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BW Businessworld

Impromptu: Simplifying Data Complexity

Chris Twogood, vice president, Product and Services Marketing, Teradata, tells BW Businessworld how industry professionals are using consumer insights and sentiments to their advantage and how co-existence and integration with other companies are becoming the keywords in the business of data and analytics

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As the role of data and analytics in decision making grows across business functions, demystifying its complex structure is critical. Chris Twogood, vice president, Product and Services Marketing, Teradata, tells BW Businessworld’s Noor Fathima Warsia how industry professionals are using consumer insights and sentiments to their advantage and how co-existence and integration with other companies are becoming the keywords in the business of data and analytics.

Excerpts:

Just by its sheer volume, the data and analytics side of businesses continues to be extremely complex. Does this not beat the purpose of encouraging business leaders to trust and invest in data?

One of the biggest challenges that we see in the business, and in the broader set of users is, while business owners know the problems they are facing, there is a gap in understanding how data and analytics can help. There can be any problem from high customer churn, to low customer acquisition and stagnating market share. Business owners eventually want to know facts and actionable points. So it is the role of companies such as ours, to hide the complexity behind the scenes and provide businesses with capabilities that can help them arrive at those answers.

To give you an example, a gaming company we work with was facing churn, but did know how to deal with it. We studied the company’s data and noticed patterns of bullying, network issues and game design. We helped it access and interpret the data to understand the problems and possible solutions to them. We addressed issues of latency and concurrency, so it could get the data into a structure that all stakeholders can access and understand.

In line with the objective to work with users in a broader value chain, we are seeing data companies like Teradata work with the likes of Hadoop and Amazon Web Services. What opportunities is this co-existence opening up for you?

Traditionally, Teradata has been on transaction-level analytics, behind the firewall and on a dedicated purpose-built appliance that has been good business. As the industry grows, and we look to grow with it, now not only do we have data generated in the cloud but also cases where departmental users want access to that data or people want to bring in new kinds of data. This co-existence has become critical.

Hadoop brings data in its original fidelity. We organise data from source systems into a structure, where it can be refined and provided to analytical engines such as Teradata or Astor to deliver specific answers. This expands the depth of analytics for users. And then having it on private or public cloud or Amazon or software only expands the opportunity for people who can use Teradata. We had begun to see cases where due to lack of time, department owners would spin out clouds from a central warehouse to do their own thing. That led to the creation of silos, which has become a real problem.

Now, what we are doing with Amazon or some of our solutions like Borderless Analytics, is that you can spin these up, but in reverse fashion. This essentially means, users can grab data from the central system and process it in a dynamic fashion that allows a perfect blend and governance across the entire environment. It gives business users access, flexibility and agility without creating clusters. It is the best of both worlds. That opportunity for us among our customers alone is significant. Our analytics market share is 15 per cent, so the opportunity for Teradata to expand users and help companies with real problems they are facing in their region is huge.

A big area right now is using data for creating better customer experiences. Which sectors or companies are getting this right?

Customer experience has been top of mind forever, but it is becoming a bigger issue today. Companies are finding it harder to differentiate between products. Margins are under pressure, and new competitors are entering. Businesses today should be able to differentiate on the basis of data. They have to better understand their consumer, know how to treat them better and create loyalty. Understanding and managing the customer journey becomes critical. The two industries that are getting it right are telecom and financial. Retail is beginning to get there.

Managing from an omnichannel perspective is hard because it has to be across the products and platforms that a company is present in. This requires significant investment in data and analytics. But the returns make all the difference.

From a pureplay tech company, Teradata recently changed its positioning to a business meets technology. What led to it or to the subsequent addition to your overall offer?
Much of the changes and new initiatives that we have undertaken is based on customer sentiment. Our customers were telling us that they love the Teradata technology, but they needed it on the cloud, or in software. So we created ‘Teradata Everywhere’. They cared about Hybrid cloud, so we got solutions that integrated these technologies. Our customers are doing amazing things with sensors and they did it without us packaging things or putting it together. They just did it using our technology. We gave it shape.

We are encouraging customers not already in sync with the changes of a new world, to use cloud on trial. Teradata has never done that, but we are not stopping. We will continue to push the envelope, and do better integration for easier use in these environments. We will continue to build out more capabilities to automate and make it simpler. With this new positioning, we have a lot of work ahead.