The future of data health: An interview with Christal Bemont, CEO of Talend
An interview with Christal Bemont
The data ecosystem is exploding with opportunities for organizations to increase business effectiveness through previously unavailable data. By using technology to make data not just accessible but also useful, companies are capturing these opportunities as they turn to the cloud to digitize their organization.
As CEO of Talend, Christal Bemont and her team are on a mission to help organizations practice better data health. With their cloud-based technology platform, Talend works with organizations of all sizes around the world to collect, clean, catalog and put data to work.
Protocol sat down with Bemont to talk about the current data landscape, the impact of the pandemic on companies' data strategy and why it is critical that businesses know the health of their data.
What is data health? And why does it matter?
The time of reckoning between business and data value is now. Everywhere you turn, you hear a story of how this company or that company is becoming data driven. Ask executives how they measure the health of their business, and they will list metrics based on data. But what does it all mean?
Talend recently released our data health survey, which highlights the challenges businesses face in becoming data-driven organizations. Business leaders know how important their data is because two-thirds report that they use data every day. Yet 78% of these leaders say they face challenges in using their data, and a third say they simply aren't using it to make decisions.
Only 40% of executives always trust the data they work with, and more than a third of executives are still making decisions based on gut instincts. Data runs the business world, and yet it's often the thing we understand the least. Data management, which primarily focuses on moving and storing data, doesn't consider the overall health of data. While trying to manage data, all companies create what I call "digital landfills" of corporate information, which requires the next level of data management. Talend's vision of data health is the future because it recognizes that fundamental data standards are required for corporate survival.
Source: Talend 2021 Data Health Survey
Data health is Talend's new concept for a holistic system of preventative measures, effective treatments and a supportive culture to manage the well-being of corporate information actively. Data health enables companies to answer basic questions about their data that remain challenging for many to address — where it resides, who has access to it, whether it's accurate and how much it's worth. Data health helps organizations understand and communicate — in a quantifiable way — the reliability, risk and return of this extremely critical business asset.
Data-based decisions are only as good as the quality and health of the data that went into that system. When you make an opinion based on inaccurate data, you are flying blind — and unfortunately, in a corporate environment, companies usually don't know that they are using poor data until something terrible happens, like a job fails or a system doesn't update.
By focusing on helping our customers find and use healthy and high-quality data, we've made a positive difference in how they operate. Our customers are shifting from a tactical, reactive approach to a unified approach that solves data chaos — and that delivers healthy data that the entire organization can trust and act upon quickly.
"We want to put the power of data into everyone's hands."
So how does Talend help customers improve their data health?
At Talend, we take our responsibility and obligation in helping companies bring their data to life very seriously. Data management can't be a simple pass-through, as it typically is today. It needs to be an active and intentional system that increases an organization's understanding of its data — its reliability, risk and opportunity to provide value for the business. You should have visibility and clarity into your data. The solutions you use to manage data should provide the knowledge that will help make your organization more intelligent, more agile and more efficient while avoiding risk.
Data health enables a deeper understanding of corporate data and ensures it is ready to underpin all corporate action. For too long, we've treated data as simple, concrete units: cells on a spreadsheet, fields in a database — passive digital objects waiting for an analyst. But that's no longer a sufficient model. Data is a complex, constantly changing organism. To truly understand what our data means, we need a more responsible, holistic view of that data.
Our data health framework imagines four primary focus areas:
- Reliability: Is every record complete and free from errors? Has the dataset been purged of duplicates? Does it come from a reliable source? Are appropriate security protocols in place? Is everything in compliance with relevant regulations?
- Visibility: Who can see the data, and how do they access it?
- Understanding: What is the context those using this data need to know?
- Value: How will our organization value our data? Will we apply a dollar value such as monetization data-as-a-service or reduction in operating costs?
And because we are system-agnostic, you can work with Talend to build the best data environment alongside top technology partners like AWS, Azure, Databricks and Snowflake.
We're constantly working to improve data health for entire industries — and it's not just new, tech-forward companies. One customer, WaFd Bank, is a 104-year-old West Coast-based financial institution. They needed a way to stand out from competitors with limited in-person interactions. To do this, they embarked on a digital transformation journey to pivot from a traditional brick-and-mortar bank to a digital-first commercial bank. They used Talend Data Fabric to build a data hub on AWS and Snowflake to help drive operations, marketing and reporting decisions. WaFd created a Customer 360 that provides a frictionless customer experience across all interactions and devices and increases engagement.
What are some of the challenges or hurdles you're seeing companies grapple with?
The most common hurdle I see our customers struggle with is making data accessible for non-technical people like data analysts in their company. Team members with a simple request shouldn't have to get on a waiting list with IT to pull data sources together to tell a story. It's not that complicated. The people who are the best suited to know the correct data to use are the people asking for it. But they usually don't have the time or the skills to sort through, clean and integrate the data.
European clothing retailer Tape à l'oeil accelerated its digital data strategy. The company needed to optimize its online operations, as the pandemic had accelerated the research online, purchase offline (ROPO) behaviors of their customers.
The company uses Talend Data Fabric to speed up information delivery and data exchange through APIs to manage its supply chain. They rely on Talend to quickly integrate data from the web and social media platforms and analyze sales performance. The company has developed a Customer 360 approach through delivery and timely access to trusted data. Internal and external data gives stores visibility into customer behavior and purchasing habits and integrated into predictive models. With the data collected from the web using Talend, the company enriches its customer marketing data with customer journey analysis and predictive analytics. Tape à l'oeil data strategy and achievements illustrate the importance of relying on complete, clean and trusted data to react faster and mitigate risk.
As an industry, we've made progress towards improving accessibility, but we can do more. At Talend, we spend considerable time ensuring that data health is not compromised, as only a select few have the right type of data literacy. We want to put the power of data into everyone's hands.
Source: Talend 2021 Data Health Survey
I'm proud of what our customers have accomplished. We've been working with Vyaire Medical, a global respiratory company that produced about six ventilators per day before the pandemic. Like many companies, their data infrastructure was a patchwork of one-off solutions and inefficient structures, including 12 enterprise planning systems. Decision-makers often received conflicting data depending on its source, creating confusion, which made it difficult to trust the fast, data-driven decisions necessary for the company to continue to thrive.
In 2019, the company moved to a cloud infrastructure. We set out together to build a centralized data repository that anyone in the company could access — while instituting data quality standards to ensure the data in the company-wide data lake is clean, accurate and available in real time. As demand for ventilators drastically increased with the onset of the pandemic, Vyaire was ready. Because they made deliberate investments in the health of their data, they had complete clarity into their entire operation from the factory floor to the boardroom. Vyaire went from producing 40 ventilators a day to producing 600 ventilators a day through the improvements in workflow automation.
Trusting data is a key theme here. What is the Talend Trust Score?
I sincerely believe that there will be a day where someone says, "Can you believe they actually used to work in a world where there wasn't a data health metric or a way to measure data quality?"
At Talend, we think about how we can assign a quantifiable measure that defines the data — its reliability, its visibility, its origin, who touched the data and where the data has been.
Previously, data quality focused on field population and correct format. Take a phone number such as the area code first, then the three-digit prefix and then the four last digits? To me, that's not data quality; that's just seeing if the data is complete.
We decided to start a movement by creating the Talend Trust score that evaluates the reliability of your data and gives you quantified feedback on three critical aspects of your data: validity, completeness and uniqueness.
Now, someone can look at a report and see, for example, that their Talend Trust score was 78 yesterday, and it's 40 today — and most importantly, why. So, now you know there is a problem, and you can focus on fixing the issue to put that data to work.
Source: Talend 2021 Data Health Survey
You've described the Talend Trust Score as a starting point in terms of beginning to quantifiably understand data. What's the next evolution?
If we start the journey with data health and reliability, then the next evolution is using the data effectively — and then automating that data usage. When you can trust the data, the companies can make more accurate decisions through warnings or opportunity notifications on dashboards that employees can quickly take. Eventually, those systems can act on their own.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?
What gets me most excited is thinking about how our 1,400-plus employees show up every day excited to change the data game for our nearly 7,000 customers — including P3 Health, Lenovo and Material Bank. Talend can change the way the whole world thinks about data health.
As we look for the most meaningful ways to make a difference, I see considerable opportunities in putting intelligence into the process — how we will use AI, machine learning and robotic process automation to quantify and improve data health.
While it is fascinating to think about how to automate data to become part of the norm, we must make sure we pay attention to the risks and build a process that balances both.
I firmly believe that companies need to "own" their data in every sense of the word. They need to know where it came from, who touched it, how reliable it is, who can see it. Once they know that, they can confidently explore the endless possibilities their data can unleash through AI and machine learning. And only then can businesses move forward, making the best possible decisions for their company's future — and we're excited to be building that road.