Kate Tickner, Reltio
Bob More is Reltio’s SVP Global Field Operations and responsible for all aspects of business development, alliances and partner support.
What is your background and what was your route into data management?
I’ve been in enterprise sales and sales management for just over 20 years now – mostly on the business application side of the house including numerous early stage start ups and the big household names like IBM and SAP. Much of background is what we now call customer experience and its predecessors of CRM and eCommerce applications in Retail and CPG as well as PLM, ERP and supply chain.
Despite the hype the key to success in these areas has always required reliable data to make the systems work properly – and that was a challenge for all of them too – so we as sales and customer success (before they had a name for it) people lived and breathed all the data problems. As an applications vendor we typically overlooked or never really had a solution for the data challenges other than to tell the customer that they have been running their enterprise successfully on this same data so just put it all in our application – which never really worked too well!
My first introduction to MDM was at SAP where I had to explain to CEO’s why they had to buy another software module from us just to make their “Holy Grail” fully integrated enterprise platform work as advertised. Having experienced similar challenges living through the “.com” bubble of the late 90’s with the onset of omni-channel initiatives it seemed obvious that none of the application vendors were addressing the data or the fuel that ran their solutions. This was the primary driver for joining the team at Siperian who at the time were a leader in the first-generation MDM space.
“Coming from a pure apps background, we all knew of MDM but did not have an infrastructure sales background. Whether through a stroke of brilliance or more likely a dose of good luck, we adopted what we knew best and we sold MDM in the same way we had been selling applications – we took “plumbing” and sold it to the business making it required enabler of any LOB kind of initiative.”
As a result of the highly visible and mission critical solutions we were providing and the ongoing industry consolidation, Informatica acquired Siperian in 2010 and it has since become the cornerstone of their MDM capabilities. I met the future founders of Reltio at Siperian and Informatica so when they got Reltio out of the garage and into a couple of real customers, I was recruited to join a number of my former teammates and joined Reltio in 2014.
Why did you choose a Sales job originally?
Being in control of your own destiny was key – certainly there’s a financial element of it – but I thought that it was a great opportunity to learn a lot and move around an organisation. My Dad worked for Honeywell computer for 35 years so I grew up in the IT world. In college I did some co-op internships in Honeywell’s marketing department. One of my of my first co-op jobs was cleaning up all of their customer installations address and contact data files. These were physical addresses of where their systems were installed and were all printed out on reams of green-bar computer paper. .
“It was piles of paper, a ruler, a highlighter and a pen – manually writing out which ones should be combined and which ones should be struck out. So I was manually doing data cleansing and merging – I was doing MDM way back in college!”
How would you define “modern” data management and what does it /should it mean for organisations that adopt it?
Well MDM has evolved a bit from the paper, ruler, pen stage! There was the first-generation stuff that we were doing in Siperian, to what we do here which is modern data management. It delivers a number of things and some of the most important ones are:
- Faster time to market through a much more agile architecture that allows you to get something up and running quickly to feed the consuming apps and achieve value much more quickly.
- Enhanced relationship management – not just getting that single view of the customer but unlocking all of the relationships between the customer, the supplier, the project etc. Being able to find and visualise all these things.
“Companies have spent trillions on applications and technology over the years and have really not given data its due. Most of these projects fail or are sub-optimal because of poor data.”
When we talk to our clients about Reltio and what modern data management means to them, we find out that they are optimising the value that data can bring to their organisation:
“It’s something that helps them build new business models where companies can quickly monetise their data and launch new corporate innovations on an agile, extensible platform.”
What have you learned about MDM that you’d like to share with aspiring modern data masters?
I’ve seen it most successful when it’s taken in the context of a larger overall initiative, for example a digital transformation or implementation of a new system or process. In these cases there is a whole strategy behind it which goes beyond the data and is about the applications; integration and process change.
“Usually a larger corporate initiative is going on and we are just one critical part of it – these programs tend to be more successful because there is more likely to be a well thought out script of what role the data will play in it.”
These initiatives are typically highly visible in organisations; the funding is sufficient and more certain and they have executive and LOB sponsorship. Most importantly there is a level or urgency involved in evolving the solution. That’s where I’ve seen the more successful projects deliver the most value.
“The solely IT-driven ones are more likely to be a plumbing exercise – more about pulling data together and feeding it somewhere else. They can be successful but more often than not they don’t realise the business value of what they are doing because it wasn’t made clear at the start. The good news is that the days of such science projects are quickly going away as broader transformational programs become the norm”
What is it about the partners that have adopted Reltio and “modern data management” whole-heartedly that makes them different to some of the laggards?
“The fact that our partners have jumped on the band-wagon sooner than others tells you they are probably a bit more progressive in their thinking about how to leverage data.”
They’ve got the battle scars of the older, legacy approach to MDM and just like their customer they are looking for a better, more modern way to address these problems.
“They are more forward-thinking themselves so they are probably being great thought leaders for their customers, bringing new ways to do things.”
They probably also have a good understanding of the peripheral technologies – ETL, DQ and other things like the DW for example Snowflake – so they’ve got a good understanding of other contemporary architectures that are leveraged and enhanced by Reltio.
The fact that they are recommending something that will be implemented faster and therefore bring faster time to value is quite enlightened of them because they do have a choice in the MDM vendor space. There’s a dichotomy – drive more hours of billable time on low margin commodity work OR fewer hours of higher value advisory, strategy and differentiated services.
“This demonstrates their credibility from a thought leadership perspective and frees up more budget for the client to spend on more impactful areas. Whatever they can do to get something up and running faster will bring value to their customers.”
They can bring in Reltio and enable many more down-stream applications, Getting the master data delivered quickly means more value and many more projects later. They then have the trust and credentials to win more of their customers’ business so they can build and maintain long-term relationships.
Apart from customer/product 360 or regulatory compliance type use-cases how do you see modern data management being used in businesses over the next 3-5 years?
One trend is the move to cloud which seems fairly intuitive to us at Reltio but in the MDM space it really hasn’t happened full force yet. Only a very small proportion of the market is doing it yet but the analysts believe it will be the focus.
“We have the distinction of being the fastest-growing cloud vendor in the cloud space. That drives a lot of opportunity because many of the application data sources are now in the cloud and clients want to manage it in the cloud.”
Data privacy is coming up more and more beyond just GDPR. Many more regulations are being adopted as consumers demand full accountability – less “creepiness” if you will! Data morality and ethics are definitely areas that need to be grappled with and data management solutions like Reltio and others like e-discovery tools will be front and centre in that trend.
Use cases like M&A are coming up more and more – we are seeing companies using our solution to facilitate a faster transition by bringing their data together especially in Life Sciences right now. That is not a typical MDM use case but of course the faster they can join the businesses together the faster they can realise the joint benefit.
Migration of systems. CEP systems and core ERP are moving off legacy architectures or previous versions and moving to the latest and greatest versions. The ability to do that quicker and ensure better data quality in the process is a critical use case where we are starting to see some trends emerge.
“These migrations take far too long; they are over budget and under delivered. Anything you can do to speed that up and facilitate that is significant.”
Also the ability to manage the data outside of the core ERP systems which the ERP systems really don’t do a great job of – these are all perfect ways for systems like ours to augment that experience.
What do you like to do outside of work?
If you have been around me for five minutes you will quickly know that I am a diehard l New England Patriots fan. Growing up outside of Boston this has become an obsession along with the other Boston sports teams. Other than that, and work, I don’t really have much time to do anything except chase my kids around! My wife and I spend much our time at College Football games (for my son) and competitive horse shows (for my daughter) – kinda being Dad.
What is your favourite book, film or programme?
I’d say one of my favourite films of all time is “The Right Stuff” which is about the Mercury 7 astronauts based on Tom Wolfe’s book. It’s a great movie, it chronicles the human elements behind the space race of the 1960’s. This period was an amazing time in history.
“It pulled the whole country together in a common pursuit that was important and prideful and could show what could get done with teamwork and dedication – as well as a whole lot of life and death risk.
I don’t know, I guess I’ve always just wanted to be an astronaut!”