How data is forging new collaboration between business and IT

The key takeaway from Day Two of Informatica World is that IT is getting closer to business as business gets closer to data.

It was a story that permeated throughout the keynote session, which kicked off with EVP and Chief Strategy Officer Ivan Chong. He began with an acknowledgement of the harsh truth that for most people on the business side of the enterprise, “dealing with IT feels like waiting in a long line at the bank.”

If organizations are to unlock the potential of information and move toward data-centricity, IT must empower the business with more immediate access to data.

Delivering self-service data

In other words, what non-technical business strategists really need is ‘self-service data.’ Not data as depicted in PowerCenter 9.6, but data that’s as effective as your car’s GPS navigation guide – “a recommendation system for intelligent guidance,” Chong said.

That was the pressing demand that drove Informatica’s latest offering, Project Springbok, the first ever comprehensive self-service data analytics package.

Not content to introduce the product with the standard demo, Chong did what’s never been done before at Informatica World: He invited two customers from Interstate Batteries to run the product demonstration for the audience. Lead BI Analyst Mark Fowler and Sr. Data Quality Analyst Hayley Horn took to the stage, with the former representing the company’s IT department and the latter a business user.

The pair discussed the difficulties that had begun to constrain their working relationship. Unable to ignore the “changing datascape,” where external data combines with internal data, Hayley had become a self-taught “business Pythonista,” scraping external data sources herself because she couldn’t afford to wait a few weeks for IT to validate her hunches.

Mark, on the other hand, knew that this process wasn’t sustainable. He didn’t want to stand in Hayley’s way, but he also knew there was only so much he could do with the ad-hoc process that involved data delivery via Post-It notes and an ever-changing list of requirements.

The Bridge Between Ad Hoc and Data Governance

To demonstrate Project Springbok, Hayley wanted to test a hypothesis that location data from Tweets might offer an interesting correlation with the sales data that Mark had provisioned. Using the Excel-like interface, she could engage the data integration and data quality tools to overlay a map with both data sets.

The value of that self-service was immediately evident. No longer in her way, Mark could see exactly what she required to find her answers, as well as a mapping of the steps she took to get there. Hayley got the freedom to iterate with the visualized data sets so that she could be more clear and articulate about what she needed from Mark.

As a further demonstration of how IT can benefit from business users accessing self-service data, Chong showed the audience Project Springbok’s Data Prep feature, a tool that displays who in the organization is using which data sets and which data sets are most popular. It also provided a view of the most influential users.  

As Chong explained, industry analysts have said what’s missing is the bridge between ad hoc data discovery and repeatable processes that can be operationalized. Springbok for business users and Data Prep for IT bridges that gap. Most important, the innovations (available for general release later this year) enable Informatica to reach out to a new audience – time poor, data-curious business users -- while at the same time empowering its core IT customers with visibility into most-needed data sets.

Ray Kurzweil Keynotes Informatica World 2014

Exponential Intelligence

Next up, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil wowed the crowd with a view of information technology’s unimpeded progress throughout the history of computing. Using a series of logarithmic graphs presenting everything from Internet growth to the speed of DNA sequencing, he proved how that progress wasn’t linear – but in fact both exponential and predictable.

As unintuitive as exponential progress sounds, he explained how “exponentials are surprising and seductive.” It was a talk that spanned the length of human existence and the breadth of technologies changing the world today – from self-driving cars to nanobots that could fix human hearts and connect neurons to the cloud. A recent Informatica blog provides more insight into Kurzweil’s talk.