Insights from Enterprise Data World, Boston 2019

Enterprise Data World held a successful 23rd annual event in Boston. Kudos to DATAVERSITY and DAMA International organizers for bringing together more than 1,000 data professionals and data management practitioners with a relevant multi-track conference supported by over 45 sponsors and exhibitors. We observed the buzz from the thriving community around two primary themes at the event: data governance and data architecture strategies.

The opening keynote delivered by industry dignitary and Tamr co-founder Michael Stonebraker was titled “Big Data, Disruption, and the 800-Pound Gorilla in the Corner.” With witty commentary and insights about the evolution of data warehousing and the big data industry, he implored the audience to “get smart” about cloud architecture and data science, which he sees as the future of the industry. As for the 800-pound gorilla, Stonebraker emphasized the necessity of data, saying that machine learning and data science will be omnipresent but get nowhere without good data.

Many of the data management professionals in attendance sought ways to solve the complexities of data governance and stewardship. Specifically, people wanted to know how to master data, ensure compliance, and improve data quality within the expanding enterprise data landscape and its challenges of increasing velocity and variety. Data catalog-related sessions were popular and went beyond how data catalogs work to also explore how new data governance approaches allow more people in the enterprise to curate data. Sessions on enterprise semantics focused on explaining how to keep track of the meaning and context of data, for instance how graph databases continue to gain traction for their data discovery capabilities ­– especially in data lakes.

Data architecture and strategy sessions were also popular and explained how companies approach modern data and analytic architectures and cloud architectures. Data abstraction was an active topic discussion as companies look to data virtualization and federated/distributed query platforms to assist with logical data warehouses, architecture migration, and multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud data architectures. In data lake-related sessions, case studies and detailed experiences demonstrated visible maturation over the past year.

Radiant Advisors’ Takeaways from EDW 2019

Observation: While technology and processes were certainly of interest, the “people” part of the equation came up many times in our conversations with attendees as a significant challenge at companies. With low unemployment rates for some time now, especially in the tech field, many companies struggle to find qualified, experienced data and analytics people – not to mention those with business acumen. Additionally, it is difficult for managers to assess their current teams for modern analytic skills (including proficiency with data modeling, self-service analytics, data engineering, or machine learning) as well as overall “data literacy” – a term that came up with varied connotations, ranging from SQL knowledge, visualization skills, data management skills, and other data-centric mindsets. This uncertainty makes it a challenge to develop appropriate programs that can fill the known and unknown organizational learning gaps.

Take away: The data and analytic technologies currently available are sufficient for most companies to deliver the next stages of their analytics maturity; now companies need to focus on developing data literacy strategies and programs that address both culture and skills followed by next-generation processes for modern data management and analytics

Observation: While principles for modern data architectures are settling into a handful of hybrid and multi-cloud approaches, the challenge is migrating to the new architectures while adopting new technologies and mindsets rather than lift-and-shift approaches. Migration and modernization efforts to deliver on a robust modern analytics vision can be overwhelming – especially while developing new skills in every category.

Take away: Companies should realize that fundamental data management principles are still necessary to lead the way in being recast with new paradigms and into new technologies. This fresh approach will foster more confidence for yet-to-be-discovered best practices. Agile architecture practices will serve as implementation best practices for data and information architects to deliver in a continuously evolving and demanding business environment.

Radiant Advisors was fortunate to present two sessions at EDW, “Develop your Data Strategy for the Cloud” and “Rising to the Challenge of Enterprise Data Architect Leadership,” and we look forward to next year’s event. For more information, visit the Enterprise Data World 2019 website.



John O’Brien is Principal Advisor and CEO of Radiant Advisors. A recognized thought leader in data strategy and analytics, John’s unique perspective comes from the combination of his roles as a practitioner, consultant and vendor CTO.

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