DATA ANALYTICS

Blackstone Fireside Chat

Nazim Foufa

Marketing Content Specialist at Sigma Computing

Blackstone is a leader in the global investment business, with investments across pension funds, large institutions, individuals, and more. With the financial services landscape evolving quickly, more and more financial services organizations are becoming more data-driven — leveraging data and making critical business decisions based on data.

The challenge Blackstone’s customers face is primarily focused around how they can acquire and retain customers. In this post, we interview Tom Pologruto from Blackstone to learn how they leverage cloud computing to translate data into actionable insights.

About Tom: Tom Pologruto is a Managing Director in the Blackstone Technology and Innovations group and serves as the firm’s Chief Data Architect as well as Chief Technology Officer of Liquid Markets Technology (BAAM, BXC, BIS, BREDS, and Harvest) and Data Science. As Chief Data Architect, Pologruto is focused on bringing advanced data analytics, warehousing, and visualization to all of the Blackstone corporate and investment teams. 

In the past 10 years, what would you say has changed about big data and where is it going?

 Tom Pologruto: Big data has always meant different things to different people. One is big data to one enterprise can either be viewed as uncontrollably large by another company or trivially small in a different context. The evolution of the terminology has now been more normalized and big data in 2022 is truly big data sets. Mostly, I would say streaming multi geospatial, real time data think like Facebook or Google search from mobile devices.

I think the big changes in the last 10 years are about the explosion and availability of data coupled to better tools to make the data more accessible to everyone. This makes big data much more accessible and tools like Snowflake and Sigma enable work to be done effectively on those data sets. This is really the future. Turning to traditionally big data sets into just data sets by allowing it to be analyzed by anyone assuming they have the right tools.

What are some of the key examples and business outcomes that financial services like Blackstone are solving for with the cloud?

TP: It’s funny you say that — honestly, the cloud in and of itself doesn’t solve any particular problem. It does provide you a platform for solving problems and for automation. This is where tooling and opinionated application and data development comes in and the importance of the work. Blackstone is being very holistic where our data and software states are both targeting the cloud with data leading the way. We have been partners with Snowflake for over two years and the journey to the cloud and the construction of our enterprise data warehouse are really one and the same for us.

What challenges led you to move away from more traditional analytic solutions? What gap did you see that Sigma filled?

TP: So in my opinion Sigma isn’t a BI tool, it’s an analytics platform. This is the appeal to me to bridge the gap between our data enterprise warehouse, our data catalog, and ultimately the analysis we do on a day-to-day basis. BI and business intelligence tools to me imply that we have well-curated, mature data as inputs. Some way of organizing that data and then to deliver the outputs for general consumption. When we are doing analysis, we’re often encountering new data and bespoke analyses which do not fit very well into a BI framework. And this is where Sigma and Snowflake come to fill the gaps.

Governance and security are always on folks’ minds. What are you seeing as it relates to the cloud forward stack you’ve adopted in that context of governance and security?

TP: Data governance and security are our top priority of Blackstone. We put quite a substantial effort behind protecting all of our infrastructure software and data and we’ve invested tremendously in the space. Snowflake and Sigma both provide native ways to protect data and keep it secure but still accessible, which was really a prerequisite to our ability to use and scale it in our portfolio.

What would you say are the key areas to focus on in order to be successful?

TP: Priorities are the key to delivering value to the organization. And we work across all of our businesses to ensure we understand the biggest challenges as well as the greatest opportunities. From that perspective, the overwhelming priority has been to curate high-quality data into a singular place for everyone to consume securely and correctly. This is in stark contrast to how things are done in most organizations where data lives within various sorted software system shared file drives and databases. The next step once you’ve done that is to enable everyone to use best-in-class tools to find, understand, and ultimately answer questions from that data.

How is Sigma helping you build a community around data?

TP: Absolutely data is the social network of the workplace. We collaborate around data and the conclusions we draw from that data. This happens at every level of the organization from the CEO to the new analyst, just joining. The process of getting everyone on the same page and using the same tools is the challenge at hand. So we can all be together regardless of the questions we are answering or who is asking them. This is the meaning of data democratization allowing everyone to collaborate around golden copies about data and analytics. So in that sense, Snowflake and Sigma really fit the bill quite nicely.

What is a change that financial services customers should look to in order to accelerate their digital journey?

TP: I can’t emphasize enough the value of priority. Once you can identify how your teams are spending their time versus how you want them to spend their time, you can formulate the business objectives that are right for that transformation. Once done, I focus on the delivery of that specific pain point and work backward to the tools that I need. Counterintuitively, I often find that software is not the answer. The software is really not the answer to these challenges. And it’s usually a data-driven transformation and the toolbox around the transformation is where I see segment Snowflake being immensely helpful.

Organizations like Blackstone are pulling ahead of the curve by turning data access into a competitive advantage. Find out how Snowflake and Sigma are on the front lines when it comes to making sure organizations can draw critical answers from their data.

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