Data Citizens Conference ‘18

Artur Balen – DTSQUARED – Collibra Ranger

2018 was my first (and hopefully not last) visit to the Data Citizens Conference in New York organised by Collibra, this year celebrating their 10th birthday.  It’s a long way to travel from the UK, but the event is something that the founders at DTSQUARED were keen to invest in, and I’m so glad they did as it was a highly informative and really well organised event.

Our time there was balanced with interesting presentations (my personal highlights detailed below), breaks for refreshments and most importantly, the opportunity to meet and connect with the data governance geeks and share ideas and thoughts about the hottest data governance topics – I was surprised and excited to meet a client who I worked with 3 years ago remotely from the UK!

When summarizing the presentations, it is difficult not to mention a keynote by Paul DePodesta (Cleveland Browns Chief Strategy Officer, Entrepreneur & Subject of “Moneyball”) who has made a career of evaluating, measuring, and assigning value, to talent, as documented in Michael Lewis’s book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.”  Paul told his inspirational story which really put the theory aspect of data governance into perspective and proved the positive impact of data driven decisions in life as well as work.

Other key highlights for me from the conference included:

Importance of Data Governance and Collibra education

Felix Van De Maele (Co-founder and CEO, Collibra) highlighted that Collibra cares about educating their clients and partners by providing the courses and material on Collibra Community and Collibra University.  His presentation showed some key stats on rangers, and I was excited to realise that DTSQUARED employs 7.5% of Rangers globally, the highest concentration outside of Collibra themselves (including myself and my colleague Arvind Nair at the conference with me).   We both completed our Ranger certificates this spring and hence were invited to the Rangers’ dinner to meet other Rangers and to celebrate this occasion together.  I was pleased to meet Neha Singh (Sr. Program Manager/Product Owner- Data Governance, Adobe) at the Rangers’ dinner who gave a presentation about the Governance Journey for Self-Service BI and Analytics at Adobe (successful Collibra and Tableau integration).

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Data Governance

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning were both topics of high value in the conference as these are obviously big drivers toward having better governed data. For example, Collibra Catalog already uses AI for metadata profiling automation at the ingestion point.  According to Collibra roadmap, Collibra is planning to continue R&D in the AI space to provide further user experience improvements.  Felix mentioned in his presentation that “in the future, AI will decide if we get a loan, get that job, etc. AI without Data Governance is unethical.” Also, when speaking about the power of AI, Felix provided a great example of where AI has seen failure (its inability to discriminate between puppies and muffins) and used this to emphasise the point that we should be careful when we let machines make decisions.

Stan Christiaens (Co-founder and CTO, Collibra) elaborated on the criticality of AI decision making: “AI is just a decision-making tool like BI. Its shooting yourself in the foot with a machine gun vs a hand gun!”

Integrations – a way forward

Prajakta Damle (Principal Product Manager, AWS Glue) presented the AWS Glue; a fully managed ETL (extract, transform, and load) service which is serverless, (so there’s no infrastructure to set up or manage) that makes it simple and cost-effective to categorize your data, clean it, enrich it, and move it reliably between various data stores.  Below is Data lake on Amazon S3 with AWS Glue example:

Kenny Scott (Data Quality Practitioner and Consultant, Wowtow Ltd.) introduced a bi-directional connectivity to constantly sync Collibra DGC and Syncsort’s Trillium Discovery, which showed that Collibra can not only receive the DQ results from a DQ engine, but also push the governed rules created by non-technical users.


Overall the conference was a fantastic experience and I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to go.  To round off this post I would like to thank Collibra for a great event and refer to Jo Coutuer’s (Chief Data Officer, BNP Paribas Fortis) slide from his presentation and ask you a question: Where is your organisation in the process of parking the ‘data governance ships’ (especially GDPR) to a data governance harbour?


See you next year at Data Citizens ‘19.


Artur Balen


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