Your Innovation Strategy: Where’s Your Bottleneck?

Your Innovation Strategy: Where’s Your Bottleneck?

Posted on April 11, 2018 0 Comments
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The theme for our upcoming MarkLogic World event is “Integrate to Innovate.” So, I sat down with Adrian Carr, MarkLogic’s SVP of Worldwide Sales, to discuss why that theme is relevant to the organizations he works with every week, and what the bottlenecks are that prevent them from innovating.

MarkLogic World is coming up in May and it’s all focused on innovation. What are you most excited about?

I’m definitely excited to be talking to customers about pressing issues of data integration and data governance and hearing their stories. Of course, those topics are integral to an organization’s overall innovation strategy. And that’s a topic that our keynote speaker, Geoffrey Moore, will be focusing on.

Geoffrey Moore is a well-known author in startup circles, right?

Yes, Geoffrey Moore wrote the well-known book Crossing the Chasm and it has been influential in shaping the sales strategy for us and many other startups. It talks about how new companies can effectively “cross the chasm” from being an innovative company with early adopters to being adopted by the early majority.

I think our customers – mostly larger Fortune 500 organizations – will be particularly interested in Moore’s more recent work, Zone to Win.That book focuses more on how companies can thrive in an era of disruption and stay innovative forever.

Today, we see 5-year-old companies disrupting 100-year-old companies. Disruption is everywhere and just because you were innovative before, doesn’t guarantee future success. Our strong opinion, of course, is that part of that strategy for staying innovative relies on integrating data effectively.

Every company wants to innovate. But what will separate the winners from the losers?

In every industry, executives are concerned about how they can stay innovative and ensure they can stay one step ahead of the competition. The key to this is business agility. It is impossible to know what new challenges or opportunities are around the corner and the winners will be able to pivot quickly. Business agility requires a strong innovative culture, flexible processes, and agile systems. Inevitably, underpinning all of this is a platform providing data agility. Data agility is required in order to achieve insight, learning, and determine the correct action.

Data is everywhere, and innovation at large companies can almost always be linked back to how data is integrated and leveraged. If you cannot create a 360 view of your customer/patient/asset/key business element, then you’ll fall behind the competition. It’s that simple. The companies that are waking up to this new reality and executing on it are the ones that will succeed.

What’s a tangible example of the importance of data?

Just think about your morning routine and your commute to work. Everything is connected and squawking data signals everywhere around you. There’s now IoT data streaming from coffee makers and refrigerators connected to the internet. There are Nest cams and thermostats. Then, you get in your car and it’s connected to the manufacturer and the insurer. By the time you arrive at work, you’ve already generated a huge pile of data.

That huge pile of data being generated has value. For example, the ability for a car manufacturer to track data helps them build and sell better cars, and lets you know when a part on your car might fail. The car insurance company can also provide cheaper premiums.

But, it’s more granular than that. The terms “customer intimacy” and “customer-centricity” are becoming more important as hyper-connected data gives companies the ability to understand and fix customer problems that used to be completely unknowable.

For example, by tracking your driving habits and analyzing risk, a car insurance company can let you know you’ve been accelerating or braking too heavily and can provide recommendations to drive more efficiently. So, it’s no surprise that almost half of insurance companies are working to build customer-centric data hubs.

So, is it just a matter of capturing as much data as possible?

Capturing data is important, yes. But, it’s not enough. You also have to tackle the data integration challenge. Winners and losers in the digital era must also become experts at finding the signals in the noise. That’s a data integration challenge.

But it’s not so simple in practice, right? What are the bottlenecks with data integration and data analysis?

With so much data being collected, smart organizations are asking, “What data do we keep? What data do we throw away?” And with the data they do keep, “What do we enrich? What should we integrate? And, what do we share?” Then of course, there’s the whole question about securing all the data that they are managing and sharing.

The old mentality organizations had with “big data” was to collect as much data as possible, and then sift through it to find the big insights about the business. The problem is that there is a huge bottleneck in the ability to aggregate the data that matters, govern it properly, and use it to make business decisions. When I worked at SPSS we had an approach to analytics: Understand, Predict, and Act. The bottleneck with so much data today is with the “Understand” part.

One of my colleagues, Ken Krupa, uses an analogy of the California gold miners to talk about the investments companies made in Hadoop. Hadoop was used to collect these large piles of data in data lakes. Then the data miners set out to sift through and find that golden nugget. Like the California gold miners of the 1800s, the only people who really benefitted were the companies making the picks and shovels. Most companies today are getting very low yield from their data lake investments.

How is MarkLogic helping organizations tackle the data integration challenge?

I see MarkLogic as the universal plug for data integration. It’s removing the bottleneck to innovation.

As a database, MarkLogic is incredibly agile to handle the variety and speed of data that organizations are dealing with. Let me give you an example to make this more tangible.

We’re working with a government organization that is working to connect its large, diverse groups of vehicles via a secure communications network. They have all sorts of tanks and trucks made by different manufacturers. To be effective in the field, they need to connect all those vehicles—they needed to integrate the message traffic from the thousands of sensors to get a real-time picture of the battlefield.

To do that, they use MarkLogic as the universal plug to ingest all of their data and harmonize it to get their 360 view of their network of vehicles. They have a single dashboard that tracks all of the important message traffic. It shows where the vehicles are, how they are performing, whether they’ve been hacked, and much more.

When all of this data is integrated, isn’t that a huge security risk?

Only if it’s mishandled with the wrong technology, processes, or culture. Data security is incredibly important, and that’s one thing that Hadoop really lacked. Following the example of the government organization above, that organization needed to securely share their vehicle data with partnering organizations like NATO. It would have never been able to do that with an all-or-nothing approach to data sharing that most data lakes have. By using MarkLogic’s advanced security features, they can anonymize and redact data so that it’s safe to share.

All too often, organizations only think of data governance and security in defensive terms—“we just need to keep the bad guys out.” But, data security should be an offensive strategy. It’s becoming a competitive advantage more and more, particularly as the risks of the mishandling of data increase. As we’ve seen with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica recently, data sharing debacles can result in billions of dollars of lost market value. That’s why an offensive innovation strategy requires prioritizing data security from the start.

Come to MarkLogic World in May if you want to hear more about these topics directly from MarkLogic customers. We have keynotes and breakout sessions from Aetna, Cisco, Eaton, Sony, Erie Insurance, and Northern Trust —just to name a few.

To register, visit

Matt Allen

Matt Allen is a VP of Product Marketing Manager responsible for marketing all the features and benefits of MarkLogic across all verticals. In this role, Matt interfaces with the product and engineering team and with sales and marketing to create content and events that educate and inspire adoption of the technology. Matt is based at MarkLogic headquarters in San Carlos, CA and in his free time he is an artist who specializes in large oil paintings.


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