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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Insights and New AI at Informatica World 2017

Highlights of the conference included inspirational user case studies, educational product demonstrations, and new product announcements.

When I attend a user group meeting or a vendor's conference, my top two priorities are usually to hear case studies from successful users and to see practical demonstrations of vendor products. I found both of those in spades last week, when I spent three days attending Informatica World 2017 in San Francisco.

It was a well-attended conference, with about 2,300 people and seven tracks running simultaneously. To give you a taste of the conference, allow me to share some highlights.

Inspirational User Case Studies

Representatives from Coca-Cola described how they successfully reinvented master data management (MDM) for both customer and product data. I picked up two great lessons from their presentation. First, the customer and product data domains require separate solutions for MDM, although the two should be tightly integrated. Second, in a business-to-business environment, MDM must extend outside your firewall, even though it's challenging to get partners to follow your standards.

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Jason Townsend at ConocoPhillips drew an insightful picture of the workload of data scientists as a cycle of recurring steps -- from data acquisition and hypothesis to interpretation and deployment.

Eric Duell from media firm EW Scripps talked about how Tableau's data visualization tool has become the preferred tool for most of his end users, who work with data managed via on-premises Hadoop, cloud-based Microsoft Azure, and the Informatica Intelligent Platform. I especially liked his idea of having regular "Tableau days." That's when end users learn how to be productive with Tableau (and similar tools) and how to get the most from data provisioned for them by the data management team.

A speaker from extended warrantee provider Asurion told a great story about how they use Informatica Big Data Management to organize their massive data sets as data-lake and data-vault design patterns on cloud-based Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Barry Green is the chief data officer (CDO) of the Bank of Ireland. He shared many great tips about governing data in the world of international finance and evolving European Union data regulations. He also detailed the four secrets of his success as a new CDO in a new job: Start by understanding the current state of data. Improve a few pieces to show value and build confidence. Develop a long-term plan and get consensus. Finally, improve all data and its management.

We often think of data governance as something we perform once a given data set is deployed. To complement that, Patrick Gies (enterprise data architect at Geisinger Healthcare) showed us how he and his team apply governance during the planning and development of data management solutions.

Lori Kvasnicka from Sharp Healthcare explained that their Data Governance Program Office is organized according to important data management competencies, namely MDM, metadata management, data quality, and data policy and procedure. Each combines development, data management, and governance as a single unified process.

Educational Product Demonstrations

The leading announcements at Informatica World concerned new products, namely the Informatica Enterprise Information Catalog (EIC), Informatica Intelligent Cloud Services (ICS), and Informatica CLAIRE. Demos of these were highlights of the event.

A representative from ConocoPhillips presented a killer demo of how they use Informatica EIC for multiple data-driven business initiatives. This included a rundown of which views and containers for data to use in which situations. Informatica employee Ron Lunasin demoed how EIC can be deployed on Amazon Web Services and how to use EIC's Google-esque search mechanism for finding metadata, data, and other artifacts in EIC's repository.

One of the most suave and debonair demos I've ever seen came from Amit Walia, Informatica's chief product officer. While strolling the stage with an iPad in his hand, Amit demoed Informatica ICS, which combines popular data management functions as services integrated into one platform.

The fact that Amit pulled off his demo so gracefully shows what an intuitive and easy-to-use screen interface ICS has. Note that ICS services include integration, quality, governance, security, MDM, and so on. Amit stressed that ICS seeks parity, i.e., identical functionality (or nearly so) regardless of on-premises or cloud versions of the services.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Data Management

Informatica folks saved the best for last, concluding this year's Informatica World with discussions of Informatica CLAIRE. That's an acronym for CLoud-scale AI-powered Real-time Engine.

Here's how I think about CLAIRE. At home, I use many Amazon devices and all of them have Alexa embedded, similar to how Siri is embedded in Apple devices. In an analogous fashion, CLAIRE is now embedded in Informatica's platform, where it "learns" how human data management professionals work and what data they work on.

CLAIRE also learns how technical users discover common data structures, entities, and anomalies. CLAIRE then provides suggestions, predictions, and automation as a development context recurs, enhancing productivity and reducing tedium for data developers.

Hence, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques have now come to data management tools, in the form of Informatica's CLAIRE. To learn more, read the new Informatica white paper "Artificial Intelligence for Data-Driven Disruption."

About the Author

Philip Russom is director of TDWI Research for data management and oversees many of TDWI’s research-oriented publications, services, and events. He is a well-known figure in data warehousing and business intelligence, having published over 600 research reports, magazine articles, opinion columns, speeches, Webinars, and more. Before joining TDWI in 2005, Russom was an industry analyst covering BI at Forrester Research and Giga Information Group. He also ran his own business as an independent industry analyst and BI consultant and was a contributing editor with leading IT magazines. Before that, Russom worked in technical and marketing positions for various database vendors. You can reach him at [email protected], @prussom on Twitter, and on LinkedIn at

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