Today we have selected Steve Pogrebivsky to take his interview. He is the President and Co-founder of DataGroomr.
First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
The pandemic highlighted for us how important it is for businesses to have accurate data. Technology is how we are all communicating now. If the contact information is unreliable or compromised by multiple records, that’s going to slow down how you reach out to customers, partners, and colleagues. In terms of our own business, we have been doing well and making sure to stay connected via technology.
We’ve always had a global team and had to rely on video meetings and online platforms to communicate daily, so there has not been a huge impact from COVID on how we do business. But, as I mentioned, the pandemic—especially during quarantine—really shone a light on the necessity of clean data.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
My career started in the life sciences space focusing on regulated content management systems. That experience was pivotal for me to understand the value and impact of structured and unstructured data on the enterprise. Whether it was a trial submission to the FDA or simply a customer contact, the quality of that data was the difference between success and failure.
Based on this experience, I co-founded two other companies, including Metavis Technologies, an administration and management platform for SharePoint, Office 365, OneDrive, file systems, and other cloud-based content management systems. My most recent venture is a company called DataGroomr that I co-founded with Ben Novoselsky. Like many other ideas, this one came from my frustration working with bad data. In this instance, it was data maintained in Salesforce. We were constantly trying to remove duplicates and outdated information so that our sales and marketing staff could do their jobs.
The legacy approach to resolving these issues is to create many rules and restrictions, but the mere management was daunting. Our solution was to leverage AI and specifically machine learning to identify and resolve these problems. The results are amazing. We can essentially teach a computer to do these repetitive tasks and free up resources for more important activities.
How does your company innovate?
We realized early on that machine learning offers an opportunity to manage data more effectively and in a way that can be configured to your organization’s particular needs. We are modeling the fastest and most efficient ways to identify duplicates in Salesforce data. What ML means for us is understanding what we are trying to predict and staying focused on all the possible uses of the data.
We innovate by constantly improving the solution through machine learning algorithms that get smarter the more they run through the data. That innovation also comes from listening to our customers, using DataGroomr, and what would help them do their jobs better. For example, we recently heard from a couple of DataGroomr users that they would like a way to verify the accuracy of their data and, more specifically, emails, phone numbers, and addresses. So, we added various approaches ranging from neural networks to third-party sources that do this type of verification.
How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve always been a global team that connected virtually. So there hasn’t been much of an adjustment in terms of how we communicate. And in fact, our business has been growing rapidly over the past year and a half. The only shift for us was that we couldn’t meet in person with customers and colleagues at Dreamforce or user group meetings.
However, the many video presentations we have done are a lot of fun and always well received. Seems everyone has gotten used to a virtual world. We love connecting with Salesforce User Groups to talk about how machine learning works in general and share a demo of how DataGroomr applies machine learning to clean data. We’ll continue doing them and, hopefully, can soon do some in person.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
As I mentioned, our team was dispersed anyway, which avoided any difficult decisions this time. However, I have been through a few other geopolitical transitions, and they are always challenging. First and foremost, I’ve learned the value of being agile with your technology and resources. Whether it’s allowing people to work from anywhere or making flexible schedules to accommodate transitions, secondly, it is important to be upfront and honest with your team. As with the problem we are trying to solve with DataGroomr, good data allows people to make good decisions.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Of course, we are avid Salesforce users and appreciate our access to their partner program. We use Freshdesk to stay connected to our customers and the Jira platform to manage internal processes and workflows. But primarily, we are focused on creating a team of very experienced and accomplished experts. For example, our ML engineers and web UI/UX experts help us perfect the algorithms and effectively deliver our application intuitively.
In terms of management, it’s really important to be flexible and reconfigure the approach based on the metrics we’re seeing of what’s working and what’s not working. To be successful in today’s constantly evolving tech landscape, I would say that agility is one of the most important management skills.
Who are your competitors? How do you plan to stay in the game?
Our primary competitors are other deduplication apps that are available on the AppExchange. But the major differentiator between them and us is that there is no setup or configuration needed with DataGroomr, and we are the only app to use machine learning. A Salesforce user can sign into their existing Salesforce account and add our tool for an immediate data assessment and cleaning.
We plan to stay in the game and be the best by continually improving how the algorithms we create identify and remove duplicates. We recently added the Brushr tool, enabling users to verify Salesforce record data, including email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers. By enabling data validation for select fields, you can sort by the quality of your data. Brushr ensures that data quality and validity surpass the competition. And we have more improvements coming soon.
Your final thoughts
Data is an incredible opportunity, but it’s also a huge risk that is not always given the oversight by businesses that it requires. Business leaders tend to think of data as a third-party resource that they know contains specific intelligence but is somehow outside of their realm of control. And especially when they are using a CRM system, like Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, or Oracle, they expect a white-glove approach to their data management that relieves them of all responsibility. Not so. Even the best CRM systems require a combination of people and processes to optimize the system’s capability.
Our goal is to bring our combination of expertise and machine learning technology to every company that uses Salesforce and helps them to keep their data clean.