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Introducing Kensu

With $4.2 million of seed funding and a reorganised management team, Kensu is set to make waves in the emerging data observability space. James Goulding finds out more from newly appointed CEO Eleanor Treharne-Jones

Last month data observability company Kensu, founded in Belgium five years ago, secured $4.2 million of seed funding to accelerate its expansion in EMEA and the US, and appointed Eleanor Treharne-Jones as CEO to establish the company as a major disruptor in the data observability market – an appointment that has the added benefit of freeing up company founder Andy Petrella, now Chief Product Officer, to focus on continuing to develop the Kensu data observability platform.

Data Observability addresses the age- old problem of poor quality, out of date, incomplete and inaccurate data and the time that data engineers waste trying to fix data quality issues.

More than a decade ago, in its October 2011 report Measuring the Business Value of Data Quality, Gartner cited research showing that 40% of the anticipated value of business initiatives is never achieved, to a great extent because of poor quality data in both the planning and execution phases. In addition, poor quality data reduces productivity by 20% and impairs organisations’ agility and ability to mitigate risk.

Since that report was written, data volumes have increased significantly, as have automation, which relies on good quality data, and the requirement for organisations to maintain data security/privacy and demonstrate compliance, all of which increase the need for data observability, as Eleanor Treharne-Jones explains.

“There’s been an explosion in data, but also in machine learning and AI
and the tools that we use to try and get insight from that data. Often, by the time it is reported, there’s a big disconnect or a big distance between the people who are working with the data and making business decisions based on that data and the people involved in the data’s production in the first place.

“What Kensu does with our differentiated approach to data observability – we shift left as the market likes to say – is observe problems in the data at their source, within the pipelines themselves. Our agents are constantly monitoring the freshness of the data – if you’re expecting it to be a dataset produced in the last 24 hours; the completeness of the data – if it was supposed to have 100 fields coming in, does it have 100 fields still coming out?; and observing the health of that data in real time and also in context, i.e. within the application that’s producing it.

“If there’s ever a problem you will know immediately, as an alert will be sent, and you will know who the right engineer is to speak to, the person who actually manages that application. This shortens the time to remediation, which is one of the most important things and one of the challenges that the industry has had. Often, it’s been easier to identify problems but much harder to identify how to fix them. Shortening that time is the huge efficiency driver of implementing data observability.”

As an example of the delays companies typically have to contend with, Treharne-Jones cites the case of a company she was talking to that took 15 days to go back and find the source of problematic data identified in an executive report.

“Typically, what companies have done up to this point is to focus on using scanners and crawlers to retrospectively go and observe issues with the data. It’s better than waiting for someone to say there’s a problem, but it’s still after
the fact. What we’ve done is take best practices from DataOps and some of the application observability space and embed our agents directly within the application. That means that unlike everyone else we get real-time alerts, we get continuous monitoring, and the information is provided in the context of the application where the problem occurred. We believe this will be the standard that the industry ultimately follows for data observability.”

Treharne-Jones points out that having good visibility into the health of your data also supports some of the broader data governance objectives and requirements that an organisation now has.

“Another thing that Kensu provides along with data health observations is lineage, exactly what the path of that data was through your pipelines and through the organisation. We can pre-populate some of the data catalogue tools with that lineage and that is also a very powerful tool that organisations see value in when they implement data observability.”

She adds that Kensu’s differentiated offering will be a real benefit for channel partners as the company expands into new markets and builds a network of VARs across the US, UK and France, from its strongholds in Belgium and Italy.

“A lot of companies are talking about data observability and there’s a lot of interest in the market to find a way to solve these problems, but I don’t think there are other companies doing it the way we do it, so that’s a very exciting opportunity for the resellers that we’re talking to. It represents a unique and differentiated opportunity to go to market.”

Kensu is in the early stages of talking to VARs in the UK and US, but the company also deals directly with end user customers, so what are the triggers that cause customers to investigate data observability solutions?

“There are organisations that still struggle with data quality, though they
may not put that name on it. We had a company that had to produce an executive report at 7 a.m. every morning and on occasions the data pipeline that supported that would break which meant they weren’t able to deliver those reports. They’ll be thinking ‘How can I solve this? How can I find a better way of doing this?’ and that’s where you can say ‘Actually, you may not be aware of this yet, but there are solutions that can give real-time updates on what’s happening, rather than you waiting and not knowing there was a problem or that the pipeline was broken until you try to run the report for senior management on a critical time deadline’.”

Treharne-Jones adds that with a choice of cloud hosted, on-prem or hybrid models Kansu can meet the needs of customers at any stage of their
digital transformation.

“There are still many companies with digital transformation initiatives that are in the process of moving to the cloud, and when a company is introducing a new data platform or a migration is taking place it is often a very good time for it to address the health of its data. It’s a great time for resellers in that process
to introduce data observability. There are also many companies in financial services and healthcare, for example, who still keep their information on-prem. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to address these issues, so being able to support companies with those needs and define security requirements as well is a great advantage of Kensu.”

This versatility should give Kensu and its VAR partners a significant boost as it looks to expand its footprint on both sides of the Atlantic, which, as Treharne- Jones points out, is right now its number one priority.

“What we’re focused on at the moment is growth – customer acquisition and being able to meet the market demand for better solutions to this problem. That’s our primary focus at this stage.”

A world of experience

Eleanor Treharne-Jones has had a varied career since graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1996, starting out in public relations, working as a press officer for several Government departments including the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Defence. In 2010, as Head of Pursue Communications, she helped the Home Office implement a communications strategy in support of the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In the same year, she co-founded an integrated PR & social media agency, Optimise, which she ran as CEO until January 2012 when she set up Conversation Co, a global strategic communications company delivering communications and PR campaigns for major clients including several in the IT sector, notably data privacy management company TRUSTe, which she joined as Global Communications Director in 2014. She has remained in the IT sector ever since, holding a variety
of executive and senior management positions in the US, at TrustArc, IntraEdge, Odaseva, the enterprise data management platform for Salesforce, and now Kensu.

Technology Reseller (TR): Before you entered the IT sector, you had a background in PR and communications, ultimately setting up your own PR agency. Has that background been helpful to your career in the tech sector?

Eleanor Treharne-Jones

Eleanor Treharne-Jones (ET-J): When I stopped working for the UK Government, I set up my own business which was a strategic consultancy helping companies make the transition into different geographic markets. I worked with a couple of US technology firms seeking to break into the European market. I also worked with some European firms, a Danish firm, seeking to expand further into the European market.

That foundation has been very valuable, particularly now with the path that Kensu is taking, as companies often find it challenging to bridge cultural differences between markets. It’s been a good and interesting foundation to be able to leverage here.

TR: Was your transition into the IT world a matter of chance or were you always attracted by tech?

ET-J: Data fuels so much of what we do and I think it’s a really exciting and important space and also one with phenomenal growth opportunities. So, for me, it was a very attractive space. That was where some of my early customers were and I’ve been excited to continue to work in the B2B SaaS space since.

TR: Do you find that people need particular skills to prosper in the tech world or was your background in press relations and as CEO of your own business enough?

ET-J: I think what it takes to be successful in business is listening incredibly carefully to your customer, staying very close to your customer, whether that’s listening to a partner and understanding what their needs are and what they’re hearing in the market, or whether it’s a direct customer and really understanding the pain points that they’re experiencing.

I think if you’re able to do that and stay close, then you’re always going to be developing solutions that either disrupt the market, by finding a different way of solving that pain, or are an extension of an existing solution in the market. That empathy, that ability to listen and to understand is critically important. It also just happens to be a big part of a communications role as well.

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