How do you transform your enterprise from being data-incompetent to data-driven? How do you incorporate and leverage your legacy data assets with your latest Big Data assets? How do you successfully implement Data Quality, Data Governance, and Master Data Management into your existing business and IT structures without causing undue chaos or friction? How do you consume 64 pounds of candy in five and a half days? Such thought-provoking, data-centric, and sugar-infused questions were only a few of the countless that were asked, pondered, examined, tested, queried, joined, updated, and ultimately answered (and eaten) during the DATAVERSITY® Enterprise Data World (EDW) 2016 Conference.
Celebrating EDW’s 20th anniversary and DATAVERISTY’s 5th anniversary, the conference proved yet again to span the globe in terms of interests, perspectives, and conclusions. With over 1,000 attendees from 38 countries, with 23 separate tracks, 200+ presentations/tutorials, 60+ case studies, 50 different exhibitors/sponsors, and at least 5,020 separate instances of “Metadata” being mentioned in conversation, Enterprise Data World was a data geek’s joy to behold.
Held at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina in San Diego from April 17-22, this year’s conference was the first year that DATAVERSITY (and co-producer DAMA International) joined four distinct conferences into one all-encompassing event:
- Enterprise Data World Conference
- CDO Vision: Data Strategy, Innovation, and Leadership Conference
- FIBO (Financial Industry Business Ontology) Management and Technical Conference
- Enterprise NoSQL Now! Conference
Attendees were welcomed to visit any of the different conference sessions during the entire event, allowing for a truly inclusive exhibition of the entire spectrum of Data Management.
The highlights were many, but after discussions with numerous attendees, exhibitors, speakers, and a particularly famous data sock puppet named Phil, our Top 8 Takeaways (not in any particular order of importance or timing) are:
Number One: “Is this all a bunch of snake oil?”
Asked by Tim Berglund of DataStax during the Monday evening “Lightning Talks,” the question really hit upon a major theme of the conference: Is the promise of Big Data really as beneficial and significant as it seems to be? The answer is a resounding “yes!” Though it comes with a large caveat – it’s not yet time to celebrate and start buying vacation homes on Bora Bora. Much more work is required before that “yes” can be leveraged into actionable insights for enterprises of all shapes and sizes.
Such work includes all of the other themes presented in the Lightning Talks, from Evren Sirin’s uselessness of “hairball visualizations” to the importance of hiring actual librarians to help deal with the proverbial “warehouse of doom” (Susan Earley). The Lightning Talks drew upon many important topics in Data Management; each of the presenters showed great flair, courage, and humor, all within the space of five minutes.
Number Two: “Watson can’t beat 007” or “land a rocket from outer space on a barge in the ocean”
BB&T’s James Tyo and Anthony J. Algmin of Uturn Data Solutions gave the opening keynotes, and each of them highlighted the fact that it takes humans to make data work. Mr. Tyo’s keynote, titled “Signs You Need an Enterprise Data Office,” hit upon numerous points that demonstrate the need for an EDO. Whether it’s the fact that your executives refer to your department as “those data nerds” or you’re often told “just go do data stuff,” he explained in quite clear (and often hilarious) terms the seriousness of creating a solid, data-centric organization in today’s world of ever-expanding data volumes. In the end, all of the tools need to be in 007’s hands. It’s the people that make the data move, not the other way around.
Anthony J. Algmin continued with this theme in a different way. He discussed how we are in the middle of a Data Renaissance, but that doesn’t mean we’ve reached a Data Enlightenment yet. SpaceX can get a rocket to land on a barge in the middle of the ocean, but “I can’t get two reports to match. We are not there yet,” exclaimed Mr. Algmin. EDW is the place were data professionals come to learn, share, engage, and create real business value. “The studio is open,” he said. “We are the way our companies tap into the potential of data. We are how our companies realize data’s potential.”
Number Three: “DAMA members please stand up!”
DAMA International announced lots of great news at EDW 2016. They recently launched the newly updated Certified Data Management Professional® (CDMP®) credential. It has been expanded with four different levels, multiple separate electives, and a more accessible format for beginners. Sue Geuens, the President of DAMA, discussed the new exam and offered a free year of DAMA membership to all attendees. She concluded her presentation with the announcement of the DAMA Excellence in the Field of Data Management 2016 Award winners:
- Christopher Bradley
- Sakari Jorma
- Thomas Redman
We’d like to congratulate all the award winners and thank them for all their hard work in the industry for so many years.
Number Four: AI versus SI
A data conference in the 21st century wouldn’t be complete without an exhibition of Artificial Intelligence (AI). IBM developer David Taieb and his team created Marvin the Robot to showcase the IBM Analytics for Apache Spark™ architecture. Marvin is the centerpiece of the “Rock, Paper, Scissors Grand Challenge” where anyone could play the time-honored game against IBM’s AI superstar.
One of the biggest challengers of the conference was certainly the DAMA Philadelphia chapter’s famous sock puppet, Phil, and his human guardian Stacey Haurin of Reed Tech. Phil pitted his SI (Sock Intelligence) versus Marvin’s AI in a tense game. In the end, Marvin came out victorious (as he did with a majority of EDW attendees), though only by the thinnest of margins. Such a contest really showcases another major theme of the conference: the often times fractious nature of integrating new technologies into long-standing platforms, systems, and procedures still employed by organizations everywhere. How does an enterprise use their older and accepted (SI) technologies while integrating newer, and often feared (AI) systems into their existing structures?
Number Five: Ethical Consequentialism and $55,000 a Year Fire Hydrants
The Wednesday keynotes by Karla Carter of Bellevue University and Ben Wellington, the creator of the celebrated Data Science blog “I Quant NY,” helped to integrate many of the on-going discussions. Karla opened her keynote, “How to Use Data without Losing Your Soul,” by asking some essential questions:
- What does it mean to use data?
- What does it mean to lose your soul?
Her presentation focused on the idea that just because we can collect, analyze, and report on data doesn’t mean we should. “If you get a creepy, sketchy feeling about what you’re doing with the data, it probably gives your customers that creepy, sketchy feeling as well,” she said. She pointed to the fact that the human element cannot be removed from technology – it’s up to us to keep data ethics intact.
Ben Wellington took the stage to discuss the importance of data storytelling. His data work has actually changed the way NYC charges for subways, among other advances. Mr. Wellington focused on some of the insights he has gained by analyzing the data from his blog. The blog centers on the analysis of NYC public data, and the presentation was both highly informative and uproarious. He presented a number of different findings from his research. He demonstrated that two fire hydrants in NYC actually make more than minimum wage ($55,000/year) by “just being fire hydrants.”
“Think outside the box,” he said. “Make an impact.”
Number Six: Sixty-four Pounds of Candy
Data people love numbers. One of the most pleasing testimonials of the conference is the fact that DATAVERSITY never runs out of candy! Sixty-four pounds of candy consumed is quite an impressive statistic in and of itself. Such a statistic really highlights the sheer number of tracks, sessions, and the attendance of the conference as a whole, though. The hallways of the Sheraton Hotel & Marina were filled with people the entire time, and clearly everyone kept stopping by the various candy bowls cleverly placed throughout. There were twenty-three separate tracks that included such topics as Agile Data, Cognitive Computing, EIM, Security, MDM, Metadata, Data Governance, Semantics, NoSQL, and so many others.
Number Seven: “I’m only here because my query is running”
More than fifty sponsors and exhibitors came to this year’s conference. They covered the entire continuum of the Data Management industry. Attendees could discuss the newest offerings from platinum sponsors Amazon Web Services, IBM, and SAP, while also considering the biggest trends in MDM, Smart Data, Data Modeling solutions, unstructured data, and database lifecycle options to name just a few. The complimentary open bar, free ice cream, desserts, and various snacks provided a festive atmosphere, as did all the free bling. Everyone enjoys free stuff, a fact often proven by the bags full of pens, t-shirts, chocolate, and other items being carried around the conference venue.
The quote above comes from a popular t-shirt designed by Alation’s Marketing Manager, Soona Amhaz. Many of the exhibitors also had products for a raffle drawing on Wednesday during the Ice Cream Social. Some of those included Snowflake’s LEGO Millennium Falcon, Aerospike’s Parrot 2.0 Drone, Ataccama’s Apple Watch, SAP’s Amazon Echo paired with a one-on-one appointment with an SAP data expert, and Data Advantage Group’s Bose headphones. There were so many great prizes and impressive Data Management solutions offered that it’s not possible to list them all here.
Number Eight: “Thanks for giving me a name”
The closing keynote was presented in a Town Hall format with Danette McGilvray, President and Principle at Granite Falls, serving as the moderator and Dr. Thomas Redman of Data Quality Solutions leading the discussion. The keynote focused on “Solving the Big Data Issues” by presenting the next major “catalyst” within the Data Management space: The Data Provocateur.
Dr. Redman began the Town Hall by presenting the notion and need for the Data Provocateur within any enterprise that seeks to be data-driven. “They disrupt the organizational momentum,” he said. But such people are not rabble-rousers or troublemakers saying “I told you so.” They are people within an organization who are tired of the status quo and seek only to do their jobs better. “They are somebody who takes their data team or business unit and they change the way the organization is attacking and dealing with how data is being leveraged.”
Dr. Redman made a particular case that the Data Provocateur must be someone who creates a result. They are “not different from other people,” he said. A number of audience members took part in the Town Hall discussion with many of them thanking Dr. Redman for finally giving them a name and a title.
Number Nine: “Everything in the data space begins and ends with Data Quality”
Dr. Redman ended his closing keynote with a deeper discussion on Data Quality. We are highlighting it now with Number Nine of our Eight Takeaways. He discussed his “Friday Afternoon Measurement,” which allows an organization to assemble the last 100 records created on a Friday and analyze them. Such an effort can give data practitioners the fuel they need to take the issue of Data Quality to company executives.
The ability to take actual numbers to those people who fund the many necessary (and often undervalued) data projects allows us to no longer be called “Little Jimmy, the new data guy,” as James Tyo humorously put it. That ability allows us to get back Ray McGlew’s twenty-five minutes when selling the importance of data to executives. It allows us to actually become a data-driven enterprise rather than just a digital business, as pointed out during an interview with Dave Duggal, the Founder and Managing Director of EnterpriseWeb. Data Quality is the necessary foundation for any data program’s success.
In closing, we’d like to thank Hannah Sanford for her brilliant live data visualizations created during many of the conference sessions (the featured image of this article is one of many). She showed us how it is possible to provide streaming data with the highest levels of quality by using only simple analytics tools like paper and colored pencils. We’d also like to thank John Michael Hydo, the President of Tomorrow’s Event Productions, and his team for their masterful execution of the many audio-visual elements involved in the conference. And of course, thanks to the Sheraton Hotel & Marina staff for helping everyone have a pleasurable conference experience. See you again next year in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference.