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Sheffield, United Kingdom - June 11, 2016: Cosplayer dressed as 'Spiderman' from the Marvel Series at the Yorkshire Cosplay Convention at Sheffield Arena

My Uncle Ben told me once…

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My uncle Ben told me once….

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

The prologue…

When my uncle Ben said these words, it got my Spidey senses going, but at the time, I didn’t really appreciate it. But that was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then. I will never forget those words and they will be with me forever.

In the beginning…

Early in my career when I was young and carefree, I swung from job to job (Oscrop, Stark Industries, Alchemax…. I could go on) but I noticed many similarities. Departments within a business would keep their data siloed rather than sharing the information with other departments in the same business! It was almost like they were keeping some secret serum or blueprints that would take over the world. But there weren’t, it was just data.

Finance would hold the bottom line sales figures (with, say, Salesforce), Marketing would have data being generated about online campaigns (Adobe) and Operations would have data on what happen in-store (Sage). So, you can see none of these was the same system, but each system had a specific job and did that job very well.

Now from my point of view, it just made no sense to have these siloed data sources. Think of all the pitfalls. Think of how difficult it will be to answer the business questions people will ask e.g. how many people are buying our product? What is the best method to engage with our customers? What does success look like?

For example, Finance will have revenue which considers VAT and shipping cost, Marketing will have revenue of the product purchased but exclude VAT & shipping. Operations will have similar information to Finance but it will include discounted price information.

Now the problem here is that each department will have influence over certain business decisions and each department will have a different story to tell …. but aren’t we all one business with the same overall goal?!

Sometimes people (and businesses) forget that, but that is partly because each department’s data will tell a business story that fits a certain narrative and it may not fit with the narrative in the next department. But at the end of the day, the best business decisions will take into account all of the information. For example, Supply definitely needs to know if a man with 8 arms (Dr Octavius) is creating havoc in the high street, as that is definitely going to affect sales.

The issue was that understanding the full supply chain became amazingly difficult to measure and/or get right: none of the tools spoke the same language; they were stored in different locations and were difficult to join together. So, having a view of the whole landscape was a major task. It was cheap to get wrong and expensive to get right!

And with all this data in silos, executives would tend to make decisions about their businesses based on their area of expertise and not considering other sources of data.

The Middle

That was the past. Since then, I have got married to my childhood sweetheart (Mary-Jane), become a father and had to give up my red spandex costume (one of the best decisions I ever made!).

During this time I joined a company that shared my vision… Station10 (otherwise known here as “The Daily Planet”). They realised the power of data and how it could make a difference and therefore should be taken seriously. In my time here, we have used many tools that help us get closer to the “Democratision of Data”.

Wouldn’t it be great to find an off-shelf product that doesn’t need a Hadoop cluster to answer some basic questions?

Take “Tableau” as an example of one of the tools we have used.
• It is designed to provide intuitive data discovery and visualisation so that data scientist to business users can understand the data in front of them.
• It has simple drag-and-drop features, that have made it accessible to all (even to people like my boss, “Mr. Jameson”) and which allow even people like him to analyse key bits of data.
• It has also allowed me to create custom reports/visualizations which I have shared across the company.

Compared to where we were before, “The Daily Planet” is light years ahead.

The Future

At “The Daily Planet”, I have been fortunate enough to work with many BI/Visualisation tools but there has been one that has got my Spidey Sense all going again. It’s a tool called DOMO.

DOMO initially comes across as another product that provide visualization of data. However, one of its USPs is it does this effortlessly regardless where your data has come from. Part of the reason is it offers hundreds of data connectors which means it’s easy to collect and combine all your social data, analytics and so on. In most cases, it just needs a username and password.

Another useful benefit is the way the data is presented back and the ability to integrate easily with your everyday activities. Allowing you to make comments and have a conversion about your data is extremely helpful and wonderful way of engaging user where this is not part of their day to day.

This is supported using 2 methods:
1. Within DOMO you have access to a tool called “Buzz” (similar to Slack), which is designed work as communication tool within the business. No more copying and pasting/download reports; just make a comment via Buzz and it will share the dashboard you are talking about.
2. In addition, there is a mobile app, which allows to do the above and even annotate and draw free on the data, to highlight a point.

Data security is also an important part of DOMO. It is important to know that my data is as secure as Fort Knox and flexible as Mister Fantastic. So, if I need to share data with The Avengers, I can, and it isn’t going to provide me with a set-up headache.

Overall DOMO is designed to empower all users (even Mr Jameson) to make better business decisions from complex data which can be set-up as quick as “The Flash”.

Jan “Peter Parker” Piedrahita, signing off.


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