“Data democratization” is now a common phrase in both the technical and business worlds. On its surface, it’s a simple concept, yet devilishly difficult to attain. To let as many people as advisable access as much data as allowed requires many elements.
A business needs powerful compute and storage infrastructure, robust data engineering, automation, strong security, and governance frameworks. It also needs data scientists and analysts, and teams that are tightly aligned with the business and focused on user experience, communications, and education. The technology foundation of democratized data is integration which creates a pool of accessible data. The design principle is the human factor–the who, how, and why of the data’s utilization.
At the 2023 Gartner Data & Analytics Summit, Cloud Data Insights (CDI) had the chance to interview Tara Myshrall, Regional Vice President for Canada, and the northern U.S., at Talend (which was recently acquired by Qlik). As her role causes her to have first-hand experience with customers, we were very interested in getting her perspective on the current customer experience as they decide on their next technology investments and guide implementations of new solutions.
See her bio below, and here is a summary of our conversation.
CDI: How have the recent changes around accelerated digital transformation and now the weak economy affected your customers’ purchasing decisions, and how might you approach them differently because of them?
Myshrall: It’s important to start with the human factor. At the end of the day, when people buy from people, and we build relationships with people, it’s hard to just talk about technology and not talk about the impact recent times have had. People, of course, are feeling more stressed, and there are more mental health issues.
There was a huge and sudden push to move to the home to work and move to the cloud and be able to digitally transform your organization very rapidly. Many companies made large investments in tech. As the three years progressed, you saw a shift in that as expenditures have slowed now. So, we’re seeing that slowdown. Also, I think everybody was struggling with disconnection from their team and from the purpose of their organization that helped drive the mass exodus from jobs.
When you look at the people factor in business, you see a very big shortage of skills, especially technical skills. How that affects software companies is that some of our products can be very technical or perceived as technical. That’s made us shift to try to address all personas that are trying more than ever to make use of data for every business user–not just the technical user since that technical acumen is scarce.
We also saw a big shift to the cloud. We’ve always talked about moving to the cloud, but when everybody went remote, it became more and more imperative. Banks, government offices, and some other organizations which might have been slower to go to the cloud got the boost they needed. With that move came an increase in security issues and mandates on compliance. So now you’re not just moving to the cloud, but you’re also seeing this hybrid cloud emerging because it provides a better sense of security, and they don’t want to be locked into cloud providers.
Another change we’ve noticed–customers have a low tolerance for not getting what they need quickly.
CDI: So, one change you’ve made in how you approach customers is to understand the need to include all personas in the data-utilization chain. How else have your customer conversations changed?
Myshrall: I had a predominantly new team, so we had to work to connect and motivate everyone in this remote world. We re-engaged at the personal level, and I ensured that I had one-on-one time with everyone to let them know that what they did mattered and was valued. That translated into how we connected with our customers. The old ways of selling just weren’t working, so we learned new ways, including building the human relationship. We literally had to learn how to check in and ask how they’re really doing–over Zoom–and not just talk business.
Now we’re spending a lot of time getting back in front of customers. If they’ll see us, we’ll make the drive. I’ll tell you that customers feel really honored and that they want to be connected to us. There’s been an energy exchange when in the room together that you don’t get over Zoom.
CDI: What are the main technical challenges your customers are facing, that is, coming to Talend to get help with?
Myshrall: There has always been a need for integration. It’s tenfold now. With this move to the hybrid cloud, it is even more important to have a solid data management platform that is consistent and can help you regardless of where your data is. I emphasize “consistent” because it’s consistent plumbing that’s going to make sure that the water goes everywhere it needs to in the home. We’re seeing a lot of data democratization and a push to get data to all personas. There’s a huge increase in the demand for AI and machine learning, but that’s where we see skill-resource constraints, which are, in turn, driving automation around these use cases.
You’ve got to integrate data to democratize, make sure it’s clean, and make sure that you’re connecting to all the desired data sources. For example, we have over 1,000 different adapters at Talend, and the number keeps growing, as do the disparate data sources. Ideally, you want everyone coming to a meeting with the same data because the data is integrated and complete, and clean. At least then, you’re all starting the decision-making from the same page.
More and more groups within an organization are demanding data, but they don’t really know what it means or how to ask for it. Data is just data. People consume data in different ways, such as rapidly making decisions on it. Now, only about 24% of organizations would say they’re truly data-driven. So the conversation has to be about how do we change the internal processes and dialogue to truly make data-driven decisions. It’s not just about the technology.
CDI: At the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit, you presented with eBay’s head of data services, Parani Gahndi. What particular challenge did you discuss?
Myshrall: The challenge falls under the general category of data modernization, which can cover almost any improvement to data infrastructure or processes. But for eBay, a very important part of the modernization initiative was transforming their data integration framework to deliver data as a strategic asset. eBay worked with Talend to optimize their data services to meet business objectives and substantially reduce costs. They essentially implemented a data fabric and had to put together the right team to design, implement, and maintain it. The best part of the story was that they experienced zero downtime while migrating their solution to a framework with plug-and-play features that many users are comfortable with and can easily use to quickly get the data they want. eBay calls this “data agility,” a great term that reflects their objective.
CDI: Looking forward, what are your thoughts on technology or business trends that are going to have a significant impact on your customers or your company In the next year or so?
Myshrall: It feels like we’re on the verge of consolidation. But then, when you look around the Gartner conference, you realize how many new vendors are popping up every day. It’s almost too much choice. We have this illusion that we want all this choice, but what it does is overwhelm businesses because they don’t know what to choose when there are so many options out there. There are probably 400 different tools and applications you have to manage to try and keep your data bound and connected.
An enormous amount of vendor management has to happen. You’ve got the complexity of data sources to connect to, and they have to interoperate. Everyone wants their data now. Departments are going out and buying their own solution. There is less and less tolerance for that. That’s one aspect of consolidation.
There’s an amalgamation that’s starting to happen driven by CTOs and CIOs who are looking at all these tools and saying, “Enough is enough.” They want fewer vendors. They don’t want ten BI tools. They want one that’s going to span the entire platform. And preferably one that works across any cloud, hybrid, or multi-cloud environment and that covers the whole data workflow from data integration and management to governance.
Tara Myshrall Bio
Whether it’s collaborating on multi-million-dollar solutions, climbing Mount Everest, or literally jumping out of an airplane, Tara Myshrall is a transformational sales and strategy leader who inspires everyone she meets to take risks, build vibrant relationships, and achieve their goals.
As the Regional Vice President of Talend Canada And Northern U.S and as a Speaker, Executive Mentor, and Leadership Coach, Tara steers her team members and clients to successful business outcomes and consistently drives results without burning out. Tara specializes in Data management solutions, Data Governance, Analytics, and AI to drive business insights and evidence-based decisions.
Weaving together many years of experience in sales, fostering a best-in-class culture, and nurturing talent in both her team members and clients, Tara leads with integrity, inclusivity, and a creative mindset. Tara inspires those around her to become unapologetic, powerful, and impactful leaders who expand to reach their full potential.