The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world of the importance of collaboration, with cooperation and co-creation key to everything from vaccine development to monitoring worldwide infection rates. Collaboration between companies also offers significant opportunities to create value, and Frank Slootman – Chairman and CEO of data cloud pioneer Snowflake – believes it has never been more important for organizations to be able to mobilize their data and share it with ecosystem partners.
"Historically, data operations have been very much siloed,” he explains. “The big change that has happened is that data sharing is becoming really central and foundational to data operations. That didn’t happen before because we had technology that was 50-years-old, like file transfer protocols. You basically inherit all the limitations of the technology set as well as the issues that we have with data governance, specifically compliance around privacy regulations as well as security. The main priority therefore was not surrendering the custody of the data to another party because that starts to violate everything. With the data cloud, we can now share data without having to share physical custody. It means we’re living in a single data orbit – a single data universe.”
Sharing and analyzing data is key to how companies drive growth and manage risk, from understanding changing consumer preference to identifying fraudulent activity in a sector like financial services. “Any number of things that have predictive capacity are incredibly important, because if you understand what is going to happen, that’s obviously much better than trying to react to what’s happening after the fact,” he says. “And that’s really why data is becoming the beating heart of the modern enterprise. This is because data, instead of just informing people, will start to drive operations directly. It will predict things and allow systems to programmatically act on the signals that they are discovering in what is near real-time data.”
Of course, at the same time as companies are looking to mobilize and share their data to drive new levels of growth and operational performance, they must also manage increasing cyber risks and threats. For Frank Slootman, this means that industries and individual companies need to build cyber security as a core competence. “I would say, based on recent evidence of hundreds if not thousands of ransomware attacks, that most people do not have the correct level of vigilance for the threat level that they’re under,” he says. “Cyber security risk is right up there with bio-terror and any other global threat that we face. It’s a huge deal, and we’re not appropriately mobilized as an economy. In certain pockets, we’re very strong, and in other places, we are clearly not. And for those this is a major wake-up call. It’s like ‘okay, people, we really need to learn cyber security as a core competency and build it as a core discipline’.”
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