Sramana Mitra: Let’s look at your big picture. Bring it up to industry level and tell me more about what trends you are seeing from your vantage point in the Big Data world.
Frank Bien: My entry into data has only been during this Big Data trend – right after 9/11 when Web 2.0 was happening. In 2003, I was working in big column stores. My view is coming from that side. What I say might be surprising. We’ve stored lots of data but there’s been very little value. Organizations have spent millions of dollars, and collectively billions of dollars, in storing just a massive set of information and data. The value at the other side has been really elusive. I think the big trend moving forward is to finally crack into this data and move it beyond data science experiments into the hands of business people who can make better decisions. We believe in Looker that involves the data team.
There’s been a big push with a lot of the simpler BI tools to say, “We’re going to replace the data team with technology.” We think that’s ridiculous especially that data has gotten more complex. It has been more difficult to work with. It requires empowering the data people to better empower the end users. Look at Simply Hired. There’s 52,000 jobs advertised right now for data analysts. These aren’t even data scientists. These are people who understand Sequel and business concepts. Those people need new tools. Looker is about providing tools for data people to better serve their end users. Moving forward, how do we crack into really large data but do it in a new way where end users can ultimately achieve value out of it.
Sramana Mitra: In your experience, how far are you in being able to take the conclusions or the nuggets? How far are you from being able to tie those into software-based decisions and actions as opposed to human-based decisions and actions?
Frank Bien: We’re much more focused on the human-based. I don’t know that we’re necessarily that close to automation on the other side because people are knowledge workers and they basically need information to make decisions. What we’ve seen happen in Big Data is this push towards data science and asking really large questions of data that are niche. The trick will be to take these really large sets of complex data and get them into the hands of not the data team but business people that understand what they’re seeing. When you do that, you open up the ability to really see the benefit out of this data.