Enterprise Data World 2017: Data-Driven Business Transformation

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enterprise data world“I love the power of data to tell stories and make better decisions,” said Micheline Casey, Principal at CDO, LLC. She spoke during the “Secrets of the CDOs” closing keynote panel of the 21st annual Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference (EDW) in Atlanta, Georgia, co-produced by DATAVERSITY® and DAMA International, which took place from April 2-7. Casey’s quote epitomizes a major theme of the entire conference: Data tells the story of the business, and without a central focus on creating and maintaining high quality, well-governed data assets, an enterprise’s competitive advantage will suffer.

Such advantage is gained when the enterprise makes a comprehensive decision – from the C-suite down the chain of command to all data users – to emphasize the necessity of appropriate data-driven practices within today’s dynamic business landscape of constantly growing data volumes and complexities.

During the same closing keynote, John Bottega, a former CDO and now a Senior Advisor/Consultant at the EDM Council, reiterated, “The biggest issue [of a CDO and an organization] is to break down the barriers between the business and technology.” Data transformation means business transformation, and business transformation requires cultural change throughout the innumerable boardrooms, offices, cubicles, architectures, platforms, policies, practices, and imaginations of the entire enterprise.

The question of how to make such innovations was a constant refrain throughout the conference. The fact that there were 900+ attendees from 29 countries focused on such a topic made the task at hand straightforward and productive.

Myriad Offerings

Hosted at the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, the conference continued its on-going practice of offering four simultaneous conferences at once:

Attendees could choose which of the more than 26 tracks and 190+ sessions, case studies, tutorials, workshops, and special interest groups they wanted to be a part of. The themes covered the gamut of the entire Data Management industry: Agile, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Metadata Management, Governance & Stewardship, Business Trends, Smart Data, CDO roles, Data Science, Business Intelligence & Analytics, and everything in between.

In his opening keynote address, “Raising the Information Management Maturity Curve,” William McKnight, President of McKnight Consulting Group, encapsulated the conference well with a question that several of his clients had asked him: “We want Hadoop – do we really have to do Data Governance or Data Quality or Data Modeling to get there?”

The answer is clearly “Yes,” and EDW is certainly the place to get the necessary information on how to successfully navigate such a complex data landscape.

Mountains and Mountains – Keep Climbing

The conference began on Sunday, April 2, with various workshops held by some of the top names in the industry and DAMA’s CDMP® Preparation Workshop to help those taking the exam get ready. The Monday morning and afternoon tutorials allowed attendees to gain firsthand expert advice on topics such as operationalizing Data Governance, working with graph databases, building an enterprise-wide Data Strategy, architecting Big Data platforms, creating Data Science teams, and much more.

The Lightning Talks on Monday evening were the first meeting of all the attendees in one place, and once again, they provided an entertaining forum for both serious and witty examinations of data in the world today.

While discussing Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics in “Who Let the Bots Out?” Daragh O’Brien proclaimed, “Life isn’t always like Star Trek,” but then went on to discuss the ethics of dealing with Artificial Intelligence. He concluded with: “When does intelligence cease being artificial? Life is just like Star Trek.”

Kathy Rondon cleverly laid out the fact that Data Curation is about “contextual Metadata,” and presented four primary requirements of setting up a successful Data Curation program. Bill Brooks got a good laugh from the audience when he started with, “Data fascinates me, and I’m obsessed with me!” He went on to discuss various elements of Data Modeling with an ingenious example of modeling a snowman.

Steve Hoberman explained the importance of Blockchains and how they are becoming an essential new element in the data world, while also asking the question (much to everyone’s enjoyment), “Why is Steve talking up here if it’s not about Data Modeling?” All the Lighting Talks were astute, most had elements of humor, and all the speakers were given hearty applause for trying to speak quickly and with clarity on complicated subjects within a short, five-minute timespan.

William McKnight began the Tuesday opening keynotes by clarifying what many of the discussions within the conference hallways and seminar rooms were alluding to:

“Beyond the mountain is another mountain. Therefore, we must always raise the curve… [T]o improve and increase Data Maturity in our organizations, we must get on the train.”

To paraphrase other conversations and presentations, successful Data Management is not easy, but neither is climbing a mountain, and to accomplish it takes focus, resolve, hard work, creativity, and action. McKnight continued by presenting the requirements for the successful implementation of the Capability Maturity Model within a given organization.

Ursula Cottone, the Chief Data Officer at Citizens Bank, added to the entire discussion with a heartfelt, often humorous, personal account in her opening keynote, “One Woman’s Circuitous Journey to the Role of Chief Data Officer.” She started by saying, “This has the least data presented you’ll hear all week.” She went on to cover major themes of what it takes to be a leader, promote data within your organization, and advance the business through quality data practices. “Leadership is not a position or title. It is action and example,” she said. Such a quote encompasses many conference themes: data practitioners must be leaders and data champions in their organizations if those mountains are to be crossed and real data transformation is to occur.

The Wednesday afternoon keynotes strengthened the overall themes of the conference, as well. Linda Powell, the CDO at CFPB, and Peter Aiken, the Founding Director at Data Blueprint, presented some compelling examples of the work they’ve done throughout their careers to utilize data for the betterment of the world. Aiken got a good laugh from the audience when, while discussing a complicated case study he oversaw with the Virginia Governor’s Data Intern Program, he said, “Do you know Peter? He’s crazy and will do anything. He loves data.”

John Bottega ended the Wednesday keynotes by discussing the impact of the Great Recession on the financial industry and how the impact of bad data ruled the entire sequence of events leading up to and throughout the crisis:

“You can’t measure what you can’t define. Therefore, you can’t manage what you can’t measure…[and] the data may have been there [to avert the crisis], but it wasn’t actionable. Our data was broken.”

He ended by saying, “Let’s turn Data Management into a science” with measurable, repeatable, and evidence-based practices.

Awards and Praises

A big congratulation is due to the recipients of the DAMA International Excellence in Data Management Award. The Award was presented by Sue Geuens, the President of DAMA International, at the beginning of the opening keynote. The annual award “recognizes organizations or individuals who have made significant contributions to Data Management principles.” The winners were:

  • Katherine O’Keefe, VP of Professional Development and member of DAMA Ireland
  • Salah Kamel, CEO and Founder of Semarchy
  • Donna Burbank, Past President of DAMA Rocky Mountain and Managing Director of Global Data Strategy

During the Wednesday keynotes, Sue Geuens also announced that there were 100+ CDMP exams given with 30+ Associates, 6-8 Practitioners, and 1 Master Certificate granted. (Some exam scores were still being tallied).

Celebrations, Exhibits, and Prizes

No conference is complete without entertainment. To celebrate the 21st birthday of Enterprise Data World and the longstanding successful partnership between DATAVERSITY and DAMA International, a casino-themed party was held with all food and drinks provided. The room was packed with people gambling (with fake money), chatting, laughing, carousing, and reveling in the time-honored joy of being data practitioners. The evening ended with the next iteration of the now well-known and much appreciated “Homemade Jam” music and dance jamboree.

The exhibit hall at this year’s conference had more than fifty exhibitors and sponsors from a diverse range of expertise across the Data Management industry. One conference attendee remarked that one of the reasons they enjoyed coming to EDW every year was the variety inherent in the conference, both in terms of exhibitors and range of sessions. The usual suspects of conference merchandise were evident from the packed conference bags that attendees were carrying around. Everyone certainly gets their yearly supply of pens, hats, t-shirts, dongles, and more. The IDERA T-shirt (designed by Events Specialist, Molly Abrams) was quite popular, as were the many giveaways, including Data Advantage Group’s Bose headphones, Orbit Analytics’ 4818A HD Drone, Expert System’s Apple TV, Hackolade’s VR glasses, Innovative Systems’ iPad Mini, an Amazon Echo from WhereScape and Trillium, and so many others that it would take an entire article to mention them all. DAMA International and Experian Data Quality also had some pretty stylish socks that seemed to go quickly once people heard about them.

The exhibit hall was full from beginning to end, with many different conversations going on at every booth. The level of expertise displayed by all the vendors in the exhibit hall demonstrates what hard work and a passion for data can create. Just walking around the hall and making the request, “Please tell me about what your company does for the industry,” can expand one’s knowledge of the movement and innovation within Data Management. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Data Governance expert, a Machine Learning app designer, an MDM specialist, a data modeler, a business analyst, a CEO, or anything in between: Talking with the vendors at EDW will bring new insights about the ever-evolving story of data today.

The CDOs and Concluding Thoughts

The closing keynote featured four present and former Chief Data Officers – the aforementioned Micheline Casey and John Bottega, along with Jim Tyo, CDO at Nationwide, and C.J. Nakamura, the CDO at Cerner Corporation. It was presented in a town hall format with all four participants sitting on the stage, answering questions from the audience.

When asked what it took to become a CDO, Jim Tyo said, “Be in the right place at the right time, ready for a challenge, along with some good luck and timing.” And such a statement helps to conclude much of the conference. Data Management is about timing and challenge. The oft-quoted phrase, “It’s a program, not a project,” holds true for any enterprise seeking to better leverage their data assets, as well as a data practitioner seeking to become the next Chief Data Officer.

When asked what some of the biggest roadblocks were to convincing leadership to create the CDO role and/or grow the importance of managing data within an organization, they all agreed in one way or another – culture change. C.J. Nakamura said:

“Everyone has a Data Strategy. Usually there are many of them within individual business units. But to develop an enterprise-level Data Strategy within an organization, you’re opening up a whole new can of worms. Everyone has to be on board.”

And with that, Enterprise Data World 2017 Conference has finished. The weather certainly played a role this year, and we want to thank everyone who was late or stranded due to cancelled flights for being so patient with the entire process. We’d also like to thank everyone who participated, including all the sponsors and exhibitors, with a special thanks to Hannah Sanford for her masterful real-time “graphics recordings,” John Hydo and his team from Tomorrow’s Event Productions, and all the staff of the Omni Atlanta Hotel – the show wouldn’t have been so successful without your help.

See you in San Diego, CA, from April 22-27, 2018, for the Enterprise Data World 2018 Conference!

Photo Credits: Jeff Kempe Photography

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