DataStax, one of the leading NoSQL vendors, has today unveiled a new strategy that centres around helping customers better execute their CX [customer experience] strategies.
The announcement should be viewed as DataStax formalising its CX experience into a consulting arm and offering guidance on best practice to users of its core DataStax Enterprise (DSE) platform, rather than a new set of technologies.
However, the strategy is particularly significant as it signals a shift in focus for the NoSQL vendor. A shift away from tech-heavy discussions, towards understanding organisation-wide business problems. This is something that we’ve seen the likes of competitor MongoDB attempt to do too, which shows that this market is rapidly maturing into one that has high-level board interest.
DataStax also announced the latest release of its DSE platform (5.1), which includes improved security control, improvements to operational analytics performance (3X speed uptick), improved search capabilities, and improvements to its Graph data management.
But when speaking to DataStax CEO Billy Bosworth this week, it’s the CX announcement that garners the most attention. Bosworth explained that customers are struggling to use their data to improve interactions with customers and said that DataStax is well positioned to help this problem, given that it provides a data layer for the enterprise. Bosworth said:
We are living in this right now economy. In this economy we are noticing with our customers extremely granular moments of interaction. They tend to define life and death for companies. And in response what’s happening is that our enterprises are building as quick as they can these cloud applications that have extraordinary demands on the data itself.
We have seen CX priorities become a CEO-level initiative. It’s rare when something across industries becomes a CEO initiative like that, that’s not something say like security. CX is fundamentally becoming important to the CEO and the board because of those granular moments that I talked about.
Those moments of interaction are becoming so critical because the impact on your business, on your customer loyalty, on your customer satisfaction, on you customer engagement is going to be made up now of these millions and billions of individual moments. It’s not going to work the way it worked in the past.
However, it’s not an easy problem to solve. Bosworth said:
The challenge is that under the covers of that is a new set of rules and requirements for the data. And if you get the data foundation wrong, you’re going to get everything else wrong. And that’s why people are struggling with the implementations, they’re trying to implement it on old legacy technology, or incorrect technology that’s not made for those right now interactions at scale.
If you don’t have the digital DNA at your core, then everything you try and do on top of it is going to get impeded in the process. It’s going to get overly complex, or worse, it’s not going to perform.
We have the experts
The CX offering is a combination of DataStax’s DSE platform, partner integrations, but most importantly, according to Bosworth, the expert advice and consulting that the vendor can offer to customers. Gathering insights from the work it has done with customers from across the world, DataStax is now in a position to offer best practice guidance and advice to customers that are struggling to get their CX solutions right. Bosworth said:
At DataStax we have the experts that have implemented some of the largest transactional systems in the world, in terms of the data layer. What we can bring to the enterprise is a very quick path to architecting your data properly, to giving you a system that scales effortlessly, and giving you a data platform that provides instant insight. If you have that at the data management layer, it’s going to make building your applications so much faster.
We sit down and take those resources and aim them specifically at your CX projects, with recommendations and design patterns that we know are going to help you accelerate your applications like customer 360, like real-time personalisation. We are going to help you take our technology, apply it smartly, build it efficiently, so you can get up and running very quickly with those successful projects.
We are taking our learning that we have seen happen over and over, and we are finding these patterns. We are finding these architectural design best practices. We are finding these optimisations on the way that you build your data model. It turns out that if you apply those intelligently up front, everything in your process can go much faster.
I asked Bosworth whether or not it was going to be difficult for DataStax to provide expert advice across a number of industries, wondering whether or not the type of implementation depended on what vertical the company in question operated in - and whether this would form the shape of DataStax’s consulting arm.
However, Bosworth seemed confident that the technical solution itself is fairly standardised across industry, whilst customers are able to bring their own experience to the table to help shape it. He said:
It’s one of the real advantages in this market, that the architectures are remarkably similar. So if I am trying to solve a customer 360 problem, whether I’m trying to do that if I’m an airline, or a bank, or a restaurant, it turns out that I’m going to actually need to model my data the exact same way. And I’m going to need to engage with my customers in the exact same way.
The real advantage is that we can bring the expertise for the project and then you can provide the expertise for your industry.
However, the challenge for DataStax will be in providing business advice, when it has historically operated as a pure-play technology outfit. Bosworth explained:
We’ve been doing these roundtables around the world and pulling in real customers, sitting with us and industry experts, and I’ve been really surprised that they’re putting their non-technical problems on even keel with their technical problems. So things like working across their silos inside their company.
They’re asking, how are other people solving this problem? How are they getting started with these projects within a very siloed, sometimes political, environment? We are going to have to play more of a role in understanding that environment.
We can offer a lot of help, but it’s also difficult because we don’t want to slow down the project for non-technical reasons - but that’s part of the reality. That’s a little different for us. We are going to be stretching into that world, the customer’s businesses, in a way that we haven’t done before.
This is interesting because it signals a level of maturity in the NoSQL market. DataStax is smart to shift its focus away from being a pure-infrastructure provider, to attempting to become a data management provider that has the business smarts to help you solve problems around customer interactions. That’s a much more palatable sell for those buyers higher up the chain with the bigger budgets. It’s still all to play for in this market, so it will be interesting to see which one of these traditionally tech-heavy companies can execute best on the business sales pitch.