Speaker Spotlight Column: Benjamin Wirtz on Data Governance

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edw2013-speaker-spotlightby Charles Roe

In an effort to leverage the knowledge of several of the top minds in the Data Management industry, DATAVERSITY™ has been conducting a series of interviews on some of the most relevant topics in the field today. Recently, we interviewed Benjamin F. Wirtz, the CEO at Unifyo.

Benjamin will be giving a presentation at the Enterprise Data World 2013 Conference in San Diego, CA from April 28-May 2, 2013. The session is titled “Making the Case for Leaving Customer Data Decentralized.”

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 Benjamin on his work and history within the industry, with particular importance on his session at the upcoming conference:

DATAVERSITY (DV): Please tell us a little about yourself and your history in the industry e.g role at company (as opposed to job title), past experience and how you got started in the data profession?

Benjamin Wirtz (BW):I was always thought that we way companies use and process customer data is broken. There is nothing wrong about wanting to have a great “Customer Relationship Management” system, but when doing IT consulting and research at University, I saw projects going into one of two directions. Most big companies ran incredibly expensive data integration projects with solution providers and consultants, who also restructured the company’s internal organisation – often with poor results because of the complexity of these projects. Smaller companies avoid these expensive and time consuming projects and rather adopt minimalistic systems due to resource restrictions, but then can’t compete in terms of customer context which is available to their employees. I observed changes in technology which would allow for much simpler and effective solutions – ultimately I founded the company behind Unifyo.

DV: What’s the focus of the work do you currently do within your organization?

BW: As the CEO of a small but quickly growing organisation, I’m still deeply involved in developing the product. Our current focus is on working closely with our customers to really understand their needs, instead of just making quick sales. We are really just starting with Unifyo but have solved some complex challenges for our customers already. It’s key for us to see more data integration and CRM challenges, see which companies can and can not yet benefit from Unifyo and improve the technology accordingly.

DV: What is the biggest change going on in your particular area of the industry at this time?

BW: With the move to cloud hosted apps and of course social media, there is an exploding number if silos which hold crucial business data. Customer data is a special challenge, because in places like Facebook and Twitter, it’s not even 100% accessible to companies, but they are depending on other companies to provide APIs. While in the old days companies were able to customise the applications they bought, they can’t do this any more with Software as a Service.

The result is a massive increase in data but a decline in data Accessibility – and of course this process is accelerating all the time.

Data integration projects, especially when combining company internal data with public and social media data, will become even more complex, and the traditional approaches of having a single source of truth (like the CRM) becomes infeasible.

DV: How does such a change affect your job?

BW: It’s a constantly changing environment, with new business services launching every week. It has presented a huge opportunity for us though – and it’s very satisfying to see how our simplified approach on leaving data decentralised but providing a unified profile which has all relevant customer context indexed is helping a lot of companies. There are a lot of companies doing amazing things at the moment, and it’s great to be part of this paradigm shift. The critical challenge is to stay agile and keep solutions adaptable for any forthcoming services which an organization might use or have data stored in.

DV: What are you going to discuss during your session at Enterprise Data World 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).

BW: We will share our lessons learned from having an increasing number of data sources (and silos) which contained customer data, and why we decided to go for an approach which leaves the original customer data decentralised (yet providing a unified interface to all relevant data).

We will give an outlook on the challenges to come and how the data integration challenges are doing to accelerate in the next years, especially in the Software as a Service space

DV: How has your job, and/or the work you’re doing at your organization, changed in the past 12 months?  How do you expect it to change in the next 1-2 years?

BW: We see an increasing number of companies being aware of the challenges ahead, so for us as an organisation that means an increasing number of companies approaching us rather than us having to reach out to potential customers. We expect the data integration space to tip over in the next years, with companies taking new innovative approaches to data integration than just trying to shove all their data into one database – the number of connectors to be built and the amount of resources required for this will imply not deliver a ROI anymore, starting with small companies and then moving to larger organisations until the end of the decade.

DV: More broadly speaking, what do you believe is the most significant change happening in Enterprise Data at this time?

BW: The change of control over data. A lot of control is given either to consumers, enabling them to change and update their own details or even have certain data deleted, which is great. On the other end, companies are handing control of their data over to outside providers – SaaS companies and services which enrich data or make working with data more convenient, like us. There are a lot of concerns regarding backups and access restrictions, but there are more and more companies which feel comfortable handing over control to an extend for efficiency and data quality gains.

DV: How is Big Data going to affect your job (in your organization) in future?

BW: It’s a big opportunity, but I disagree with the gold rush that’s happening around this buzzword. A lot of software vendors and technology providers started re-branding or re-launching their existing services with a “big data” badge on it.


If you are interested in attending Benjamin’s presentation at EDW2013, please see the conference schedule at: http://edw2013.dataversity.net/agenda.cfm?confid=72&scheduleDay=PRINT

The workshop is on Monday, April 29, at 5.00pm.

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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