InterConnect 2017 Conversations: David Mathison talks with Dez Blanchfield

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David Mathison is the dapper gentleman on the far left of this image.

 

The following is a transcript of a “fireside chat” podcast with David Mathison recorded at IBM InterConnect 2017 in Las Vegas ( USA ).

Listen to the podcast here => http://j.mp/IBMInterConnect2017DavidMathison

Dez Blanchfield:                

Welcome to the IBM InterConnect 2017 podcast series. We’re coming to you from sunny Las Vegas in the USA. I’m Dez Blanchfield and I’m your host. I’m here today for this podcast and I have the pleasure of having David Mathison with me. David is the CEO and founder of the CDO Club and CDO Summit.

We were talking earlier, David, and you highlighted the three keys things related to this event, in particular, that you’re interested in were digital, data, and analytics. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us and making time. What has the event been like so far for you and what are some of the key takeaways you can share?

David Mathison:

Well, Dez, first of all, it’s a pleasure to be here with you in Las Vegas. You know we just came in from Australia, both of us.

Dez Blanchfield:                

We did. G’day, mate.

David Mathison:

We flew in on a 20-hour odyssey. I was honoured to share the stage with you in Sydney at the opening keynote for the Sydney CDO Summit.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Thank you for that.

David Mathison:

It seems like forever, but it was literally one week ago today that we were in Sydney, Australia. Yes, now we’re in lovely Las Vegas.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Congratulations on the event, by-the-way. It was a resounding success. The people that were there I spoke to loved it. Great feedback. I got some awesome tweets. Again, thanks for letting me do the opening keynote. That was just a real honour.

David Mathison:

I couldn’t think of anyone better to kick it off in Australia with the Australian accent. It was authentic. I loved how you pulled that off. For those of you listening, he actually has a New York accent. I think Brooklyn if I’m not mistaken.

Dez Blanchfield:

I don’t know about that.

David Mathison:

You did very well and it was a good way to open the show and really kick off the summit, so thanks for our compliments there. Yes, of course, here we are at InterConnect. Wow, this event is unbelievable. I think that, actually I know that, we met last year at an IBM event, the World of Watson event, which blew my mind. Right?

Dez Blanchfield:                

Wasn’t it phenomenal?

David Mathison:

It was phenomenal because, on a couple of levels just like InterConnect, it was number one, overwhelming. There is so much going on. There are so many high-quality speakers. Then you also dig down into the details and you really do get an overwhelming amount of information. The key takeaways for me are things like the Watson Data Platform, for example.

I’ve got an audience, as you mentioned. My members of the CDO Club are a couple thousand of the world’s best chief digital officers, chief data officers, chief data scientists, and chief analytics officers. I’m out there trying to make sure that I’m trying to stay on top of the latest trends.

There’s no better place to say on top of the latest trends than here at IBM InterConnect. You’re learning about the Watson Data Platform, Data First Platform. These are tools that not only can you take away to the highest level, but then they also have teams underneath them that need to be trained up on these new tools.

Again, I think IBM’s theme here is make data simple and it really does allow just about anyone to do what used to be the realm of the professional chief analytics officer. Now just about anyone, I think they call it the citizen analyst.

Now just about anyone, thanks to Watson with its natural language input and query mechanism, just about anybody can run sophisticated queries that used to be in the realm of the professional.

It’s fascinating. It keeps me on top of the latest topics and trends and, of course, it allows me to network with some of the brightest people on the planet here at IBM.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Actually, it was a comment I made to someone earlier this morning. I can’t recall who it was. It might have been Aylee or another one of the IBM team. We all go to a lot of big events. We see them all over the place. Probably more yourself globally than I do being in Australia, but the general sense I’ve gotten from the last couple events with IBM that I’ve had the privilege to be invited to is that they focused on people in the humanities.

Last year, I was honoured to meet you. It’s been a privilege to come to know you better and become a friend. We’ve had a great week this week together and we’ve been probably the naughty kids at the back of the bus sometimes. But I think you summed it up very well.

The focus on people in humanities and how we’re going to take data, and make it usable by people, and gain some insight, and get some value from them, I think that was a great summary on it.

There was actually another event I had the privilege of being part of on Sunday, as well, when I first arrived. It was the Open Tech Summit. It had the same, I guess, theme and that was open-source developers, some of the open-source tools like Hadoop and Spark and so forth, and certainly the blending of those, which became the likes of the Data Science Experience. I called it day zero.

What was interesting was we had a very large proprietary, style organisation historically had met open source head on in a positive sense. It was kind of like the ultimate meet-up, birds of a feather of geeks, who had at the same time met IBM halfway. It was quite interesting to see.

Because I think the big trend we’re seeing in these couple of events, particularly this one, is that IBM has endorsed open source, has embraced it, has become a significant contributor to them.

Some of the bigger projects like Spark, IBM had one of the largest, if not the largest, contributor of code design, et cetera, and had championed it. When we saw the Data Science Experience now being available in desktop, that’s just mind-boggling.

David Mathison:

On that note, when you go open source, you’re really embracing the community. One of the things I took away, again, from this event was that they’re hyper-focused on the CDO and building out that community, on building out the analytics community, and the data community. That’s important because, if we’ve learned anything over the last five to 10 years, it’s that the community will build the company.

I think the best way to combat what happens when your customers become your competitors … We’ve seen that happen in the music industry with Napster. Everyone can now create music. The customers become your competitor. Same thing is true in Wikipedia.

They’ve completely blown away Encyclopaedia Britannica because the users are creating the content. In Facebook, the users entertain and educate each other. In YouTube, the users create the video. Even with Apple and Google, the users are creating the apps.

Now the goal for IBM, I think, should be how do we harness the community and allow them, through open source and through community-building and un-conference methods, to actually embrace this trend instead of battle it?

You’re right. I think you’re absolutely right in pointing that out. The first day of this summit was the birds of a feather and that un-conference feel to that Sunday event. I think they’re on the right track. I think this is a perfect time for them.

I hope that they can execute on it well because that is the future. We’re seeing that in every business model, including even Uber where the customers, the drivers are the company. You look at Airbnb, the customers are now the company.

They’re renting out space. I think the quote was that it took Hilton Hotels 100 years to get 900,000 rooms. Airbnb got there in nine months and they don’t own any property. Uber doesn’t own any cabs.

Dez Blanchfield:                

It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?

David Mathison:

That’s the model, so I’m glad IBM is embracing that user community.

Dez Blanchfield:

I think the open source experience taught them that data should also be open in a sense as well. They’re very big on the governance of your data and the protection and security of your data, but at the same time, they make it possible to share the bits of data you want to.

David Mathison:

You brought up a good point, too, about you were saying I see this from a global perspective. Take it back a few years. We were the first to do an event for chief digital officers and the first to do an event for chief data. We followed this trend throughout the globe. I’ve had a unique perspective on the best leaders in every country.

I can say sometimes you think from a parochial perspective, Australia is the best or America is the best. As an American, having travelled to England and France and Australia, there are some fantastic models out there with incredible leaders, both chief digital and chief data officers, that to me are the exemplars right now. How do we take some of those examples?

I think Australia did a wonderful job of taking Paul Shetler out of the UK. Paul Shetler was chief digital officer of UK’s Ministry of Justice. Fast-forward a year later and he’s reporting in to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as the CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency.

It goes to show just how we’re crossing borders now seamlessly. He’s an American. He was in the UK Ministry of Justice and then he was most recently in Australia reporting right up to the prime minister. It shows two things: how seamless the borders are when it comes to talent and technology; but number two, how incredibly important these roles are.

If you were to look at chief marketing officers or CIOs, there are hundreds of thousands of them. You could never get to meet all of them in your lifetime, but we’re actually in a unique world where it’s just a couple of thousand of chief digital and chief data officers.

You could meet everyone of them if you set your mind to it. You probably should because these are not the future leaders of society. They’re actually, in a lot of cases, leading society right now. I met the CEO of Digital Israel who reports in to Prime Minister Netanyahu. These are the leaders.

Dez Blanchfield:                

The movers and shakers.

David Mathison:

The movers and shakers. It’s in some ways going around government.

Dez Blanchfield:

There’s a takeaway from your event last week, actually, or the week before, sorry, that I wrote down when I was listening to give your opening presentation. That was what you’re highlighting is this journey from CDO to CEO.

I found that surprising to start with. Then it made sense when you went through it in detail and explained it. I think people probably haven’t sat down and paid attention to that key point that the next CEO is likely to have been a CDO in some from, particularly digital officer, yeah?

David Mathison:

Right.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Now, I’m going to circle back-

David Mathison:

On that, we started tracking that. We’re the only company that tracks the CDO to CEO career path. I felt a couple years ago it was important because one doesn’t detect a trend until one starts to track it. I thought there were companies like Forrester that were saying, “The CDO is a transitional role.”.

Well, I saw it, “Well, yeah. It’s transitioning to CEO. Sure. These people are not important to you anymore? They’re even more important.”

Then when I looked deeply into their backgrounds, it was not a surprise because then when you look into their career paths, for example, 86% of CDOs in the media sector alone previously had experience as general manager, executive director, president, or CEO.

It’s no surprise that these people are becoming CEO. They were CEO. Data is a little bit different because they don’t have that background. Most of them are coming up from a technical track.

Two big announcements. Two chief data officers who became the CEO are very famous. The first was Jonathan Lu. When Alibaba went public, Jack Ma, the founder, actually handed over the publicly-traded Alibaba to his chief data officer, Jonathan Lu. That’s a massive role for a data-driven company.

Dez Blanchfield:                

I know for a fact the world paid attention to that because that really, really shook us. We had never seen that happen before.

David Mathison:

Ever. Right. Correct.

Dez Blanchfield:

In fact, that brings me back to one of the key points that we didn’t touch on earlier and that is, speaking of big announcements, you’ve had a couple of big announcements in the last week or two, but particularly yesterday.

You put out a very big announcement. Did you want to chat about that now? Because that was astounding.

David Mathison:

Yesterday was a huge announcement. Absolutely. I’ll touch on that.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Tell us a little about that.

David Mathison:

On that note, we were just talking about chief data officers who’ve become CEO. The big announcement yesterday was, of course, DJ Patil. Dr. Patil, as many listeners know, we made him Chief Data Officer of the Year. It was the first ever award, the first ever nominee, of the global Chief Data Officer of the Year award.

DJ, for those who don’t know, was most recently chief data officer at the White House. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013 to become the first ever chief data officer at the White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy.

It doesn’t start or end there. DJ has a very storied history in the public sector, the private sector, the Department of Defence. He worked for Greylock Partners in VC. His father was a famous venture capitalist. DJ has won numerous awards and has multiple patents. Worked for LinkedIn, worked for eBay.

Dez Blanchfield:

Yeah. Yeah. He’s got a good pedigree.

David Mathison:

A great pedigree. No one else you could possibly consider to be the first winner of this award than DJ. We’re delighted. As you know, we were following him on LinkedIn. It was amazing to me. I guess not surprising to see just how many hits that got.

The other big announcement, though, was touching on our previous point on CDOs becoming CEOs. You had mentioned that it’s mostly been in the digital track and that there have been very few chief data officers that have become CEO.

We mentioned Jonathan Lu, but the big announcement a week ago was that when we were in Australia, I announced the first ever Chief Data Officer of the Year award for Australia.

We gave it to Simon Bligh. Simon Bligh, he’s now CEO of Dun & Bradstreet. Talk about a data-driven company. The fact that, to my knowledge, I only know of two chief data officers who’ve ever become CEO. It’s Simon and Jonathan Lu from Alibaba, so he’s in very good company.

Dez Blanchfield:

They’re in rarefied air.

David Mathison:

Rarefied air. I think it’s an important exemplar to other chief data officers to know that this career path is open to them, but that they do need that let’s not have any unrealistic expectations. They do need to get certain skills that most data officers don’t. Most of them are coming up through a technical track.

Simon, to be fair, Simon was a CFO for decades. First, he was chief data officer at Veda, which is why we elected him CDO of the Year. But prior to that, he was a CFO for a UK company for 10 years.

He was CFO in Europe. 300 companies that he was in charge of throughout the world from France with thousands of employees. He was CFO at Sydney Airport. It’s a major brief. That’s a huge-

Dez Blanchfield:

It doesn’t get much more serious than landing aeroplanes.

David Mathison:

It doesn’t. Right. You know, you think about it, he’s an Englishman, so again we go back to that concept of talent and technology crossing borders. Here’s a guy who was in the UK, tremendous CFO experience in Europe, and also in Australia.

Yeah, two big announcements, but I think again, it goes to the point of how important data is. That’s how important this conference is at IBM InterConnect because IBM gets it. They have that hyper-focus on the CDO and they know that these are not the future leaders of society. They’re the current. Go back to the robber barons of the old days. These are the current leaders of society.

Dez Blanchfield:

It’s like the breeding ground of the next CEO. Well, that’s a great segue into the thing I was going to lead into. Maybe we’ll just keep this to a minute or two.

You mentioned before one of your OMG moments at the event this week here at IBM InterConnect 2017 in Las Vegas was the Watson Data Platform, and the making data simple key messages, and the platform in particular.

You commented and I wrote this down, “The struggle of all CEOs is they already have their data strategy set by now. The challenge for them is to find people and teams who can put that data to use and extract value from it for various reasons, whether it’s a not-for-profit, or govern, or enterprise.”.

Maybe just give us a bit of a quick summary on what that aha moment means in the context of what you said there with the struggle that CDOs have around data and extracting value, particularly in the context of what Watson Data Platform and the making data simple message could do for them.

David Mathison:

Especially extracting data and insights in real-time.

Dez Blanchfield:

In real-time. Sorry.

David Mathison:

The last three words to me are the-

Dez Blanchfield:                

They’re the words selling them, right?

David Mathison:

Yeah, exactly. Especially in retail, or in financial markets, or in medical, or in pharmaceutical, that real-time component is becoming increasingly, not that it hasn’t been, but increasingly important. Yeah, my aha moment was when I really dug deep into Watson.

Now, it’s not like I’ve never seen it before. As a matter of fact, we had the VP of Watson at my 2015 CDO Summit in New York City. He blew my mind.

We were talking about how Watson had beat the two human champions on Jeopardy. On a live quiz show, to be able to ingest so much data and so much information, and to be able to answer these questions and beat humans at this game-

Dez Blanchfield:                

And in plain English.

David Mathison:

In plain English. It’s insane.

Dez Blanchfield:                

No one was typing it in.

David Mathison:

Exactly. It’s all in English. That was my big aha moment and it extends to today. For chief data officers, as you mentioned, you rightly point out that at most organisations that I would say are data-mature, they do have their data strategy set. They’ve got their data governance strategy set.

They’ve pretty much got the metadata, the taxonomies, all that can be figured out relatively quickly.

The real challenge is to be able to derive insights from that data, and do correct analytics, and be able to drive customer engagement in real-time, whether it’s weather data at a retail store so that, if it’s snowing out, let’s put an emphasis on umbrellas and galoshes instead of bikinis.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Gumboots.

David Mathison:

Gumboots. Exactly. That kind of analysis that needs to be done in real time, first of all, you’re talking about a talent issue and the biggest problem we have today is the talent issue. All that I mean, it’s relatively easy to get really … I shouldn’t say relatively easy.

There still are few seasoned executives who are at the C-level chief data officers. There are about 2,000 worldwide that we’re tracking that have that exact title.

There are fewer chief analytics officers. There are only about a dozen CAOs. That’s a talent issue that everyone is pointing out. McKinsey is saying that there is a 190,000-person skill shortage with those skills and that there’s actually a 2-million person skill shortage. This is in the United States alone.

Dez Blanchfield:

When you take it globally, the scale gets larger. If you’re including India and China where you’ve got over one billion human beings, it’s a big number.

I’m going to move forward in a second because we are pressed for time. You mentioned this phrase and I wrote it down because I like it: “To drive customer engagement in real-time.” I think we’re going to do another podcast on that because that itself is a topic.

David Mathison:

Absolutely.

Dez Blanchfield:                

At this stage of the podcast, I would like to throw a quick challenge at you. It’s the rapid-fire, 30-second thoughts on key topics of the event. I’m going to read them through and then come back to you. Enterprise strong, number one.

Data first, number two. Then cognitive to the core. In 30 seconds or less, rapid fire, thoughts on what does enterprise strong mean in the context of what we’ve seen this week?

David Mathison:

Yeah, for chief data officers, this can’t be a test. This can’t be a lab. It can’t be something that you’re doing in just one department. This is something that has to scale up to the enterprise. I would go beyond their enterprise and say inter-enterprise.

How do we get our partners involved in sharing data and making sure that the metadatas are all correct? This is an enterprise and I would say more robust and scalable, that scales into the millions and millions of users.

To me, enterprise strong really has to be robust, scalable, and easy to deploy. Again, what things like Watson Data Platform, they tick off all those boxes.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Brilliant. Again, rapid fire, 30 seconds or less: data first. What does it mean to you in context of what you’ve seen this week?

David Mathison:

Simon Bligh. He’s CEO of Dun & Bradstreet, Chief Data Officer of the Year. Let’s talk about private sector and then public. Data first. Every organisation today, data is the lifeblood of the online economy. Everything is moving online.

Today’s news was how many retail stores are being closed. Everyone’s moving online. That’s all data-driven. That’s private sector.

Look at the public sector. The weather. Everything that DJ Patil did from helping organisations, police forces, emergency responders, first responders, data drives decisions in government, in first responders, in law enforcement. Tie it altogether. Data first. You and I know this from our history. We’ve been doing this since-

Dez Blanchfield:                

Data is the punchline to everything, right? Data-driven decisions. No, that’s great. Again, in 30 seconds or less if you can, I know it’s a big topic, but rapid-fire-wise, cognitive to the core. What does that mean after what you’ve seen this week and what you’ve absorbed from the IBM InterConnect 2017 show?

David Mathison:

Cognitive to the core. To me, and for representing chief data officers and chief analytics officers, you need a heuristic system. You need a system that’s constantly learning.

If you’ve got a system like Watson, it’s easy to plug through an API all of this data that’s coming in across silos and potentially from your partners and third-party data from weather, et cetera, into a system that’s going to be able to ingest that and then actually pull out insights and analytics in real-time.

I think, to me, that cognitive computing is the future of analytics and it’s the future of its data and insights. It is absolutely the reason that I’m here. Again, I think I mentioned I feel like I’m playing a Sherpa role to chief data officers. If anyone is listening, if you’re not a cognitive business, you need to be. That is the future.

Dez Blanchfield:                

You may not be around for awhile. No, that’s great.

David Mathison:

Exactly.

Dez Blanchfield:

Again, just in a couple of minutes before we get to the tail and wrap up, back to you personally, what would you say drives you? What’s your greatest passion in life and work?

With that in mind, could you share just a little bit about what your working on in the moment with the types of things you’ve seen here at the show in the context of the CDO Summit and the CDO Club?

David Mathison:

Sure. As I started out, I think I mentioned I feel like I’m a Sherpa. I need to come to InterConnect. It’s like if you’ve never been up Everest, you need a Sherpa to help you get there.

I think coming to InterConnect and World of Watson, that’s my Everest. I can at least go back to the other chief data officers down at the level one and bring back to them some scraps of knowledge to help them make that leap themselves.

I’m a people person, Dez. I don’t think it’s about tech. My first job ever was 1981. I was doing data input at the London Electricity Board in London. I’m a data guy, yeah. I think I’m a tech guy. I was using the first ever IBM PC that was launched.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Whew, that ages us.

David Mathison:

But it’s all about people. Yeah, it sure does, but you can edit that out, right?

Dez Blanchfield:

No. I’ll leave it in there. It’s great.

David Mathison:

Thanks. But the more important thing is it’s about people. In my Sherpa role, the most important thing I can do is to help people get to the C-suite. I know how it important it is for all organisations to have the best digital and data people that are available.

I want to help my members make that leap and make that career path. Not all chief digital officer, chief data officer roles will be CEO, but I know they need to be on board. Every publicly-traded company out there needs to have somebody who understands data and analytics on their boards. It’s critical.

Dez Blanchfield:

I could not agree more.

David Mathison:

I want to help them break that ceiling and get to the top of Everest.

Dez Blanchfield:

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen this in banks. I’ve seen it in wealth management companies. I’ve seen it in telcos. The CIO got removed from the boardroom. The risk guys are gone. Now they’re bringing them back and things are turning around, but it’s been a very slow, Titanic turnaround.

Look, we’ve had a great little conversation here. I want to wrap up with two quick things if I could then.

For folks who couldn’t make it to the event here, to the 2017 IBM InterConnect event in Las Vegas, could you just quickly, in a couple minutes, give us your thoughts on what exactly the extreme focus on the CDO means and how IBM is helping organisations with this renewed focus on the CDOs?

David Mathison:

First of all, if you weren’t here, you need to come next time. Get yourselves to InterConnect. But since those listening couldn’t make it, yeah, this hyper-focus on the CDO is critical because they’re the new decision-makers. Everyone wants to understand where’s the budget going? Where’s the headcount going? Where’s the decision-making going?

As you rightly point out, that CDO has always wanted to have the ear of the CEO and the board and never quite was able to get it. It was too technical of a role, but now it’s a strategic role. That’s why you get a guy like Adam Brotman, who’s been at Starbucks for seven years.

He gets a board slot at Neiman Marcus, a retail clothing manufacturer. Why? Because they see at Neiman Marcus that data and digital are a strategic role. He’s adding strategy to their organisation. That’s really what the core thing for me is.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Fantastic. To quickly wrap up, I’ve been asking everyone the same question and I’d really like to get your insights in 60 seconds. It is a play on words. It’s a pun. You’re going to enjoy it. For 2017 and the rest of the year, what’s on the horizon?

David Mathison:

You’re exactly right. What’s on the horizon? It’s cognitive that’s on the horizon. That machine learning, cognitive, AI, this is the future of data and analytics. We’re never going to be able to keep up as human beings with the incredible amount of data that’s available now through mobile devices, through social media, through all the inputs that we have.

As you rightly pointed out in your presentation at my CDO Summit, aeroplanes , automobiles, they’re all now giving out a tremendous amount of data. Imagine when we connect every sensor. It’s not just about people.

It’s about everything being connected to the internet through IOT, an internet of things. As all of these things get connected, there’s just a treasure trove of data, but it’s overwhelming, so what is the solution?

It’s got to be cognitive. It’s got to be ML, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sort of tying all of this together to make data simple for our CDOs.

Dez Blanchfield:

The perfect closing point. Absolutely fantastic. David, it’s been an absolute pleasure to spend the week with you. Thank you so much for giving us a half an hour of your time to do this podcast.

Can’t wait to do the next one with you. I’m glad you had a great week. I had a great week hanging out with you. Just thanks for being so much fun this week. Loved your insights in this podcast. Look forward to doing it again soon.

David Mathison:

Likewise. Maybe in Australia.

Dez Blanchfield:

I hope so.

David Mathison:

Thanks, Dez.

Dez Blanchfield:                

Thanks, David.

Dez Blanchfield

Dez Blanchfield is a strategic leader in business & digital transformation, with three decades of global experience in Business and the Information Technology & Telecommunications industry, developing strategy and implementing business initiatives. He works with key industry sectors such as Federal & State Government, Defence, Banking & Finance, Airports & Aviation, Health, Transport, Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities, Mobile Digital Media and Advertising, and Cyber Security. His focus is driving outcomes for organisations by leveraging Digital Disruption, Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, Big Data & Analytics, Machine Intelligence, Internet of Things, DevOps Integration, Automation & Orchestration, App Containerisation & Micro Services, Webscale Infrastructure, and High Performance Computing. Be sure to follow Dez on LinkedIn ( http://linkedin.com/in/dezblanchfield ) and Twitter ( http://twitter.com/dez_blanchfield ).

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