GoodData and Visa: A common data-driven future?

From user, to partner and investor. That's not a very common scenario for software vendors, especially if the user-cum-partner-investor is someone like Visa. GoodData is evolving more than its relationship with select users.

GoodData, one of the key players in business intelligence and analytics, today announced a partnership with Visa. This is an interesting development for both sides, for a number of reasons.

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ZDNet connected with Roman Stanek, GoodData Founder and CEO, to discuss the ins and outs of the deal, the data landscape, and the way data are used to shape directions for organizations big and small, and what's next for GoodData.

The evolution of the data ecosystem

Last time we spoke with GoodData executives, it was on the occasion of another major partnership, that with Amazon. We picked up from where we left off, by going over the evolution of that partnership. Stanek said things are coming along great, and the collaboration around AWS Redshift was just the beginning.

Having a partner with such a big presence and important role as Amazon, which is the dominant player in the cloud market, is a great strength for GoodData. Stanek emphasized the broader vision of what he called investment in data, and how organizations can have a return on their data. But he also touched upon certain technical aspects GoodData is making a play on, and how they fit into the big picture.

Kubernetes is prominent among them, and the discussion on AWS naturally brought it to the fore. There has been ample coverage around Kubernetes lately, and Kubernetes was something we picked early on. Despite having growing pains around data management, the fact that we have a de-facto standard for application deployment on-premise and in the cloud in Kubernetes is a game-changer.

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GoodData wants to act as the enablement layer for its clients to offer analytics in their own offering to their own clients.

GoodData has historically been a managed solution for analytics, running in the cloud. The fact that it was among the first to realize the importance of cloud-based analytics solutions and execute on it has enabled it to get to where it is today. In a way, Kubernetes may enable GoodData to turn the approach on its head, to keep with the times, and maintain a lead.

Today, the name of the game is multi-cloud and hybrid cloud. Stanek called this "data balkanization": Whether by design or not, few organizations put all their data eggs in one cloud basket. And many organizations also maintain on-premise infrastructure.

Although a cloud-based solution like GoodData can ingest data from anywhere, it's much more efficient to be co-located with the data. Plus, there are always some users that want to have more control over their deployments.

Those users, the "geeky ones" as Stanek called them, can rejoice: GoodData is about to release its re-engineered Kubernetes-based offering in Beta soon, probably in July 2020. That way GoodData goes from data consumer to data prosumer. Joining the Kubernetes ecosystem will enable GoodData to join the Kubernetes observability ecosystem, and make geeky users happy.

Visa went from user to partner and investor, because financial services are all about data

Stanek noted that being an Amazon partner will work great for Kubernetes deployment. GoodData seems to have a way with partnerships, and partnering with Visa is a testament to this. Visa has been a GoodData customer for a while. Stanek said what made Visa go from user to partner and investor was a shared vision around data.

That may be true, but it does not really tell us much about Visa's specific goals. We have a more speculative projection, which is that in a global environment where payments are increasingly becoming a data integration, processing, and analytics game, having someone like GoodData on board can come in handy.

Consider the PSD2 EU directive, for example. Although GDPR got much attention, PSD2 may be even more important. What PSD2 does is that it makes financial institutions give access to (parts of) their data and APIs to 3rd parties. Those 3rd parties can, if they have client consent, use that data and APIs to offer financial services to their clients.

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Going from user to partner-investor does not happen every day, especially if the user is Visa

Before the time PSD2 was set to go into effect, we speculated we might see new players such as Facebook move into payments. This prediction was confirmed, most notably by Facebook with Libra. Facebook Libra seems to be at an impasse, with Visa having withdrawn from its consortium along with Mastercard and others.

We posit, however, that Visa would very much like to be able to do what Libra set out to do, albeit not necessarily in the same way. To be able to do customer 360 with data coming from many different providers, for example, a tool like GoodData would be very good to have.

The details of the deal with GoodData were not discussed. However, we don't routinely see payment technology companies like Visa investing in, and partnering with, their software vendors. Melissa McSherry, SVP and global head of Data, Security, and Identity products at Visa, noted that:

"As the world faces pandemic and economic challenges, there's no better time to invest in areas that will improve the lives of consumers and businesses. With insights from data, we can help sellers, financial institutions, and Visa's extended global business network better understand and meet consumer needs, especially when those needs are changing fast. Our partnership with GoodData will allow us to do that."

A data-driven philosophy

Stanek, on his part, noted that GoodData is extremely pleased to have Visa as an investor and partner in GoodData's mission to help companies of any size to become data companies. We could not help but notice the pandemic reference in Visa spokesperson's statement, and this brought up an opportunity to discuss how GoodData's philosophy is put to practice with Stanek.

Recently, GoodData helped develop and launch the COVID-19 Commerce Insight project to analyze a billion engagements and 400 million transactions showing the impact of COVID-19 on global and regional consumer spending.

The project is an Emarsys initiative in cooperation with GoodData, and Stanek said they wanted to do more than just another infection rate dashboard. The goal was to put up-to-date consumer data in the hands of business owners, economists, and policymakers, giving them the actionable insights needed to navigate this economic crisis.

The data included in the visualization is an anonymized subset of the online sales of brands in more than 100 countries, based on consumer engagement across more than one billion consumer profiles and 2,500 global brands. It powers analyses such as a look into how growth in e-commerce has accelerated to forecasted levels for at least 5 years ahead over the recent months.

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GoodData was among the first to get that data is moving to the cloud, and follow suit.

NicoElNino, Getty Images/iStockphoto

But how can organizations go beyond data points projected on yet another dashboard, to building data-driven applications? Stanek offered a vivid example, by asking the rhetorical question of how would users be able to navigate with their Uber if the data on their ride's location and speed were laid out on a dashboard.

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One of the initiatives GoodData is taking to help organizations go from dashboards to data-driven application is the Accelerator Toolkit. The Accelerator Toolkit is a UI library to enable customized and faster data analytics, along with educational resources. Stanek mentioned that GoodData plans to launch a GoodData University initiative soon, to offer more resources to empower organizations.

Another noteworthy development for GoodData is the evolution of its Semantic Layer data model. A new modeling tool by GoodData aims to improve collaboration between engineers and analysts to streamline the start process for enterprise data products.

Stanek initially referred to this as an attempt to establish a single version of the truth. This, however, has always been an elusive goal. While improving collaboration between engineers and analysts is commendable, more pragmatically, organizations can aim to establish shared data models among user groups, rather than global ones.

Stanek did not sound short of ambition, and our conversation touched upon a number of topics. If you want to listen to it in its entirety, make sure to subscribe to the Orchestrate all the Things podcast, where it will be released soon.

NOTE: The article has been edited to clarify that Visa is a payment technology company, not a financial institution.