David Raab at Raab Associates interviewed by VL for 7 questions series on data and supply chain integration

7 Questions Data and Supply Chain Data Integration: David Raab


 The 7 Questions Interview Series: Data and Supply Chain Data Integration

The 7 Questions Interview Series: Data and Supply Chain Data Integration “The 7 Question Series” is an investigative content series where we seek out key leaders in a specific industry and/or subject matter expertise area and ask them 7 key questions that “enquiring minds want to know”. There is a twist however to these questions. We provide the person being interviewed with a hypothesis for each question. This helps to frame and set context for their answer.

Data and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives:

Data and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives: The objective of this series is to establish direct connections with data experts across the globe and ask them the same set of 7 questions regarding data and data integration in the business. We want to derive insights from their direct experiences and expertise that will help companies, both B2B and B2C at all stages of their evolution. We are also curious to see if their answers are similar or different. These interviews will be featured on this website as a series.

The Interview with David Raab, Principal at Raab Associates, Inc.

About David:


David M. Raab is a Principal at Raab Associates, Inc., where he advises consumer and business marketers on marketing processes, analytics, technology and vendors.  Typical projects include marketing process analysis, needs definition, vendor selection and measurement system development.  Mr. Raab also consults on product and business strategy with industry vendors.

The Interview:

Robin Smith: Has the term Big Data been over hyped? There a sense of “Big Data” fatigue, backlash even, that seems to be becoming more prevalent. Is Big Data relevant?

David: Big data is a fact of life.  There’s huge value to be extracted from the massive amounts of data now available.  So, hype or not, it is certainly still relevant.

Robin Smith: Do you really need data scientists as part of your big data strategy? What are the characteristics required of a data scientist? Does this have implications for our educational systems?

David: “Data scientist” is a relatively new term.  We used to call them statisticians or maybe even just analysts.  Whatever the name, we’ll certainly need people to wrangle the data and make sense of it.  Maybe “data tamer” would be a better term.  I do see a change in the skills needed – machines will do a better job at the actual data preparation and analysis: for example, Amazon recently announced “machine learning as a service”.  So we probably won’t need as many data scientists as some people suspect, just as we ended up not needing as many computer programmers as people expected 20 or 30 years ago.  We’ll just need some really smart folks who can do the right things, while we let the machines do the heavy lifting.

Robin Smith: Is the relational database, the foundation of the data warehouse in the small data world, still relevant in a big data age?

David: Relational databases were built for transaction processing.  They were never well suited even for small data warehouses. They’ll continue to have their purpose, which will be very important in a lot of execution systems including customer facing systems like Web sites and CRM.  But the primary store for “big data” will be something else.

Robin Smith: Given the reputation and organizational risks involved in poorly governed data (privacy, breach, quality), should data governance be a corporate governance imperative? Where should ownership of this risk reside, should companies have Chief Data Officers?

David: My goodness, do you think that data governance isn’t already a corporate imperative?  It’s probably the number one nightmare at most companies.  I’m not quite sure what naming a Chief Data Officer would accomplish; data security is after all inextricably part of system security.  So I think the operational responsibility resides with the CIO.  You could maybe make a case for putting it under Legal with other governance issues.  But I think most companies have recognized that they need a separate security function that ensures the CIO doesn’t inappropriately compromise security by balancing against other needs.  So long as that sort of check is in place, the CIO can handle it.

Robin Smith: Is big data only for big companies with deep pockets?

David: Not at all.  Obviously smaller companies will have less total data, but they still need the same technologies that big companies need to manage the types of data that go into big data – such as Web logs, social messages, etc.  That is mostly “unstructured” or “semi-structured”, and it takes the same features to handle in relatively small volumes as in gigantic volumes.

Robin Smith: How has data changed the way business should look at their systems?

David: Systems need to be more open in the sense of working with other systems.  So your cash register system needs to be able to recognize customers and deliver messages selected by your marketing automation system.  That’s a relatively new requirement.  It’s driven by customers’ expectations that they’ll be recognized and treated appropriately across all touchpoints.  Those treatments are informed by big data and big analytics.

Robin Smith: Data ownership and value has become the latest discussion point in the data hype cycle. Has the accounting and legal paradigm changed enough for data to be defined as an asset on the balance sheet and has ownership been clearly delineated from a legal perspective?

David: I think data is at least implicitly defined as an asset, maybe as part of intangibles such as brand value.  Truth be told, my accounting is a bit rusty.  So far as I know, ownership isn’t really unclear, either: if a company collected it legally, it owns it, at least for internal use.  There is occasionally some notion of giving people some sort of financial interest in their own data, wherever it’s stored, but I doubt that will ever happen and am not even sure it should.  There’s a clear need for stronger privacy regulations, but our political system is unlikely to address it any time soon.

David’s Social Outposts Twitter | LinkedIn | Blog | Website

More About David Raab:

Mr. Raab has written hundreds of articles and blog posts on marketing technology.  He is the author of Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit (Racom Books, 2009) and the B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool and Guide to Customer Data Platforms.  Additional research appears regularly on his blog.

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