Speaker Spotlight Column: Anne Buff on Data Virtualization

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edw2013-speaker-spotlightby Charles Roe

DATAVERSITY™ recently interviewed Anne Buff, the Business Solutions Manager and Thought Leader at SAS. Anne will be giving a session at the Enterprise Data World 2014 Conference in Austin, Texas from April 27 – May 1, 2014. Her session is titled “Data Virtualization: Changing the Landscape of IT Without Moving Mountains.”

The Speaker Spotlight Column (and its parallel venture the Sponsor Spotlight Column) is an ongoing project that focuses on highlighting several of the central issues represented at the many Data Management conferences produced by DATAVERSITY.

The primary emphasis of the interview was to question Anne Buff on her work and history within the industry, with particular importance on her presentation at the upcoming conference:

DATAVERSITY (DV): What are you going to discuss during your session at EDW14, and what will the audience gain from attending your talk? (Please be specific about one or two issues you’ll be addressing and the benefits the audience will obtain).

Anne Buff (AB): I am going to be discussing Data Virtualization – how it works and the business problems it solves. Attending the session you will learn how Data Virtualization can help tame your wild and crazy infrastructure of disparate data systems. You will see how it differs from other Data Management technology as well as how it can augment current Data Management initiatives. We will look at best practices, benefits, and challenges of virtualizing your data environment.

DV: What is really important about such a topic in terms of the current state of Data Management and / or how the industry going to transform moving into the future?

AB: The need to support legacy systems is not going away. But the drive to access new data sources is greater than ever (and for good reason). Current approaches to integrating the wide range of data sources fall short in many areas including time, budget, storage, and skill sets. Data Virtualization provides a scalable, time saving, cost effective approach to enterprise data integration that allows for faster, more secure data provisioning for analytic and operational environments.

DV: Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry, past work experience, and how you got started in the data profession?

AB: I am a data geek through and through. I started my roots as a DBA – The world of relational databases seemed to satisfy my inner OCD nature and need for organization. Through years of consulting, developing, and facilitating technical training I came to realize Data Management was far more than just a technical issue. As a Business Solutions Manager and Thought Leader for SAS, I use every opportunity to evangelize the importance of data to the success of business. If I can share even just a small portion of my passion for data, then my job here is done.

DV: What is the biggest challenge happening in your particular area of Data Management at this time?

AB: Business priority. The excitement around data has grown tremendously over the last few years. Big Data concepts catch the eyes and ears of most. New and exciting technologies are bringing data capabilities to the table faster than ever. It is easy to get caught in the excitement but without a business purpose these technologies will not bring value. As we evaluate these new, shiny objects we must remember the technology should support our business goals not the reverse.

DV: How is such a change influencing your job?

AB: Working for a technology company I have the opportunity to hear and see many wonderful ideas and concepts in the making. The innovation and brilliance our customers share is stunning. Keeping up with pace of development is more challenging than ever – which is a good thing. It is an exciting time for us data geeks.

DV: How have your job, and / or the work you are doing at your organization, altered in the past 12 months? How do you expect it will change in the next 1-2 years?

AB: Data is starting to get the attention it deserves within organizations. With that comes increased budgets (yay!) and increased responsibilities. The increased attention has been very rapid and we often hear “Where do I begin?” It’s not that data professionals don’t know where to begin, we have just been holding things together with toothpicks and duct tape for so long that the new focus can be a little daunting. On my team, we are working with business and IT teams around the world to collaborate and develop strategies for optimizing this new interest in data. Over the next couple of years I expect our conversations will shift to supporting innovation and intelligence through data. We will be helping customers use data as an industry differentiator, inform and create new products and develop new revenue streams.

DV: Are there any other emerging technologies you predict will affect your job function in the future?

AB: The evolution and development of data creation technologies is staggering. Many of these technologies are gathering consumer produced data which will lead to invaluable insights. Legal and compliance requirements will obviously increase but I believe what will catch most organizations by surprise will be the impact of ethics (or lack thereof) in the collection and use of the consumer data. Ethics will be a new factor that Data Management professionals must consider. Remember with data – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

DV: What’s your favorite “Data” or “Data Management” quote?

AB: “Experts often possess more data than judgment” -Colin Powell

DV: How do you explain what you do for work, at a cocktail party, or to your grandparents?

AB: I explain that I get to help organizations learn how they can use data to do new things and understand more about their customers and their business. Depending on the ears this quickly goes to how cool or creepy my job is. Go figure.


If you are interested in attending Anne’s session at EDW2014, please see the conference schedule at:

His session is on Tuesday, April 29th at 2.15pm.

About Enterprise Data World:

Enterprise Data World is the business world’s most comprehensive educational event about data and information management. Over five days, EDW presents a diverse schedule of programming that addresses every level of proficiency, including keynotes, workshops, tutorials, case studies, and discussions.

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