Episode 83: Governing Data On The Edge

How To Leverage Data For Success

We can innovate best when we have access to the most information and the most data, and we can map to it. You can only know about information if you know where it is, so how do we create that data catalogue that tells everybody where they can find the data that they need to be successful?

Tune in to the Power of Data Podcast as Wendy Batchelder, Chief Data Officer at VMware joins Gary Kotovets, Dun & Bradstreet’s Chief Data and Analytics Officer to explore the role of the CDO, Diversity & Inclusion in the industry and the increasing importance of edge computing with data governance. Wendy also shares her experience of starting out in the world of technology and the concept of AI and data ethics.

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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 83: Governing Data On The Edge

Guest: Wendy Batchelder, Chief Data Officer at VMware
Interviewer: Gary Kotovetz, Chief Data Analytics Officer at Dun and Bradstreet

Gary 00:00
Welcome to The Power of Data Podcast. I'm Gary Kotovetz, Chief Data Analytics Officer at Dun and Bradstreet. And today I'm delighted to be joined by Wendy Batchelder, Chief Data Officer at VMware. Welcome, Wendy, how are you today?

Wendy 00:13
I'm doing great, it's quarter end, everyone's working really hard. And it's been a great year, I think we've all learned a lot through the last kind of year and a half at the pandemic. So I feel we're all kind of hitting our groove, so I can't complain.

Gary 00:25
It’s definitely been an interesting couple of years, I would say, although it feels much longer. But yeah, a lot of great lessons learned. And a lot of those lessons are really good and reusable and kind of driving, I think our future in this space. So glad that we have a chance to chat. And you know, you've had a very impressive career, having spent over 15 years and leadership roles, at a variety of different global companies. And I'd love to just start off, you know, hearing from you a bit more about your background, how you got to where you got it today, and what your role is at VMware, specifically?

Wendy 00:57
Sure, no, I'm happy to share that. I really started out thinking I was going to be an accountant, which is not too far away from being in the data space, but you know, it might date me a little bit - but back when I was in school role, the Chief Data Officer didn't exist it. It wasn't a role, companies didn't have that kind of capability. And so a lot of the similar roles whether computer science, or accounting, or statistics, and guess where a lot of folks that are maybe my era kind of grew up. And mine was accounting, and my father really encouraged me to take a technology class in college. And I was really not interested in pursuing that, because it was not an environment where there were a lot of people that looked like me. There were not a lot of women in computer science classes or in technology classes. And he's really inspirational to me, and just really encouraged me, I believe in you, it doesn't matter, you know, who you are, what you look like, or how you came into this world. But I believe that this would be something that you would be very good at, and also enjoy. And I really kind of fought him on that. But eventually agreed to take a sequel class, I walked in on the first day and sure enough, I was the only female in the class. And it was really tough. It was a tough environment. But I met a lot of great mentors along the way, and really did enjoy it, you know, I felt the satisfaction of getting a program to run or query to work or data to join to be very similar to getting that set of books to balance or spreadsheet to work and just continued to take classes and explore that area and found that, you know, there was this really great blend of accounting and information technology that was this whole discipline of IT audit. And so I spent 10 years in progressive IT audit roles in the big four accounting firms, as well as in industry, which led me to Wells Fargo. And during my time at Wells Fargo, I had a really great experience just being exposed to one of the largest financial institutions in the world, and learning a lot more about not just systems and data, but at such scale and the importance of really managing data well to get the insights that you need to run your business. And I found that to be really fascinating and had a lot of great opportunities to move into different data roles. And I learned a lot. I certainly had my share of successes and failures I think as we all do, I had a really great experience there. And then about three years ago, I was offered the opportunity to come to VMware and really double down in the tech space. So to be in the data space at a tech firm was very different than being in the data space in a financial institution. And it's been tremendous, because I have been able to work in a wider variety of areas and really expand my remit to be broader than data management, but also include insights and data science. And one unique part of my role is I'm also responsible for our robotic process automation team and our business process management team. And those two functions combined with the power of data and analytics, whether it's lineage, or machine learning, or AI has been just fascinating. I certainly learned something new from my team every day. And we're trying to apply those techniques in new and different ways. So it is a little bit unique as far as what my role entails, but it's been quite a journey and one that I feel very fortunate to be on.

Gary 04:05
And it's quite amazing. I think everything you just talked about, you kind of relate to and, you know, just talking to colleagues and people in similar roles across the industry, there's not one that has the same path, right, everyone's path is different. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that to your point, the role is new. And so people just kind of evolve into that role, either organically as part of the company evolution or inorganically when you're sort of being from one organization to another. It’s quite an amazing journey. And in terms of being the only woman in the space in terms of tech. I mean, I feel that's also kind of gone a long way since then. And I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I feel there's been a much more concerted effort. And I think we're all kind of part of that effort to try to push that. So I'm curious, I'll jump kind of almost to that question next. In terms of, you know, your view of diversity and inclusion and the kind of efforts you're putting in and the kind of efforts you would give others advice on in terms of what they should be doing more of to encourage more D&I, particularly in our space.

Wendy 05:11
Yeah, I think it's a really valid point. I mean, we have come a really long way, I would say even to this day, there are times where I am the only female in the room. You know, that's not as alarming to me anymore. Because on one hand, I'm more used to that experience. But on the other hand, there is a lot of change in that space, I mean, it definitely see that more and more, we have more balanced representation, I think we are all a little bit more conscious of biases, and aware that building an environment where everyone feels like they belong, is building an environment where people feel psychologically safe, which means they're willing to raise their hand, they're willing to speak up, they're willing to offer ideas, and that creates a culture where everybody can be successful, they can feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. And we have the best innovation, because everybody feels open, that they can bring their ideas to bear. And I think that is really, really important in any innovation area, which I would argue should be all companies. But also, just making sure that we continue to enforce that, continue to assess ourselves, assess our companies, and continue to do better than we did yesterday. And that's I think the responsibility, and honestly, the honor of every leader is to continue to create environments where people feel good about what they're doing and who they are. Because I think that's where the magic happens.

Gary 06:31
Yeah, I definitely agree with that, I think creating those opportunities where you allow for the individuals and their team to showcase themselves and creating, you know, an environment wherever we feels like they don't have to go through three different management layers to be able to speak. And you know, providing the audience, whether it's with your CEO or with other kinds of senior management, I think is also very important and key in terms of encouraging that diversity.

Wendy 06:55
I agree, I had a really amazing entrance into VMware, and one of the first meetings I was in, you know, a lot of very senior people, there was a, a lead business analyst was leading the conversation who was 6-7-8 levels down in the hierarchy below the person that they were presenting to. And there are a lot of institutions where that would never happen. You would have that person informing their manager and from their manager and from their manager. That doesn't allow for the person closest to the problem to really be explaining the issue at hand and are offering a solution. And it aligns very deeply with my personal beliefs, and that we're all people, right, it doesn't matter what title we have, or how we come to the table. It's more about how are we all coming together to solve a solution or create something new and exciting. And I saw that in action very early in my time at the company, which was really, really affirmative to the culture that I was excited about joining.

Gary 07:45
Absolutely agree. I guess just to kind of pivot a little bit in terms of the role within the organization and to the points that we just talked about, I think every CDO has a slightly different remit, or maybe not that slightly different remit, within the company in depending on the goals and the mission of the organization. And also the fact that I think in many instances, the role is sort of newish to what we just talked about, a lot of these goals are just being formed at the point when the CDO comes in, and then allow the CDO of themselves to be forming those goals, that mission statements. So in your experience in what you're doing today, and just love to hear kind of what your remit is, and what are some of the things that you're mainly responsible for. And then, how do you kind of see or realize the ROI, so to speak? And how do you guys measure your KPIs? And what are the sort of actionable insights that are being produced as a result of the work that you're doing?

Wendy 08:41
That's a multilayered question. I love it. So I'll start with the remit. So my responsibility is really interesting. So while I'm the first CDO at VMware, by title, I am not the first person to sit in this seat. And there were others that helped form this team and the remit along with it on the journey that VMware has been on. But with each new leader that's come in, the scope has grown a little bit. And so where we stand today is the team is responsible for I would say all of the basics, the things that you would expect: governance, metadata, data quality, data architecture, master data, you know, the real data management pieces. We’re also responsible for data policy and enforcement and those sorts of things. Beyond that, we also have the analytics function that sits within the what we call our enterprise data analytics group. And that involves a team of everything from data engineering to your run of the mill, business intelligence folks or some data scientists. We also have a data science COE that provides various more advanced modeling and support for the company, and also does a lot of machine learning and AI techniques and applying those in different ways, some of which is to improve our products. We recently did a project on our security product to help make it faster, better, stronger. But it was really fun. The place that were a little bit unique, I think, compared to other CDOs, that certainly I've spoken with or had the pleasure of learning from, is we also have the responsibility for our robotic process automation function. We have a center of excellence that is a part of our team, as well as our business process management team. And so that allows us to really look at opportunities to improve our processes, make them stronger, automate them with care, and diligence, but also combine those functions in new and unique ways alongside our data science capabilities alongside our technical lineage capabilities. And so, we're able to look at processes problems really top down and through multiple layers of the environment, whether that's a process, a data flow, a system movement, you know, across some sort of automation capability. And that is really, really unique. So that is, I think, really special and something that my team really enjoys.
Now, we also have your standard office of the CDO type function where we capture things like M&A integration, and transformation, product management, those sorts of things. And we also help our product team who is developing some new and interesting data analytics platforms and providing them with support more in a consultative basis. So there's a lot a lot there. When it comes to our objectives. And one of the things that we're really focused on, we've been really, really focused in the last 12 months on getting our data foundation right. That's an area where we’ve not historically had a lot of investment and needed a lot of work to just kind of really get solid. I would say, our analytics and data science friends have succeeded in the past in spite of some data foundation problems, and so really cleaning up that environment, making it easier to access have higher quality data that's more ready available for them to do the cool and data science things that they know best. And so just really empowering the company in a new and different way. That's been really a priority for us, along with curating a set of analytical insights, as well as key metrics by which we will measure our company's success in the future, as we're transforming the business into really being more SaaS friendly and more SaaS pure. So that's been a really a big area of focus.
Last part of your question was around metrics, and how do we measure ourselves? You know, it's a really interesting question, especially for the data space, because I think ironically, a lot of data folks struggle to measure their success data. You know it's interesting, but what we've done and we have various stages of maturity across our organization, is we really look at upfront, what is success? You know, how do we define that? What metrics really matter? Is that time savings? Is it revenue growth? Is it something like, we're trying to make a process faster? Maybe it's all of the above, but what are the tangible things that we expect to happen and documenting that up front, and then as we deliver are we making progress against that isn't making sense kind of continuing to check in. We use an OKR type framework as how we measure our team's progress report on a bi-weekly basis, we try to be really transparent, what’s available, in our company Reporting Portal. So you know, anyone who's interested, they'll see how we're doing, we moved to that model about seven or eight months ago, and it's been really helpful, just keep us all on track, just that exercise of nailing the data people to the data, it's not as natural as more of a think, but it is important.

Gary 13:27
Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. Especially, as you sort of try to kind of think about where the firm is going and you know, whether it focused on kind of, you know, growth or retention or quality improvements, or, you know, in trying to sort of understand those key KPIs of the firm and trying to align yourself those KPIs. And I think it's also important, not just to the outside world, but to kind of keep the morale and get people excited about coming into the office every day to show them the impact they're making on the company.

Wendy 14:00
Yeah, right. And good example of that, I think, is consumption. So you know, I care a lot about not just what do our customers buy from us, but what are they using? Are they getting the value out of it that they expect? And so, as we're looking at, what has a customer actually consumed from us? It's a very important goal, because it tells us, you know, are we helping them to succeed? Are we helping them to win? And you know, we're very invested in are helping our customers to win, that's important. We've really looked at okay to empower that, what kinds of information do we need? How do we measure consumption? What does good look like? So from a data perspective, really thinking about, what data do we need to measure that? What's the definition? So that pulls in governance and metadata and data quality? Do we rely on it? Is there missing pieces? Do we need to model parts of it? When can we do these things? What's the roadmap look like? It does matter very deeply. And I think being able to connect the work we do to the company's mission and making sure that people understand how they connect to that is so important, I think so important right now, especially with the way that the workforce is shifting and people are looking for new and different things from their employer. It's important to connect those dots for our team. And remember to say thank you, this is hard, this is a hard-working environment, and so just making sure that we're connecting the dots for them, helping them feel good. And I'm proud of the work that they do every day.

Gary 15:18
The challenges are very similar, I think across the board. So we're kind of moving in slightly different directions, but I'm curious, you recently hosted your event called VMworld. And what are some of the key highlights from the event, and are there any developments or trends that which you found particularly exciting?

Wendy 15:36
That's a quite a question. So VMworld, for anyone who might not realize is VMware's hallmark event every year. It's our big thing where we showcase all of our new advancements, we talk about company strategy, and where we're going, we had a really great analyst event where we shared you know, how we're doing financially and what are our projections for the future. And so at least my personal highlights from the event where we: had some really amazing stories of success with customers, I mean, there were, I think, hundreds of events that you could attend that were showcasing what we had done together. And I think that together is the important part here, right? This is not something that's just about VMware, what we do independently, but what we do to help our customers succeed. And so I loved hearing those success stories, I could watch them all day, every day, it’s just really motivating. So I would say the highlights to me are hearing about how we've helped people succeed. But there are some really exciting developments, I would say, around our product portfolio and really how VMware, I think the evolution of the company is really positioning us to be the multi cloud provider for companies. I think we see that and I know D&B is no different, right? And probably most of the folks listening to this podcast, not many people are in one cloud or another, right? Most people are in multiple clouds are trying to navigate data across clouds and secure it and make their development and their experiences for all of their personas easier, faster, better. And VMware is uniquely positioned to provide that. And if you were to go back and only listen to one session, I think listening to the session about our future strategy and where we're headed, there are some great highlights from our CEO Raghu (Raghuram). And our CFO, Zane Rowe, I think those are very exciting to hear about, you know, really the value proposition of what VMware can do to help customers into the future is very exciting. And when it comes to data, my team had did provide a lot of the information to make the event possible, we work very closely with our Chief Marketing Officer, Carol Carpenter, who is a phenomenal leader and a big supporter of leveraging data for the power that it has. So that was really exciting for our team to be able to be a part of that. And VMware is also working on some really, I think, unique and innovative products around analytics, and how we can provide an analytic ecosystem. There were a couple of announcements recently around a program or product called Torus that I'm personally excited about. We've been working with that team a great deal and making that product the very best it can. And that's certainly exciting. But I think most of us data folks find things that exciting or known about the grander population. It's been great.

Gary 18:15
That's great. What are, as you talk about the trends in the general market, what are you seeing or hearing from customers? It's interesting, because you guys did some stuff on like, kind of edge computing, and again, you know, it's like every period of time, right, there's some new trend or new shift. And I think this is also interesting to kind of see and hear, as you're seeing kind of the regulatory shifts happening with data privacy and data movement, it's a country by country, or at least in our cases, it's state by state even, there's a lot kind of happening, right? So I'm just sort of curious what your thoughts are around that. And also, specifically, how you think about sort of edge computing and how that could relate to some of these challenges.

Wendy 19:00
Yeah, I think that our job is actually going to get much harder. I mean, I know probably everybody just took out like a collective sigh. It's already pretty hard and challenging. But I do think it's going to get harder. And that data continues to be created at just an almost unquantifiable rate, right? We're collecting data on all these different devices everywhere. I mean, there's really an unlimited amount of data. And I think being able to govern, understand and harness data where it is generated, meaning more at the edge is going to become more important. I think gone are the days where you pulled all your data into one neat little nice, organized database and then you queried from there, right. Those days are long over. And so I think that it's going to put a lot of pressure on things like data governance, metadata, data quality, I see a lot more technology being built more with API calls instead of actual movement of data. And I think that's going to continue, how do you keep data where it is, it's expensive right to move it. Every time you move it that is increased risk. It has an increase in modifying your quality and whatnot. So I think what we'll see is less data movement, but more importance on well, how then how do you find it? How do you join it when you need to create an insight? I think master data is an area that is going to be tremendously interesting going forward, what happens there? Do we bring master data together, and then push it back out to all the disparate systems? I don't know. But I do think we're going to have a lot of work on our hands to figure out what the right balance is to enable people to get the data that they need when they need it, without leaving it all around, because it's just unmanageable, I think. Again, my personal view, but I do think our jobs are going to get harder, not better.

Gary 20:39
That much I know, as well. So how do you think about then sort of from a data governance standpoint, is you kind of see the future, right, and we all try to understand where this is going? What are some of the ideas or insights that maybe you can share in from a data governance standpoint, that we can start to kind of lay out right, from a foundational standpoint is the pillars on which we build all this other stuff and be able to manage these challenges?

Wendy 21:08 I think precision is the word that comes to mind when I think about governance, security, privacy, all of this, we're going to be required to get very, very precise around what our data is, what it means where it's stored, how do we protect it? And I do see, you know, it used to be that if you had private information, you kept it very secure, you'd mass the entire thing and you kept access very limited. Really challenged with that mindset. And I still see that in some cases, especially in some industries, so how do you operate in a way that is a question for all of our data professionals - how do we operate in a way are we allow people to have as much data as possible, while still protecting the things that we need to? And that is very contrary to what you would see, especially in the medical space, with the banking space, but bear with me here - the reason I feel that question needs to be discussed broadly is because I personally believe that we can innovate best when we have access to the most information and the most data, and we can map to it. So you can only know about information, if you know where it is, right? So how do we create that data catalogue that tells everybody where they can find the data that they need to be successful? To answer the business questions, they have to test their hypothesis and to be successful. So in my opinion, that more openness requires us to be more laser precise on the things that we do need to protect. And there are he mentioned a lot of compliance requirements, whether it's state by state or GDPR. Depending on where you are in the world, there's a lot of different flavors and stripes of that. But being able to make that meet those expectations of privacy and compliance as precise as possible so that we're not over protecting, and still allowing the innovation to happen at scale, I think that's going to be the fine line that we have to figure out how to walk as a discipline.

Gary 23:05
Precision, I guess I call it also entitlements of permissioning, and tracking and auditing, and I feel that's all underneath or behind that precision that you're talking about. Okay, I'm giving you access, but I need to know, when I turned you on or when you were turned off to get access to that data. And what you saw what you used, how you used it, and then where does it go there? And you could get very complex over time. So how do you not overdo it the overdesign it because you know, in some instances, you don't want to also pigeonhole yourself right? To a degree where you're over designing an entitlement system, so to speak, which then raises the bar, almost not just yourself, but on the marketplace as well.

Wendy 23:50
Right, I mean, I think it already requires the precision between a Chief Data Officer or something similar CSO, or something similar, and a Chief Privacy Officer or something similar. Those three leadership type positions, or teams already have a tight alignment, but I think we're going to see that stitched together even tighter in the future to make things come alive like this, I think it's going to be tricky. The other area that I think is really fascinating that I don't see companies making a big step forward in just yet that I see the conversation starting is the concept of AI ethics, and really data ethics, right. Just because you can gleam data together, or you can figure things out with data, should you? And what is the line? What's the boundary? You know, how does a company decide what is appropriate for them and for their customers and their stakeholders at large or their employees? And just because you can do something doesn't always mean that you should, right? So how do we manage that as a data industry or data flavor? How do we how do we approach that, and I think that's going to become really, really important, especially because once you've crossed the line, it's hard to dial it back.

Gary 24:58
It's interesting the lines I mean, we see it in the news every day, right? Without mentioning any names, there's companies being mentioned all the time exactly related to that. And the lines are being defined as well, what is that line? Where is that line? And what's appropriate? And what's not appropriate? Like there are no laws, right? There are no ethical laws to your point that are written down. So, you know, I think it's just important to kind of stay on top of that. And I think it's not just necessarily what the law says, but it's also what your relationship with clients is like, and making sure that you respect that relationship.

Wendy 25:37
That's right. Yeah, that's absolutely right. Because, you know, if we wait for compliance for the law to tell us what to do, we could be waiting a while. But I think we all have to take it upon ourselves to say, what are we willing to do? And what we're not willing to do? You know, and that might mean that we make tradeoffs between revenue opportunities, and what we feel is really protecting our data properly. I think every company has to decide what that looks like for themselves. But it's an interesting topic and one that I think also has some interest in the academia, space itself, could be interesting to see how that plays out between industry and academia as well.

Gary 26:12
Yeah, I've been recently getting a lot of invitations to a lot of these AI ethics seminars and conferences, is definitely a topic that's pretty hot.

Wendy 26:20
That's for sure. So I think those two are really top of mind for me, when it comes to what the future holds, I think that it's going to take the limelight between those two, those are something that I'm just very interested in. And it's going to require, I think, a really specific set of talent - and we haven't talked about it yet - but I do think it's important to touch on the pipeline for talent we're all after. So it does create an additional challenge for all of us, we're all going after the same talent.

Gary 26:46
Same talent, and again, the experiences are learned or gained along the way. So that's also I think, a little bit challenging in our space, right, to the point of, how do you become a specialist in AI ethics? Right? Like, how do you find somebody like that? Where do you find it, it's like, you almost have to wait for somebody to gain that experience, and then look for them in somewhere else. So yeah, it's going to be very interesting times for the future.
So look, I mean, I think we're sort of coming to an end of our conversation, I first and foremost, want to thank you very much, this was a really, really good and informative conversation. I'm really glad I met you. And we probably need about three hours or four hours of sessions, to kind of follow up on some of these topics. And I would definitely love to stay in touch and continue this relationship and talk about these very important topics in our industry.

Wendy 27:41
Likewise, Gary was wonderful to join you here today. And I just really appreciate the conversation. It was lovely and definitely interesting. There's no shortage of topics to debate in this space, that's for sure. So I really appreciate you and your time and the opportunity to be here.

Gary 27:56
Thank you.