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Adobe, Microsoft, And SAP Create The Open Data Initiative

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I’m at Microsoft Ignite this week and one of the more interesting announcements at the show was ODI or the Open Data Initiative which is a joint project between Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP. 

What makes this initiative interesting is that it doesn’t appear to be the more typical announcement of an alliance or partnership that likely won’t go anyplace.  What made this one different is three things that I’d like explore: 1) Trust and the quality of the relationship, 2) the common goal between the firms, and  3) the critical need all agree is driving this solution.  

Quality Of The Relationship

With most of the partnerships I cover generally one company wants something from the other who is largely attending the event for media coverage.  This is like a marriage where neither party is on the same page and, interpersonally, they don’t like each other very much, suggesting the marriage won’t end well. 

In this case, and it was obvious on stage, the three CEOs both like and trust each other. This is partially because there isn’t a ton of overlap between the firms (so they don’t think of each other as competitors) plus all three CEOs appear to be focused on the work their companies are doing and not on their own compensation, fame, or status.

These execs are in their jobs because they love doing the work and all three firms are doing well as a result.  

Now these are the founding members, but the initiative isn’t limited by just these three firms. However, as founding members, the success of this initiative will largely be tied to how committed these three companies are and they appear to be deeply committed. 

Common Goal

Every company in the tech segment understands that their success, or lack thereof, will be tied to how well their customers can make use of the data they collect. 

Currently this data is spread across vendors. In some cases the vendors it is spread across are more interested in mining it themselves rather than assuring the customer gets the best use of it, and currently the data is largely siloed.  These siloes make it nearly impossible to form conclusions off the entire pool of data a company owns, which reduces significantly the potential utility and accuracy of the result.  

To pull all this data together and allow an AI system to draw accurate conclusions from it requires a willingness to share. And often firms feel they need to protect the data on their solutions from everyone else, including the customers who own the data. 

This is due to a fear of competitive displacement, but it often significantly degrades the resulting analysis.  All three vendors, collectively representing over a trillion dollars of market capitalization. 

Rather than creating a competitive problem, if these three vendors pull this off, it could far more deeply endear them to their customers and assure both their – and their customers’ – success. 

Critical Need

From Deep Learning to AI, the existing and coming wave of ever more intelligent systems are heavily dependent on the quantity and quality of the data they must work with. 

The years of “Big Data” kind of messed us up because the focus seemed to largely be on data collection with inadequate focus on assuring the quality of the data and analyzing it real time.  Real time is important because getting a critical answer to a problem months after you needed it typically doesn’t have you thinking warm and fuzzy things about the solution or the vendor that supplied it. 

Whoever finds the best ways of turning this expensive and largely unused data back into the critical resource it was promised to be will survive the AI revolution we all seem to agree is coming. 

All three of these firms both recognized this critical need and that they couldn’t solve the related problems on their own.  More important, I think each realized that, very quickly, firms not part of an initiative like this might get blackballed in bids.  In other words, the capability of sharing data across vendors may be so critical to IT shops that it is very likely that firms unwilling to share this information and access might find themselves locked out of most enterprises who realize how critical this sharing will be (or is). 

Open Data Initiative: Members on Same Page

The Open Data Initiative is unusual both because every founding member appears to be on the same page. Also because it is about sharing access to data that is far more customer than vendor focused. 

The companies founding this initiative like and trust each other, the initiative reflects a shared common goal, and it addresses a critical need all three founding firms have. This is largely the formula for a successful partnership because it reflects on both the products’ roadmaps, and a laser-like focus on existing and emerging critical customer needs.  

In the end I think ODI, the Open Data Initiative, will be critical to the success of these emerging data initiatives because the focus is solidly on actionable results from a critical mass of vendors.  I think this will make the initiative, even with just these three vendors, critical to watch. But given membership may well be a requirement for data technology vendors in a few months, keeping up with this thing could become even more critical over time. 

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