The business of data - Volume 2

July 25, 2023

Matt Arellano

In my first blog, “The Business of Data,” we discussed the essential components needed to realize the vision of a data-driven enterprise. Now, we will explore a crucial element that demands our attention: the user interface. Over the past two decades, the way data is accessed and interacted with in the enterprise has evolved from phone calls and documents to spreadsheets, BI tools, and SQL interfaces. Meanwhile, in our personal lives, we have witnessed a remarkable transformation from documents to computers, phones, swiping, searching, speaking and beyond. It baffles me to see such significant advancements in our consumer lives while we continue to rely on rudimentary methods in our corporate lives. At XponentL, we strongly believe that the path from question to answer requires significant improvement.

We all agree that data is the new oil, information is an asset, and data is the driving force of organizations. So why do we make it so challenging for people to interact and work with this incredible resource? As a consumer of information and knowledge within an enterprise, I often begin with a question or a problem. This question-oriented approach in our consumer lives leads us to search for answers on Google or other search engines. While we can argue that natural language generation will push consumer search toward more conversational interactions, let’s save that discussion for another day. Speaking of search, Google processes over 99,000 searches per second, amounting to 8.5 billion searches per day. This means that every person on the planet has one question they need answered per day. Even if we consider the number of people without internet access, the fact remains that everyone has at least one daily question that demands an answer. They have an interface with a wealth of knowledge that allows them to bridge the gap from question to answer in less than a second.

Now, let’s shift our focus to our corporate lives. In a typical large enterprise, an executive, manager, or analyst has a question that requires an answer. For the executive, it often involves picking up the phone and contacting someone, which triggers a series of activities involving multiple people working to obtain the “right” answer. We might start with extracting data from a database with a limited understanding of its intricacies. Perhaps someone will provide us with a business intelligence tool to create a dashboard or access some relevant information. Now imagine if the answer to the question at hand triggers more questions — does that spawn additional effort to get subsequent questions answered. In a very dynamic business domain such as R&D, it is oftentimes the tenth question that yields the insight, not the first.

While the scenario above describes activities which can be somewhat useful to move business forward, they fail to close the gap in reaching timely answers and often introduce unnecessary human interactions and inefficiencies. Imagine if every time you had a question, you had to call Google, and that set off a chain reaction of people trying to get you an answer. Apart from being an impractical business model for Google, it would create a horrible experience.

To address this challenge in the enterprise, we propose the concept of a Data Product Marketplace. For context, a data product marketplace is a platform that facilitates the exchange and distribution of data-driven solutions, insights, and answers among various stakeholders. It serves as a dynamic ecosystem where data producers and consumers can come together to unlock the true potential of data. It provides seamless search, management, integration, and deployment of data products across different business domains and divisions. The net effect is that time and effort is taken out of the question answering cycle, allowing data consumers to seek and find answers faster to move business forward at an accelerated pace. A representative user experience for the marketplace can be found below:

This is a rapidly evolving space, and many of our key partners are striving to create a superior user experience that bridges the gap between data producers and consumers. As the leaders in data products and experts in helping companies build brilliant experiences, we remain cautiously optimistic that the industry will overcome these challenges and deliver better experiences.

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will delve deeper into the fuel that drives these experiences: Data Products.