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Interview: Thomas Been, Chief Marketing Officer at TIBCO

I caught up with Thomas Been, CMO of TIBCO, at the recent TIBCO NOW 2018 conference in Las Vegas on September 4-6. Please read my Field Report for a detailed review of the event. We chatted about a whole gamut of topics including the company’s top level message and theme of the show, “Innovation at the Edge: Aligning Innovation Strategy with Business Strategy.” Thomas is responsible for worldwide marketing at TIBCO. Under his leadership, the marketing team creatively drives a digital marketing revolution using TIBCO-powered tools and best-of-breed marketing technologies for corporate communications, global customer programs, campaigns, and corporate events to help TIBCO customers navigate their own digital transformation. In 15 years at TIBCO, Thomas has held strategic roles, both technical and sales-oriented, creating some of TIBCO’s  key customer relationships. Thomas holds a Master’s Degree in Physics from the Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis in France.

insideBIGDATA: So the theme of TIBCO Now conference was Innovation at the Edge: Aligning Innovation Strategy with Business Strategy. Please give our readers a high-level view of this message.

Thomas Been: The very high-level take is really this notion that innovation is critical to leadership today. Innovation allows your business to adapt to the current environment– and we know the environment is changing quickly. Innovation allows you to sometimes attract the best talent. So leadership without innovation is going to be hard. It is hard already, it’s going to get harder and harder. So it was first of all this notion of innovation to lead, innovation to be at the edge of your market. This is really an important thing. And it’s not something we came up on the marketing side, it’s really based on conversations with customers. And even when we started to talk more about our innovation, we had a tremendous reaction from our customers and now we can work together on those aspects. So that’s the first meaning, if you want, of innovation at the edge.

The second one is really this notion, that there’s a tremendous amount of innovation happening at the edge of the businesses.  And it may not be happening where businesses are expecting. There are still some companies who can afford to have innovation in labs, but very often innovation happens in the field by the people who are actually running operations, who are starting to seize the value of digital and physical and start to come up with innovative solutions.

Innovation happens a lot, also, with the customer experience. There’s so much– that’s why we wanted– we thought this digital code of conduct was necessary. There’s so much information you can get from the customer. But you need the customer to agree, first of all. It’s kind of a contract, and you need to provide that value back. We use a lot of innovative ideas in terms of combining digital marketing solutions to have this picture of our audience, and then engage with them the right way. The data and other patterns we see is a lot of businesses are realizing they’re sitting on a data goldmine. When they start investing in how they can actually manage the data even better, it’s very often a new service. We have manufacturers who are looking to now sell data services on top of what they manufacture and sell. We have banks who realized they got so good at actually analyzing the data, that they are selling their services to their competitors. So there’s a lot that happens, really, at the edge of the businesses, in terms of data, in terms of touchpoints with the ecosystem. That’s also the aspect we wanted to talk about so that we could put into perspective technologies like blockchain and IoT. So it’s the high-level view, which is what does it take for an organization to a) become more innovate and b) drive more value from innovation. And then one level below– are we making sure that we look at everywhere innovation can happen? That’s absolutely key.

insideBIGDATA: That’s a great message. Have you identified specific industries that are receptive to this message?

Thomas Been: Interestingly, most of them. I think that the work being done in customer experience is valuable for most. For healthcare, you care about patients. Airline is a very interesting one, because for the longest time, they were not directly in touch with their customers. They were saying, “Okay. Well, my job is to fly planes. And I’ll leave it to the airports to manage this relationship. But what has happened in the last year is that they give you an app, they have this connection with you. They provide you services outside of the plane, and that has been a revolution empowered by APIs, better understanding. JetBlue is a great example, and they absolutely relate to that notion of innovation at the edge. They are actually empowering other people. JetBlue uses customer analytics too, and they can identify who needs attention. That’s innovative to bring that power so that they can really, truly act and make every trip better. So yes, most industries relate to that. The interesting thing is that Delta, United, American Airlines, JetBlue are all using our technology.

A lot of integration, a lot of notification you see in the terminals and now being pushed to your phone is managed by integration software, an increasingly huge amount of analytics. The airline industry is becoming way more data-driven, and finally could get rid of the middleman, and go straight to the passenger. We have customers like KLM who are now engaging with their passengers via Facebook Messenger.

insideBIGDATA: Let’s turn our attention to cloud. Yesterday at the press conference, it was mentioned that TIBCO was all in the cloud. The cloud is your first focus with the Connected Intelligence Cloud message. Can you give us a high-level take on this message?

Thomas Been: The high-level take is the cloud is a wonderful enabler for the objective that Murray Rode (TIBCO’s CEO) spoke about which is to make our solutions available to more users including integration, analytics, data science, etc. For the longest time, we’ve catered mostly to IT teams. The cloud allows us to make it easier to meet the needs of our traditional audience, but also doing packages so that business users also can have access to those capabilities, as well as other teams of data scientists who can do so without the challenge of having to assemble everything. A data scientist will build a model, and then have to find a place to run it.

The idea of the Connected Intelligence Cloud is to make this process very seamless and embrace all the enterprise personas. The data scientist is going to be interested in the model. Is he/she going to necessarily be the one who’s going to deploy within an application or the dashboard? Not necessarily.

So the cloud gives us this ability to provide a better experience and also to comply in a better way to the opportunities or the constraints that our customers might have. You cannot always start big on a project. Sometimes you want to start on the beachhead context that you know well. You know that if it succeeds you’ve proven value, and then you want to scale. The cloud also gives us this flexibility.

Innovation is a good angle. You want to start. You have an idea. You want to see how it would go. Just go there, implement it. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. So the cloud is important in terms of architecture because it allows us to be in more places and to actually map even more to what our customers need to do. A fundamental principle at TIBCO is that we’ve never been the company who would tell you, “This is what you need to do. This is the way TIBCO does things. So you do this and you’re good.” We’ve always been a company where we empower the customers. “Okay. With integration, here’s what you need and we’ll do it together. Based on your data, and analytics and we’ll derive some value from it.” We’re not adding more constraints. We’re about customers developing their own solutions on top of ours.

This is why the cloud is a formidable enabler for that mission, and it allows us to address a larger audience. Very often, the solution might be the same underneath. The solutions my operations guys, who don’t know how to code, would use and our IT team will use, may be the same in the back-end but they’re going to have fundamentally different experiences. The cloud is a hugely preferred platform, and you may be promoting the cloud, but you’re not divorcing yourself from on-prem. It’s an option.

Our biggest customers, the FedEx and the BMOs and others, global companies, they may not have the same type of operations all around the world. Gone are the days where you can replicate data centers. They won’t have this flexibility. They also need to have organizations that are going to be very quick to do innovation and others about more about running and scaling your projects. You’re not going to have the same constraints.

The value is to have the freedom, the freedom to deploy on the cloud provider you want, on your own premises. You also will not say, “Okay, make a choice now and you’re done for life.” You want to start– maybe you’re experimenting something. You started with the cloud, prove its value, and then you can deploy it on your own metal.

The last aspect, which is very important, is the idea that businesses need to own their data and own their intelligence. We’re going to give them access to any data because you don’t want to be biased. You don’t want them to see only the data Salesforce want them to see as an example. Then they are free to use it in the way they want.

We call this “digital sovereignty.” We think it’s absolutely fundamental for businesses. It’s something that businesses should treat as both a big opportunity and a threat, but it’s really a matter of sovereignty. How? You’re investing in AI. Are you sure the data you’re giving to your AI is the right one? Are you sure it’s going to make decisions that you define? These are things that you need to address. This is why we’ve always been agnostic, independent, and open. These are very fundamental things since the company was founded. Those principles have never been more important than today because businesses have access to a lot of data. They need to know which data is going to be important. They need to get insights, but pure insights, not biased by my views. So that’s why we want to keep customer options open. The cloud allows us to do so. Our capabilities also allow us to do so.

insideBIGDATA: I heard the “persona-driven” concept mentioned at the press conference yesterday. Can you say a couple of words about this?

Thomas Been: Sure. Actually, it’s a theme Matt Quinn (TIBCO’s COO) and I worked on together a few years ago. We were mostly catering to the IT population. We’d give them tools that they would adapt to their environment and make them work. But now, since we’re leveraging technologies like the cloud, we can actually expose those capabilities in different ways under a very nice, easy to use graphic interface. So the same capabilities can now be put into the hands of different personas. The biggest mistake would be to have one interface that satisfies all. That was the mistake of other vendors that say “You need to do everything this way.” What we’ve done is build the platform in a way that I can address the marketing user and give him the integration and analytics capabilities that he needs in his language with his data. I can go to the IT folks. I can even go to the developer or the data scientist.

The data scientist has a certain view of the world. They have certain skills. Do they really care that much about visualization? In either case, they care immensely about the notebooks and such. So the first aspect is to give to each of those personas the right and the best interface to make them successful. Then the beauty of the platform is that we can allow them to work together. The data scientist is going to build it tomorrow. IT is going to deploy it easily and quickly. The business users are going to consume it in a dashboard. So it’s the right interface for everybody, and that will bring everybody to work together. That’s a key aspect.

On the marketing side, we’ve done exactly the same thing. Instead of saying, “Oh, we need a big message about TIBCO.” I said, “Well, how about if we walk in the shoes of our audience and understand what those personas are really interested in? What are the use cases they’re looking solve? What does value mean in their world?” That’s how we market to them. We’re not saying, “Oh, TIBCO, TIBCO.” We say, “Here’s what we need to know about more efficient marketing campaigns, and here’s a tool that can help you.” It’s the same approach. We look at the outcome, look at what matters for the audience and then have the right product or the right campaign and just educate and then engage them this way. This is directly related to what the cloud can do. I guess, without the cloud, it’s virtually impossible to do so.

insideBIGDATA: Lastly, I was reading the latest Forrester Wave: Enterprise BI Platforms, and there was TIBCO. They said they were pleased with the rise of TIBCO into their leadership category. I think there’s just three or four companies here. I read a comment in the report, and it had something to do with what you just said earlier about your privatization in 2014. They sort of said, “Well, TIBCO may be had a lull for a while. But now, they’re back strong after their privatization in 2014.” That was interesting. How do you feel about being in that leadership category now?

Thomas Been: It feels great. And I do enjoy Forrester for their approach, talking to customers and having a data-driven approach to the way they do these reports. So it’s always a pleasure. They’re very fair in their assessment. I think Forrester is acknowledging the work that we’ve been doing, as we were just discussing, improve the experience that we’re providing.

We’ve always had a lot of analytics capabilities. I think they really appreciated the fact that we’ve enriched the overall solution with things such as data science, but not to just have more coverage but really to integrate and map through those processes, how is data science or analytics really done. I think for us to really seize the value in that approach, beyond providing a way to display information to everybody, is having information flowing across the organization at the right moment and data science is going to increase this.

 

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