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FROM CLOUD DATA PLATFORMS TO DATA GOVERNANCE: SQLDBM'S EXPANDING HORIZONS

Anna Abramova, Client Engagement and Partnership Manager at SqlDBM

In this podcast, Anna Abramova, Client Engagement and Partnership Manager at SqlDBM, discusses the platform’s unique approach to database development without coding. The conversation covers her professional journey, SqlDBM’s specialization in cloud data platforms, and solutions for data modeling challenges. They touch on the customer journey, educational initiatives, and upcoming developments in data governance and collaborative documentation with “SqlDBM Pages.”

SqlDBM, a SaaS solution that helps develop databases online without writing a single line of code.

Anna Abramova
Client Engagement and Partnership Manager at SqlDBM

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Wytpod. My name is Harshit and I’m the Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and e-commerce business marketing. Today’s special guest is Anna, client engagement and partnership manager of SqlDBM, a SaaS solution that helps develop databases online without writing a single line of code. A big welcome to you Anna, and I’m so happy to talk to you next time.

Yeah, thank you. I’m excited to be here too.

I want to start talking about your journey. I would love to know about your professional journey so far and how you got introduced to your current job, please.

Yeah, for sure. My whole career is spanning around B2B offerings, specifically in software as a service space. SqlDBM is just a natural progression of things that I’ve done before. I previously was with an API connector company for e-commerce storefronts like Shopify, Amazon, BigCommerce, etc., you name it, basically sending data from e-commerce stores over to Oracle, and Netsuite. That company was called Far App, and it was acquired by my Netsuite at some point because of how good of a job they were doing. And then since then, I found myself more towards a data architecture part of the game. SqlDBM is a database modeling tool and data warehouse modeling tool in the same space as the ecosystem of Data integration solution. This is a metadata space on the visualization of things for data architects. I’m passionate about technical products and specifically how they get into the hands of a customer. My whole experience is all about business development, sales, and client relations. And I try to stay in that lane. And I like it. I like it a lot. Hopefully, that gives a quick intro of how I got into this. I don’t remember where it started originally, my passion for tech, but I know it’s here to stay.

That’s brilliant. Let’s talk about the platform altogether to know its core expertise, the framework, and the methodologies it offers.

For SqlDBM, you mean?

Yeah.

Yeah, sure. There is a big movement right now in the industry towards data clouds or cloud data platforms. They’re called different ways. I’m pretty much talking about analytical space in data, and it could be called data warehousing, it could be called data lake housing, data lake, or just cloud data platform altogether. There are cool solutions right now that take in market by storm. Particularly, we partner with a company named Snowflake, and a company named Databricks. We’re partnering with Google Cloud’s product, Google Big query. Microsoft has a lot of products in that space and Amazon Web services as well. It’s pretty much this cloud analytics and the data warehousing and data platform space. SqlDBM integrates with those to provide a visualization of conceptual, logical, and physical data models. I don’t want to get too into the world of the techy stuff, but I guess on the business side, it’s pretty much an online playground that connects to those powerful, very popular cloud data platforms. There’s an overall movement for companies of all sizes and shapes and forms and industries. In the old school days, everyone had an on-prem version of a Data warehouse, and now we see the industry more and more moving towards a cloud offering.

So we’re a supporting mechanism in that part of the modern ecosystem of tooling that data teams are using right now, and that’s helped paint the picture.

You’re talking about a few integrations, but now to know a bit more about that sense. On one the platform offers concerning the integration with the other third-party platforms.

Yeah, for sure. Honestly, in the space of SaaS software vendors, it is one of the big value propositions of why, Honestly, in any space, why you would prefer or should prefer a cloud offering because it can integrate with the rest of your tech stack. And so when it comes to specifically SqlDBM story, the integrations that matter are integrations with the workflow that target audience, which is for SqlDBM case, serving data engineers, data engineering teams, data architecture teams, and sometimes data governance teams as well. And pretty much honestly, anyone who becomes a consumer of enterprise data models. And when we speak about the target audience and what other solutions they use, they would be using a version of a gig. For example, it would be GitHub, GitLab, or something of that nature which SqlDBM integrates with. It would be modern solutions from Atlassian like Jira for ticketing workflow management and confluence. So as a visual tool ourselves, pretty much the product of SqlDBM usage would be an interactive visual diagram or metadata landscape tables underneath a data warehouse. And because it’s a visual product itself, extremely visual, it’s important to integrate it with other visual tools.

For example, Confluence has been popularly adopted across companies for internal communication and knowledge sharing. And so for us to be able to embed the visual part of our product into Confluence pages lowers the barrier of entry. So it allows for this network effect in getting SqlDBM tooling into the company-wide adoption. Let’s say you’re a data architect and you’re trying to share your work with stakeholders on a business intelligence team, for example, you would want to have it easier or maybe something that they’re already familiar with. They would just be embedded into Confluence and then the sharing continues. No learning curve is involved for users to learn a new tool. We integrate with some of the technical code management platforms like Git, and the repositories. We integrate with communication tools like GRN Confluence, which integrate with the data warehousing platforms. And also right now we’re working on, I’m very excited we’re working on Slack and Microsoft Teams integration. Again, just to lower the barrier, integrate with the familiar tech stack and get that communication flowing. I think that’s a big benefit of being a cloud offering.
You can do so much.

That’s true. All right, let’s talk about three to four main challenges that the team faces, and which could be one of the main reasons why they subscribe to your platform also get run.

Yeah, for sure. What do you think is important to talk about? Do you prefer general, what I see across clients, or is it more interesting to focus on one narrow use case?

Let’s do one narrow use case. I think that can handle it.

One narrow? Okay, I can do that. Yeah, let’s take an organization, XYZ, that exists in the world. They’re probably big operations, so maybe one billion and up. And so they would be on the enterprise side, which means they’re dealing with really enterprise use case of data and metadata management. Let’s say they recently migrated from their on-premise legacy solution for data warehousing, let’s say SAP or maybe Netisa or Terra Data, and they move to a cloud data platform, Snowflake Data Cloud, to unleash the customer 360, the analytics, the data sharing. And as part of that journey, they now maybe have been clients of Snowflake for let’s say, three years, and they’re using it, they’re consuming, adoption is great. And then they realize that the amount of data keeps growing. The data architecture is pretty complex because of how much usage it’s getting. And so in that case, what would be helpful for them to have an artifact for internal team communication is a central repository documentation around their data platform, their data warehouse, and the databases involved. And so in that case, they would come to SqlDBM. Why is that a challenge? Because if you have some for a data warehouse, everything is around the objects within it.

Usually, it could be tables or views. Again, don’t want to get too technical, but it’s objects in the data warehouse. And then at some point, if your usage is significant, you’ll end up with a lot of objects. And so if you need a quick way, let’s say, you’re on the team and you’re building a report and you’re like, Hey, so what tables do we have in our Snowflake environment, and then no one could tell you, that would be a problem. So that would be a challenge. In that case, for quick communication, they could come to SqlDBM, fire up an online instance, point to their Snowflake data warehouse, and extract the information. We would read the code, pretty much the data definition language that they use. And then we would visualize in two seconds all of the tables and relationships between them that they have at their data warehouse. And then they will be able to quickly, let’s say, embed it onto the conference and share it with the team. It’s like the most simple use case where we just read what’s already there and then publish it, which is a fantastic use case, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s like just touching the surface of things because the second step that would come around is as teams keep developing enhancing and editing their data warehouse and tables within it, they need to enhance the underlying data model. They need to constantly make changes, and we’ll need to make sure that those changes are documented somewhere. So in a lot of cases, SqlDBM becomes the primary place where the changes are made visually. Then they turned into code and then they’re deployed. That way, that process, that’s the best practice for how companies would use a data modeling tool. That’s great. So quite a long example. What do you think? Did we cover the challenge.

Yeah, we did. Tell me one more thing. What are the top three to four platforms that the parent users have basically ditched or used in task, ditch, and then move to your platform? Could be direct or have some little bit of overlap with what you use. But if you have the name, what will be the top three to four cognitive associations?

Yeah, that’s a fabulous question. I always stumble with the answer to naming specific vendors. I can for overall context, but I wouldn’t say that anyone is a direct competitor. Why? And I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I take it as a good thing. If we’re speaking about a cloud-based and feature-rich technical implementation for physical modeling like SQL-related items. So basically, if we take a cloud tool that works with SQL and integrates with Snowflake or Databricks or Google BigQuery, then to be honest with you, SqlDBM is the only player that I know. That’s the little overlap of things that we’re the perfect match for. However, I don’t want to say that we’re the only tool. Other really good players in the industry cover some corners of this space. For example, if the company is not an enterprise use case and they’re not ready to invest in an enterprise data platform, there might be a silly decision to go with SqlDBM. And so they could get along the tools like Lightweight tools, Miro, or there are some other online versions of just the tools that just give the collaboration and easy editing and can have templates for data modeling techniques.

However, they would be just whiteboard tools only. They wouldn’t allow for code management programs. They wouldn’t allow for data governance. And for example, there wouldn’t be things that are important like forward and reverse engineering and ultra script management. Those aspects take care of revision control of code management because database design and modeling are very co-dependent. I understand. But yeah, so there are those tools, I would call them lightweight, easy to use, just general collaboration tools that could serve the purpose of a lightweight, conceptual, or logical data modeling tool. And then for some companies, there’s just enough. Again, we’re happy if they use something that will be the best practice to at least document something you have. And then another use case is there are some traditional, very well-known players in the industry of enterprise data modeling. Those tools would be a tool named Irwin, for example. They were acquired by Quest back in the day. There’s also a tool called ER Studio. They were acquired by Ibera back in the day. And then there are some other variations. Oracle, for example, has its tool, Oracle Data Modeler. I believe it’s free and I believe it only supports Oracle.

Don’t quote me on this, but I know they have a tool. I know SAP has its tool, SAP Power Designer. And so I used to say what Oracle Data Modeler is to Oracle, or what SAP Power Designer is to SAP,SqlDBM is that thing, but for Snowflake, Databricks, and Google, BigQuery. So that’s the differentiation. So there are other traditional, very well-known players. The problem with them, they don’t play that well with the modern cloud data platforms, and they are not cloud themselves. They’re downloadable tools. We, bridge the two, the traditional, well-known, and also the code management, physical implementation of data modeling functionality with cloud availability, so sharing collaboration and integrations with those big players.

Brilliant and Kudos to your team for having such a unique value proposition altogether.

It is. It is a unique one for sure. You’re right. We don’t give it enough credit. We don’t. But that often narrows the scope. For example, if the client comes to us and says, Hey, I need help with, For example, yes, we do support Oracle databases, but if the client says, Hey, we have some Netisa and Terraform other providers, then we wouldn’t be able to help them because those are just not the database and data warehouse types that we have support for. So because we’re unique, we only cover this particular segment that we believe is the future. The big statement of SqlDBM, we believe that the future of data analytics is cloud, and we believe that 100 % of our organizations will be switching to cloud in the next, I don’t know, couple of years. Maybe it’ll take longer, but eventually, it will happen. So we believe the future is with those platforms and that’s why we make a plan to focus our attention there.

That’s great. Let’s talk about the customer journey on your platform. Would you say I’m an enterprise client, I land on your website. How is it going to be my journey?

That one is good. There are multiple options. Just like there are multiple people types and Did you know that buyer journey? I don’t think there’s a lot of research going on about it. But the buyer journey in the modern days has significantly switched. So there are a lot of buyers by the time, enterprise B2B SaaS buyers. When they come to speak to you, they’ve already done a major part of their research about your tool, your offering, prices, and alternatives. They’re almost ready to buy. I don’t know if you noticed this, but when you speak to other industries, in the professionals and leaders and companies, that’s what I noticed. That’s what I study and pick up from my peers. And we see that too. When you land on the website, there is a way to speak to the sales team or request a demo session, which a lot of clients do. However, before that, there is an option which I think we do have a button on the main homepage that says try modeling. So pretty much try the tool. If you click that button, this is my favorite thing about SqlDBM’s client journey.

There’s no registration. There’s nothing. You just click that button, it opens up a tool UI as if you were a client, and then you can use the functionality right away. If you want to save your project, it will prompt you to save it and we need to create an account for you to save it. But this initial couple of moments of you just interacting and getting the feel and look of the tool is possible right away. And I think that’s one of the big things that gives us that speed and agility and allows the customer to do that personal research before having to speak to us. There’s the right-away demo environment, just try modeling, and boom, you’re in the tool. There’s also an opportunity for them to request a formal trial. We give again another beauty of a cloud solution. You can try before you buy a situation, especially for us being in such a technical and niche space for our users, it is important to wear a tool at the end of the day. Yes, we’re a platform, but we’re also a tool for a specific purpose.

And so for them, it’s important to make sure it meets their requirement because it’s a specific workflow they would be building around Snowflake and SqlDBM, so they want to check it, 14 days for that. And then there’s an option too, the regular option, to speak to the sales team. We call our people product specialists. Again, if you get on there, and we try to lower all the barriers. If you come to us and say, Hey, I want the demo, we’re not going to make you jump through hooks. We’re going to right away give you a link to book a 45-minute demo session with product specialists. On that call, we don’t just talk about life and weather. We go deep into the tool and give you a live step-by-step showcase of how the tool works. Again, I think that’s one of the things that helps us get through the sales cycle and onboarding cycle faster because we know that if the client asks for a demo, I want them to see a demo. I don’t want them to go through a hundred questions of pre-qualifying. Tell us more before we tell you more.

So we just do it in a mixed fashion. We have a commercial representative on that call, so your pricing questions and contracting questions can be answered. There is a solution architect who knows everything about every corner of the tool, and they can guide you through how your workflow will look in SqlDBM.

You mentioned that even before without even registering, people can try the two together. And a lot of SaaS companies that I see, you must have also stumbled across tons of them. So they have a free model, right? And you’ll always see like 14 days week trials and seven days week or whatever else. As soon as the user makes out they ask for the email and a lot of some other details to basically enter and then go and register basically and then try the two. That leads to a lot of people registering & trying. And you have removed that gap altogether.

Yeah, even the registration, so you can access the tool right away, but even the registration, we only have two fields: email and password. So the form is as short as possible. We wanted to make it shorter. It’s unfortunately not possible to create accounts shorter. You can use a single sign-on for a Google account for easy sign-up without even a password. And that helps. You’re in the system fast. There is a reason, even in our premium version, there are some pieces of functionality that are not available. And that’s again, yeah, I guess it’s more about the just part of go-to-market. If you want to just try a brief flavor, you can do it by yourself. But of course, if you’re entering an enterprise contracting and purchasing phase, you want to speak to someone because the tool is very powerful and very feature-rich. So we almost prefer you to get some help along the way. So the very enterprise-related features, come as a separate enablement for specific reasons. But still, if you’re ready for team-wide, let’s say you’re here and saying, Hey, I want a trial for 30 people, that’s not something you can fire up on your own.

But still, you can touch and play with the tool before you even are ready to proceed to that stage, if that makes sense. Thank you.

Any other programs you have in place? I have to find your customer retention and reduce the churn rate altogether.

Yeah, I’d say the best churn-avoiding mechanism is making sure you onboard the right clients in the beginning and you don’t go too aggressive on selling to just everyone. I believe we’re doing that very deliberately- the use case is not there anymore. However, yes, of course, sometimes the use case no longer exists. I don’t know, the budget no longer exists. I would say there is no churn which means that I’m not selling enough. But yeah, overall, in terms of programs, the cool thing we have that we’ve been getting a lot of feedback on is that when you use a very technical tool and it’s a specific niche use case and it’s a best practice in the industry, but the knowledge about using the tool might not be as available in the industry. That’s just a long way of me describing our educational program. A couple of things we introduced because we learned that some clients were maybe newer to the world of enterprise data management and new to the world of cloud data architecture and database design and modeling on the conceptual, logical, and physical levels. And they were very happy to see our tool and they’re like, Hey, this is something I think would help us, but I don’t have experience with working with other tools like this.

How do I get started? And so at some point, we saw that the barrier for us to getting more audience on board was educating them not so much on SqlDBM as the platform and tool itself, but more on data modeling as a topic. That’s why we introduced the SqlDBM Academy, Data Modeling Academy, and we released a list of pre-recorded self-service demo videos and educational. There are two courses. One on fundamentals of data modeling, just a general educational session with information. Second, we released videos on the tool itself, step-by-step, self-serve demo, and demo videos, and got really good feedback from the audience on that. Because not everyone wants to schedule Zoom time and speak to someone. They’re like, I want to learn myself. I want to learn. Where can I go? And so now, just this year, earlier this year, we released this and have seen significant results and I’ve heard a lot of thank yous for that education. And hey, another book. I don’t know if you’ve heard. We have our product success lead. He wrote a book on data modeling for Snowflake.

Amazing.

We published an industry-wide piece of content. I have a bookshelf behind me, but I just need to a new place, so it’s empty, but I should have the book here. Yeah, it’s called Data Modeling for Snowflake, and it’s taking the market. The market has been giving really good feedback on that. And I’m glad and proud that we have time, resources, and internal talent. Writing a book is not a task. So I’m happy to be working alongside people who are willing and ready and able to share their experience in such a form as a book. Yeah, it’s a cool feeling. I don’t know if many companies can say that their team members publish the book.

Right. Let’s talk about some of the new developments that you have ongoing and may be impacted because of all the new trends going around AI and data governance. What exactly is impacting?

Yeah, data governance is a field we’re expanding to. And for us, again, we’re not going to replace AI. If someone has an existing data governance and cataloging tool, we would integrate it from being just a database modeling and design tool. We’re expanding the use case a little bit around model-driven documentation. So traditionally, the data model is and should be part of the data governance strategy. And yeah, we’re releasing some functionality around just more extended documentation and the presentation layer. So the ability to assign data to words, the ability to provide more information and description around entities, the ability to tag and flag specific objects that need to be regulated, for example. So there’s a lot of small pieces and there’s a couple of large pieces. One of the large, significant ones we’re calling at SqlDBM pages. And so what that functionality is about is pretty much an open canvas. Think if we integrated Google Docs with SqlDBM, but it’s pretty much all SqlDBM native functionality, the ability to just write text and share wikis and share that with the team. Right now you can have your data modeling tool and then descriptions around it. But now, right alongside it would be SqlDBM pages.

You can have your data model embedded onto a page, and then you can provide just a text description. You can provide links to the ability to document more things around it. And pretty much in some cases, I would say it maybe even can replace Confluence for data teams. I don’t want to sound too ambitious, but I’m positive that we’ll be able to cover a lot of use cases around collaboration and documentation of metadata assets. There’s not co-dependent functionality in terms of management or the DDL and SQL. It’s just a visual piece, but it’s such a convenient visual piece that I see a trillion and five use cases of how a company can utilize it.

Okay, I think we’re coming to an end here, and I’d like to have a quick Rapid fire with you. Are you ready for that?

Always.

All right, then what was your last Google search?

I don’t know. Should I check? Maybe something. I think it was something about a conference that we’re going to. I think I Googled something around London because our team is flying to London next week. Okay.

What has been your favorite age so far?

My favorite what?

Age.

Oh, my favorite age was when I was 17, that was my favorite. I moved to the US when I was 17. I was the life divided between before and after.

Okay, I get that. What is your hidden talent?

I don’t know, maybe it’s okay.

I would say my hidden talent is improvising on the spot. And again, I don’t know how much hidden it is. I’ve been taking improv classes now for a year. I love it. It puts you on your feet and you have to come up with interesting or funny situations on the spot. And I do think, not so sure if it’s talent. I skill that I’ve been working on. But I’m proud of where I got by now. So if you put me on the stage and say, Anna, say something, I’m confident I’ll be able to pull at least something together.

What never fails to make you laugh?

What never fails to make me laugh would probably be some Instagram memes.

Okay.

Yeah, and probably some memes about animals doing some funny stuff, cats and dogs. My favorite videos. If I’m in a bad mood, I just look at animal memes or bloop videos. They’re great.

Thank you so much for sharing all the information about the company, and about you who enjoyed my session. Thank you for giving me the time. I appreciate it.

Yeah, no, thank you. Thank you for the questions your interest and the space to tell the story. All right, thanks.

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