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Rob Davis, VP product management, MicroStrategy

Path to power

 

My first appreciation of the power of data came in the form of trying to find an almost imperceptible needle in a multiple terabyte haystack. As a physics graduate student at the OPAL experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, I was charged with the search for the Higgs Boson using artificial neural networks. I came to the early conclusion that, no matter how complex the analysis, sometimes the result needs to be a single number or a yes/no answer. Since then, I have been obsessed with making data relevant to all types of people and have followed that obsession through positions in pre-sales consulting, product management, solution management, and leadership of support, customer success, and global services teams at Business Objects, SAP, Tableau and MicroStrategy. At MicroStrategy, I am now part of the team driving the third revolution in analytics - closing the loop between the analyst and the front-line worker and driving the adoption of data in business decisions by everyone regardless of their level of data literacy. I believe that the path to power for data and analytics is the empowerment of non-traditional data users by creating tools and experiences that speak to individuals’ differing levels of comfort with data.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

To date, the highlight of my career has been the realisation by the market that the true value of data is empowering everyone in the enterprise, not just traditional analysts. The fact that “zero click” analytics - that is, making simple decision-ready data available in the tools and workflows that end-users interact with every day - is now a mainstream product area is the culmination of years of work I have done in the industry.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

My advice would be always to look for the simpler solution and the wider application. The BI industry became enamoured with ever-more complex solutions even when we were trying to simplify our tools and solutions. Sometimes, finding the simplest and most impactful solution, like zero click analytics, comes from looking at the needs of an unserved user base and not the one you traditionally serve.In many ways, 2018 did turn out as expected with large players in the BI industry continuing to concentrate on vertical or horizontal applications while stitching them together with data pipeline strategies, while pure-play analytics vendors worked on making their solutions more powerful for analysts with the addition of machine learning and AI. What we did not see was companies working on a true heterogeneous semantic graph that could create an intelligent single version of the truth from the multiple data assets of an enterprise (both new and old). I would expect investment in this sort of technology to increase in 2019 as companies realise that chasing a single data technology to rule them all is neither practical nor long-lived enough to build an intelligent enterprise.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

2019 will see continued encroachment of pure-play analyst tools into the realm of data science with increased ML and AI capabilities. We will also see the large players continue to design analytics and BI tools to protect and expand their main investment in data storage and manipulation. Most importantly, we will see for the first time a real attempt to serve the non-analyst with data tools that are “invisible” - existing seamlessly in applications that users live in every day and which bring them insight across the data assets of the enterprise.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

We are hiring a team of product management and development staff from vastly different backgrounds, including those with long tenures in the data industry as well as those straight out of school. As part of the development of zero click analytics it is important to get the skill and experience of those who have not spent their entire lives in the industry and many of our interesting use cases and potential developments come from the input of those people.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

I strongly believe that, by opening up the use of analytics to everyone in the enterprise through technologies like zero click, we make possible the greatest breakthrough in the use of data: the opportunity for a human mind that has never before had the benefit of data-based decision-making to make a connection with data that fundamentally changes their business for the better.Data and analytics technology/service provider

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