The Silicon Review
‘Advanced data integration software translating into bottom-line gains for your business.’
Black Oak Analytics is a next-generation data solutions provider that enables its clients to create actionable, comprehensive views of data through its entity resolution, data driven marketing, and data analytics. The company leverages its advanced entity resolution software platform (HiPER) to enable clients to create actionable, comprehensive views of data with unparalleled speed and scale, even when no PII is available. Black Oak was founded in 2007 and is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
In Conversation with the Key Executive
What are the grounds on which you have expanded your company and its offerings over the years?
We started with limited data quality solutions, but we decided to focus on an extremely specialized data management area, that of data integration and entity resolution. We have learned to differentiate between “what is interesting in customer data” from things that are “valuable in customer data”. That lesson has informed the decisions we have made and our product roadmap over the years.
What challenges did you face in your initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
Moving to Hadoop and adjusting to the paradigm shift involved in moving to Big Data frameworks was challenging. It makes the design of an entity resolution system more difficult. Moving those same processes over to Spark has also been a challenge.
Scalability of the solution: Our first database solution limited the number of customers we could reach. We decided to make the solution scalable by investing in a complete re-engineering of our database server model to run on the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) platform using Hadoop MapReduce. Not only did the new solution have almost unlimited scalability, to our surprise we found that we did not need to maintain both a database and a Hadoop solution.
In our testing we discovered that the Hadoop system would perform as well as or outperform the database solution on a single machine by simply setting up a virtual Hadoop cluster with VMware. But once we had entity resolution enabled on Big Data in batch processing, we now saw the need for real-time enabled matching. Now we are working with Spark to perform entity resolution including transitive closure in real-time frameworks, something else that has required extensive testing and R&D.
Are there any trigger factors/events/individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?
When Brenda Reichelderfer (who is on our Board of Directors and is former CTO of International Telephone and Telegram), laid out a product strategy for HiPER. That was the catalyst for us to move forward as a software company.
What do you feel are the reasons behind your product’s popularity?
HiPER has a huge focus on configurability, auditability, quality, and rapid implementation. Many systems on the market perform entity resolution to varying degrees of complexity. Many of these systems lack a lot when it comes to these four areas. At Black Oak, we believe that it is important for organizations to have input and involvement (from a business perspective) on the matches produced by their entity resolution systems. All of the matching logic is completely configurable.
Furthermore, a multitude of meta data is collected when HiPER processes data. This meta data collection is important for auditing purposes and has a tremendous benefit for the third focus, quality. In the HiPER ecosystem, additional tools are focused completely on data quality. Through the use of these tools and consulting services, organizations can maintain a higher level of quality over time by using HiPER. Many systems out there have a minimum time to market of 6 months to a year. HiPER is both modular and has a single codebase, with a starting implementation time measured in weeks, not months.
What drives/inspires you to excel in your field of business?
Entity resolution is a common problem across many industry verticals. It is gratifying to have software solutions agile enough to solve this problem across so many types of businesses from marketing and financial (person and household entities) to healthcare and insurance (patient, member, and provider entities) to manufacturing (product and supplier entities).
How do you and your company contribute to the global IT platform and society at large?
Consistently and accurately identifying the same entity (person, place, or thing) across enterprise is foundational to data quality and data governance. From more accurate credit reports to personalized marketing, people benefit from what we do for our clients.
Meet the Key Executives
Rick McGraw, Chief Executive Officer: Rick possesses invaluable experience in both the technology and financial services industries, along with strong relationship-development skills that have proven instrumental in assembling Black Oak’s impressive team. He led the financial services sales support and global government practice for Acxiom Corporation.
Dr. John R. Talburt, Chief Science Officer: Dr. Talburt serves as the subject matter
expert for our Master Data Management solutions. In addition to being Black Oak Partner’s chief scientist, Dr. Talburt is also a professor of Information Science and director of the Information Quality Graduate Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).
‘Black Oak Analytics has advanced solutions allowing organizations of any size to convert data into recommendations and actions designed to improve profitability, competitiveness, and customer satisfaction.’