Sramana Mitra: Let’s switch to the next broad topic, which is the gap in the market – the open spaces and the opportunities there. What opportunities do you see from where you are? If you were starting a company today, where would you place your bets?
Dale Skeen: I think that if we focus on the topic of big data in particular, there are several levels you can focus on. There is big data infrastructure that provides insights into the NoSQL databases of the world. Those SQL systems are probably the best established [aspect], but there is still opportunity there. They provide an enabling layer that for the first time offers opportunity at a higher level. This is what I call big data analytics and big data apps. In big data analytics, there is still innovation and a lot of opportunity to provide this type of infrastructure, as we have done. What we provide is operational intelligence, and we focus on continuous real-time analytics across big data. We are a general-purpose platform, but for each of the use cases I talked about, whether it is in the smart grid, on mobile cellular networks, or in standard IT enterprises, there is still a lot of opportunity to add value and look at specific problems, for example, in smart grid security and smart grid monitoring.
This new technology now provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs [who] understand the new problems we face. Those problems include security, fraud, and threats. There is also opportunity in being able to look at the people involved in these processes and manage them in real time. If you look at the real-time analytics and at each of the verticals I have talked about, you can see that they all realize how to use this big data and how to harvest it in order to benefit their business. I think there is a lot of opportunity in all of those areas.
Another great opportunity in big data is something that everybody wants but that remains one of the biggest gaps, which is empowering data analysts and data users. The frameworks today are quite powerful in what they can do, but they also require highly skilled labor to realize that power, and big data itself, in terms of what is being captured, is of little value to the enterprise. The goal is to unlock the power, and that can be done by getting to the people who know that value – the process owners, the managers inside customer contact centers, and so on. These are the people we have to get to next, because we haven’t enabled them so far with the powerful capabilities of big data. Looking at general analytics and apps that can empower these people, we have a great source of opportunity. If we look back 10 years, when BPM was first coming to the marketplace, we see its true value. Before that time, business process owners could not directly affect the implementation of business processes. Business processes were implemented by IT system experts, who typically had little process knowledge. So, there was significant ambiguity between those two. Process owners themselves had very little power to be able to change processes – it was a long and torturous journey to do so. With BPM, this changed. Not only could you automate these processes and have guided workflows, but most important, you enabled process owners to effect those changes.
That is where big data is the biggest opportunity of all, in my opinion. Whether it is someone in the smart grid trying to understand demand and load better, or on a telco network trying to understand what the customer is experiencing and provide ways to enable them to ask questions of the big data, either historical-based questions or real-time questions, to asses what is going on with their customers and what their customer experience is. If you can enable business owners and process owners to understand those problems, then you have tremendous opportunities.
SM: What I am hearing is that there are big data applications in different vertical and horizontal functions in business. The rules and the jurisdictions of those are quite diverse: the machine learning you need, the algorithms you need to process, the different types of data sets, and so on. You see different companies that go after specific areas with domain knowledge.
DS: That is correct. By applying that knowledge and empowering those business owners, there is huge value.
SM: You see the opportunity in tools. But I see the opportunity in building the applications as well, because it becomes increasingly complex in terms of what needs to happen, and those businesses just don’t have those capabilities in-house.
DS: I agree. Let me clarify this a bit. I was talking more about the apps themselves – taking technical knowledge to build the apps. As you said, building services such as cloud services can also be provided. Now there are many companies that look at the different aspects of marketing data and building tools that support marketing while they add data that is coming from different marketing activities, sometimes across industries or supply chains. This is probably even a bigger opportunity than in building the applications themselves.