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Informatica CEO outlines digital transformation challenges

Informatica chief Amit Walia gives insight into what organizations need most to enable digital transformation and why enterprise data management is at the foundation.

Digital transformation is a buzzword that is often overused and misunderstood. Yet, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, organizations of all types have a clear need to embrace digital modes of service delivery and enablement, in a world in which social distancing is the norm.

Among the many vendors looking to help organizations with digital transformation efforts is Informatica, with its portfolio of enterprise data management, data governance, analytics, data catalog and visibility offerings. This year has been particularly busy for the data management and integration vendor, with new CEO Amit Walia taking over on Jan. 2 and multiple product updates and releases. Walia is no stranger to Informatica, having been with the vendor since 2013 and had previously been the company's president of products and marketing.

Back in January, few could have predicted the direction that the world and businesses would go in the following months. In this Q&A, Walia discusses digital transformation in the COVID-19 economy and where his company is headed.

How has the transition to Informatica CEO during the COVID-19 pandemic gone so far?

Amit Walia: It has been an incredibly crazy year, to say the least. It has only been eight months since I took over, but it feels like 24, given that so much has happened.

Headshot of Informatica CEO Amit WaliaAmit Walia

First of all, needless to say, a huge amount of uncertainty emerged when the pandemic hit and nobody knew where the world would go. We are an over 27-year-old company and the three pillars on which we sit are innovation, customer-centricity and people focus. We leaned very heavily on focusing on people to make sure that they are safe and that they can work from home during a very stressful time.

We basically leaned in very heavily to help our customers. Remember, some of our customers are in sectors that are struggling. We also helped our public sector customers and some specific healthcare customers in the COVID-19 environment to make sure that we can help states and governments leverage data in this crisis, as well as in the evolution of healthcare solutions.

The other thing that has become really clear is that digital transformation is even more important than ever.

What is digital transformation all about and what's the key challenge?

Walia: What customers thought was transformation was basically modernization. In the last couple of years, some of them were transforming. But now they've realized digital transformation means fundamentally becoming a digital business and that's where a lot of focus is gone.

There is a difference between what I call digital modernization and digital transformation. There are some people who might think that if they get a cloud-based application up and running they are digital, but that's not actually true.

There are different types of digital transformation. Companies are making new products and services, finding new ways to engage with customers and building new operating and supply chain models. Companies are changing and creating new business models.

It has been an incredibly crazy year, to say the least.
Amit WaliaCEO, Informatica

From your perspective as Informatica CEO, what is the intersection of digital transformation and data management?

Walia: One of the fundamental realizations that has been going on for the last couple of years, and it has become even more prominent in the last six months, is that every strategic digital project is ultimately a data management project.

If I want to understand my customer better, I need to take all of the information that I have of the customer within my systems, combine that with all of the interaction data that exists for them and bring it all together. I need to make sure that I have the right governance on top of it and the right privacy controls, so I don't have everybody run amok and risk regulatory compliance issues.

What's next for Informatica and you as CEO, and where do you go from here?

Walia: We have a cloud-first, cloud-native strategy where everything is in the context of accelerating the journey to the cloud for our customers. When we say cloud, we mean hybrid. So we are cloud-first, but we want to help our customers with what they have done on premises and connect it to the cloud.

We have also made a big bet on AI because with the complexity we have today and what I see on the horizon with data growing exponentially, it will be hard to manage without an AI complement. And of course we will continue to have a heavy focus on customer success. Our belief is that we need to help our customers not just on the technical value, but on the business value from their investments.

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