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People to Watch 2019

Oliver Ratzesberger
President and CEO

Oliver Ratzesberger is President and Chief Executive Officer of Teradata. Until January 2019, he served as Teradata’s Chief Operating Officer with global responsibility for Teradata’s operations and led the company’s strategies for go-to-market, products, and services. He joined Teradata’s Board of Directors in November 2018.

Mr. Ratzesberger has an extensive background in analytics, big data, and software development. Prior to Teradata, he worked for both Fortune 500 and early-stage companies, holding positions of increasing responsibility in software development and IT, including leading the expansion of analytics at eBay.

A pragmatic visionary, Oliver frequently speaks and writes about leveraging data and analytics to improve business outcomes. His book with co-author Mohanbir Sawhney, “The Sentient Enterprise: The Evolution of Decision Making,” was published in 2017 and was named on the Best Seller List for the Wall Street Journal.

Datanami: Oliver, you’ve been with Teradata for six years. How has the market for data warehousing solutions changed over that time?

Oliver Ratzesberger: From warehousing to analytic ecosystems, the data warehousing market has radically transformed over the past six years. Back in 2013, when I joined Teradata, the market was at the top of the hype cycle for new tech solutions. New options were plentiful from both commercial vendors and in the open source world, and companies interested in “cost- effective” options rapidly adopted these products as point solutions. Instead of architecting a data and analytics ecosystem that allows for sustainability and repeatability, many of these companies ended up with thousands of data silos, adding incomprehensive complexity and enormous technology dept to their ecosystems.

After six years, the burden of that increased technology debt has reached boardroom level discussions. Leaders are now looking to drastically reduce out-of-control technology silos by finding a simpler, more integrated, yet more capable solution for driving growth and higher- level business outcomes.

At Teradata, we saw this change coming. We have stepped away from being strictly a data warehouse player and have recently released our Vantage platform to bring the next- generation analytics ecosystem to our customers.

Datanami: You spearheaded a major shift in Teradata’s strategy unveiled three years ago, called Analytics Everywhere. How is that new strategy going so far, and how will you measure its success?

Three years ago, many were grappling with how to best leverage the cloud. The benefits of cloud were intriguing, providing users with a new kind of flexibility and experience. Companies were seeking a roadmap to harness these cloudy like capabilities and so we developed Teradata Everywhere. By decoupling our software from our hardware, we provided our customers with ultimate flexibility to port their software investments between on-premise and cloud environments, as the need arose. Teradata Everywhere took the risk out of cloud and architecture decisions, and allowed companies to refocus on business outcomes, rather than one-off tech ecosystems.

However, this was only the starting point. We understood that data warehousing was only a component of a company’s overall data needs and recognized that an evolution was required in the data warehousing space. What our customers really wanted was to derive impactful business outcomes using advanced analytics that leveraged all of their data, all of the time, in real-time for intelligence derived at scale.

We met this need by introducing Teradata Vantage on top of Teradata Everywhere. Vantage elevated us from a data warehouse focus, to an advanced analytics ecosystem incorporating different technologies to simplify and de-risk decision making. Companies can now operationalize all of their analytics on an integrated platform that enables them to rise above the complexity, cost and inadequacy of today’s analytics landscape.

Our customers are responding very positively to this strategy and industry titans in trades like banking, healthcare and energy have already committed to Vantage and our vision for the future. We judge our success by our ability to continue providing the solutions our customers need and want, while continuously delivering value to our shareholders.

Datanami: What are the biggest opportunities you see in big data and AI over the next five years? What are the biggest challenges?

Today’s major opportunity with big data and AI is the significant role that algorithms can play to drive autonomous decision-making in the enterprise. The complexity in Teradata’s customers (some of the largest companies in the world) has surpassed human scale and capability. The deficit cannot be made up with more humans working harder – algorithms are the only viable solution and have a much larger role to play. This is the crux of building a “Sentient Enterprise” – an organization with a methodology for connecting analytic power, business practices and human dynamics. At Teradata, we leverage this vision of the Sentient Enterprise to underpin the design of our solutions and deliver an enabling analytic ecosystem – Teradata Vantage.

In contrast, the challenge faced with AI is the misunderstanding that AI implementations will cure “the sins of the past,” such as misuse of data lakes or bad data quality. In fact, the inverse is true: algorithms, AI and deep learning need even better curated data. Algorithms are intensely susceptible to the adage “bad data in, bad decisions out.” This is why we also need the guardrails of a human questioning the validity of the data and outcomes. And with AI’s ability to replicate and scale decision-making (from one decision a day to millions a day), when decisions go wrong, they go wrong by the millions.

Teradata Vantage is helping our customers safeguard against these pain points by providing a simple, singular ecosystem that version controls and tracks data moving through the processes of being wrangled, prepared and analyzed, allowing companies to govern both their data and algorithms.

Datanami: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you share about yourself that your colleagues might be surprised to learn – any unique hobbies or stories?

Much of my inspiration comes from reading. As you may expect, I spend a lot of time reading about new technology and applications. However, with the Internet, social media and my news feeds, I also find myself delving into diverse topics, from space travel to cosmology, through to nature. I am inspired to think through the implications of these topics on daily life, society and our planet.

I actively combine my technology skills with an interest in caring for our environment and our natural resources. Having two daughters, I am passionate to contribute and leave the world a better place for generations to come. At home, my family and I are heavily invested in alternative and renewable power sources, with a goal to run a carbon neutral household. 100% of our energy is driven through renewable means, we have electric vehicles and take a vested interest in water conservation, particularly important given we live in California where water reserves are limited.


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