Accelerating Your Statewide Data Strategy with Alation
By Eric Rosburg
Published on March 29, 2023
Alation has secured a Software Licensing Program (SLP) in California and a Department of Information Resources (DIR) in Texas. These procurement contracts demonstrate that Alation is a trusted partner to state and other regional public sector entities. They also help to streamline and accelerate the launch of public-sector partnerships while ensuring new customers get a competitive price. To shed further light on the value of these contracts and how they benefit our customers, I sat down for an interview with our marketing team. Enjoy!
Hi, Eric! Please tell us about your background.
Eric Rosburg, Senior Account Executive, Alation: Sure! I have been in software and technology sales to the public sector for the last ten-plus years. Prior to that, I was a CTO in the state of California and have worked for state and local governments for 15 years.
Alation has secured a Software Licensing Program (SLP) in California and a Department of Information Resources (DIR) in Texas. What does this mean for public leaders in these regions?
Eric: So it really means three things, which come down to trust, price, and speed.
First, it lets tech buyers in the public sector know Alation is legally approved for use. They can trust us.
Second, it ensures they’re going to get the best price for our platform. This contract has already been pre-bid and it’s not to exceed a set price. This guarantees that what they get was pre-negotiated, thus ensuring they’re doing right by taxpayers’ money.
Third, it offers a faster path to implementation. Procurement contracts help to mitigate the RFP process, which is often super painful and time-consuming. These contracts are key to, not only helping our customers buy Alation easily, but also shortening the sales cycle quite a bit as well – so customers can get started within months rather than years!
What role do partners play in the process?
Our partners bring everything together. They help our customers architect their modern data stack, tying in Snowflake or Fivetran where they’re needed, for example. We can bring that stack to life through our partners. They’re also instrumental in connecting us to the key decision-makers that need a data intelligence platform.
When I first came to the private sector, I was a partner. I got to experience the agnostic partner approach where you’re working with folks as an advisor, guiding them to the right decisions based on their history, appetite for risk, business goals, et cetera.
That experience taught me what people are looking for. I know my customers are looking for the right solution at the right price. I know that my partners are looking to maximize their GP.
You were a CTO for public sector entities in California for almost 15 years. How does that impact your work today?
Eric: I have a lot of empathy for the non-tangible challenges the public sector faces.
Every organization has the same sort of technical challenges. They need to do things better, and faster. They need to manage technology more fluidly. They need to capture workflows in a more ubiquitous way. Everybody has to deal with those challenges.
But public sector folks face different challenges. For one, they have budget cycles. They have to deal with the threat of losing end-of-year monies when the new fiscal year turns over.
They also have unique budget constraints. There might be money designated for one specific portion of a project. They’ll say, “We’re going to target the HR department” or, “We’re going to target these five schools, but not those six because they were just funded 3 years ago” So funding will be funneled to half a project and not the other half.
This means I have a lot more empathy for what they’re doing and can also share the strategies I’ve used in the past. This enables me to begin conversations as a trusted advisor, because I’ve been in their shoes, and have experienced these same challenges before.
Putting on your CTO hat: What is the benefit of a data intelligence platform to the public sector?
Eric: There’s a tendency for public sector entities to say, “We can’t afford that.” But in my experience, budget is not a roadblock if you can make the right business case.
Now, in my 15 years as a CTO, I never once had any project that I tried to get through denied when I had a solid business case. So, once public data leaders start to think of themselves more as enterprise-type customers, they can start to see, “Oh, I do need a data intelligence platform because I have the same amount of data, if not more, than a similarly sized commercial company has.”
What other statewide or regional contracts does Alation have?
Eric: We have Ohio and Maryland, and we’re close to securing the Massachusetts contract. And those are all state-level or regional contracts.
And from a national level, we have the NASPO, TIPS, and OMNIA contracts. And those two seem to be the most widely used in a lot of the Midwest and in some of the municipalities.
Why is it important for public entities to modernize their data management strategies?
Nobody knew what the heck to do when COVID hit. We were getting all sorts of new information on hospitalizations, infection rates, and vaccinations. The county and private health systems were all funneling requested information to the Department of Public Health. And that department is supposed to make real-time type policies based on that new data. But they had no clue how to access or manage it all.
COVID caused many leaders in the public sector to realize that they have to modernize their data strategies. They need to manage and govern their data more efficiently and provide public access to data in a user-friendly way.
What data management challenges are unique to the public sector?
Eric: The old adage was people don’t ever leave the public sector. That means institutional knowledge is siloed in the brains of people who have been at an organization for up to 40 years! So Bob Smith has been on this team for decades and he’s seen all these projects come through. He understands and remembers why we only upgraded the infrastructure at these five schools and not the other six. So if I’m a new CTO walking in, I may have some questions only Bob can answer… and it will take time for me to learn that.
But if we can catalog that tribal knowledge, new users can learn from Bob as they search. As a newcomer, I could search within a specific project and get the answers I need more quickly.
The transition to remote work has made this even more critical. With people out of the office, many are missing that social connectivity. But the catalog supports conversations, so people can ask questions and be guided to the right data without having to submit a ticket, enter a new workflow, or wait for weeks to access it. In this way, the catalog speeds up policies and access exponentially.
How is Alation helping public sector teams today?
Eric: One state bought a very specific pilot project. It was only a handful of viewers and curators, about ten curators and 50 viewers. It was specific to one department, and they were leveraging Alation to better manage and find their data, so they could produce reports faster.
A month into the pilot, the department chief walked into a cabinet meeting and threw down a report that used to take her six months to produce, and she was able to produce it in less than four weeks. All the other department leaders snapped their heads around and said, “I’ll have what she’s having!” because they wanted that ability to move faster too.
Why should public entities consider a data intelligence platform or data catalog?
Eric: Because they’re all asking for it – they just don’t know that they’re asking for it. I’ve spent months reviewing multiple strategic data plans for a lot of the customers I serve. And their governance programs always start with “establish a committee” and then “search and discover the data.”
And so far, their efforts with catalogs that only offer search and discovery are very static. They might pull data into an Excel spreadsheet. But as soon as they close or save it, it’s out of date because changes have been made.
Being able to automate that through a data intelligence platform like Alation will empower them to speed up the discovery process. It will also allow them to find curated, tagged data and use it more efficiently and compliantly.
What’s the future of data management in the public sector?
Eric: Well, California’s Strategic Data Plan shares that roadmap, and we have mapped exactly how Alation is going to ensure that our public partners in California can meet the different objectives that the plan lays out. We can even help them take it a step further.
I’ll share some examples. If public entities need to capture dataset historical information, we can do that with glossary pages, conversations, and articles. What the state of California calls ethical data governance, we call active data governance, but it’s the same thing. Alation moves the governance to the point of consumption. So the users know as soon as they search that, oh, this asset is subject to PII or this table has been endorsed by Martha. So I know that it’s good data to use. This ethical, or active governance, surfaces policies when and where people need them to coach compliant usage in workflow.
This is a real value multiplier. It increases efficiency and coaches people on how to use data compliantly and powerfully. This means people can do the work they were actually hired to do! Instead of hunting, gathering, and stressing over data’s origin, they can concentrate on more rewarding tasks, like analysis and driving value for constituents.
Alation for the public sector
We’re proud to secure these contracts because it means we can more rapidly meet the growing needs of the public sector. These clients face data landscapes that are as unique as they are challenging. To help them, we’ve hired best-in-class consultants and partners, who can guide people to the best tech stack to suit their unique needs and goals.
Alation is growing fast. Our Series E round valued the company at $1.7B, and today, more than 30% of the F100 use Alation. That said, any organization with the right data stack and strategy can wield the power of data to drive revenue, increase efficiencies, and improve customer experience – whether that customer is a grocery-store shopper or a taxpayer expecting more from the public entities forming their community.
Learn how a US government agency uses Alation to speed up analyst onboarding by 95%.
- Hi, Eric! Please tell us about your background.
- Alation has secured a Software Licensing Program (SLP) in California and a Department of Information Resources (DIR) in Texas. What does this mean for public leaders in these regions?
- What role do partners play in the process?
- You were a CTO for public sector entities in California for almost 15 years. How does that impact your work today?
- Putting on your CTO hat: What is the benefit of a data intelligence platform to the public sector?
- What other statewide or regional contracts does Alation have?
- Why is it important for public entities to modernize their data management strategies?
- What data management challenges are unique to the public sector?
- How is Alation helping public sector teams today?
- Why should public entities consider a data intelligence platform or data catalog?
- What’s the future of data management in the public sector?
- Alation for the public sector