of a session given by industry veterans James O’Brien and Jack Bilig, along with DAMA president, Peter Aiken. CLAPR is most definitely NOT for database modeling; it provides a process for integrating the many aspects of an enterprise to create an integrated set of models based on an extensible framework. The process generally involves iterating through a set of root models, gradually modeling the subtypes at a finer granularity.

The Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM), developed at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie-Mellon University, helps to determine risk in the planning stages of any software project. Considering the importance of data in most software projects, knowledge of ATAM is useful for most data professionals. Data Management veteran, Robert Abate, profiled ATAM in an excellent session covering the basics of this valuable Enterprise Architecture methodology.

A Celebration for John Zachman

John Zachman is considered by many to be the father of Enterprise Architecture. The EDW special event celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Zachman Framework provided some of the most entertaining and heartwarming moments of the conference.

Peter Aiken shared the dais with John Zachman using a slideshow to present the history of the framework, peppered with insightful and sometimes humorous comments from the person who created it. Over the last 30 years, Zachman continued to refine the framework, and his company, Zachman International, currently provides training and certification for professionals eager to hone their information architecture skills.

Finally, champagne was passed out to all in attendance and a shared toast brought more smiles and even a few tears in celebration of one man’s important role in the world of data and Enterprise Architecture.

DAMA and DATAVERSITY Team Up

Enterprise Data World 2012 was jointly presented by DATAVERSITY and DAMA, the preeminent data management professional organization. DAMA had many officers present at EDW, along with their booth in the exhibit hall. The organization also hosted tests for attendees looking to earn the CDMP and other certifications at the conference.

DAMA’s Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) is considered to be the Bible of Data Management principles and practices. More than one EDW session covered DMBOK and its associated disciplines.

DAMA’s VP of Conference Services, Cathy Nolan summed the data management organization’s role at EDW 2012, “the partnership between DAMA and DATAVERSITY has resulted in an outstanding educational event, Enterprise Data World. Non-DAMA attendees learn about the benefits of belonging to the largest independent Data Management Organization, while DAMA members network to improve not only their personal skills but their chapters located in 27 countries around the world.”

Make Plans to Attend Enterprise Data World 2013

There is little doubt that Enterprise Data World remains the foremost conference for data professionals all over the world. In addition to the United States, attendees from nearly twenty other countries take part in EDW 2012.

Veteran data professional James O’Brien attended his first EDW this year in Atlanta; his comments nicely sum up this year’s Enterprise Data World, “As a first time attendee and presenter at EDW I was, to put it simply, stunned!  Not only did I get opportunities to discuss matters with such luminaries as John Zachman and David Hay, the quality of the knowledge on the part of the attendees was simply astounding.  Everyone I talked to had in-depth knowledge in their data management area.  Never have I had the opportunity to interact with such world class talent as I did at EDW 2012.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to being a regular attendee and presenter at future conferences.”

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