“The real value of data in motion is shortening business processes” – Fred Crehan, Confluent

CNME Editor Mark Forker spoke to Fred Crehan, Area Vice President, Emerging Markets at Confluent, to find out how their business has been developing across the Middle East region – and how their technology is allowing their customers to manage their data more effectively.

In May 2022, Confluent established their regional HQ in Dubai, as they looked to expand their presence across the region.

At the time, I sat down with Fred Crehan, a respected IT leader that had been tasked with the responsibility of growing Confluent’s market share in the Middle East.

More than 12 months on from that conversation, I sat down with Crehan to get an update on Confluent’s progress over that time.

However, as Crehan pointed out the landscape has dramatically changed over the last year.

At the 2023 Kafka Summit, Confluent CEO Jay Kreps, said a combination of factors had created a perfect storm scenario.

Crehan highlighted how emerging technology trends coupled with a volatile macroeconomic situation globally, had placed increasing pressure on many businesses.

“I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a tough time for the software industry in general, but I’m really grateful to be part of the Confluent journey. We have seen emerging trends like AI, ML and digital transformation really come to the fore, and what this means is essentially a lot of data generated and utilised. There is also increasing pressure on businesses given the macroeconomic environment to be more efficient, and those factors combined really drives the need for more solutions based on data in motion,” said Crehan.

Crehan conceded that Confluent hasn’t been immune to challenges over the last year, but stressed they have still enjoyed growth due to the demand for their technologies.

“We’ve continued to be successful over the last 12 months. We’re making great progress with old and new customers, particularly in financial services, telecommunications and the software industry. Look, if I could remove the macroeconomic conditions then I would, but I can’t, and we’re all subject to it. However, we’ve continued to grow, and we are continuing to provide value to our customers. There is a huge demand for our technology, and I believe that as long as that demand is there within the market, then we will continue to grow,” said Crehan.

Crehan declared that there is no shortage of data in the world, and referenced how the development of applications across so many industry verticals has led to an exponential increase in data.

However, as he pointed out the biggest challenge businesses have in the current climate is figuring out how do they get the right data, to the right people, at the right time to drive value.

“This is without doubt the biggest conundrum that enterprises face today. The companies that figure this out, and do this really well are the ones that are driving a competitive advantage. A great example of that is Uber; they didn’t invent a new mode of transport, they just did it more conveniently than anyone else. If you can harness data better and quicker than anyone else then you’re going to have a competitive edge over your market rivals, and that’s exactly where Confluent fits in,” said Crehan.

Crehan says Confluent are able to help solve the challenges facing businesses in the digital economy because of its ability to link multiple applications together.

“We are the express highway that links two applications together, and makes the movement of data in real-time. We address the problem that companies are facing in the current climate by managing all this data effectively, and that is allowing us to have a lot of success across our markets globally,” said Crehan.

Crehan outlined how that hiring and skills development were the No.1 priority of the CIOs, and CTOs that he has spoken to during his tenure at Confluent in the Middle East.

But he stressed that it is important to consider the fact that technology is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end.

“The technology that Confluent offers ultimate underlines a business process. We make that business process much shorter in time, and in some cases instantaneous. If we think about use-cases like fraud detection for banks, or financial services companies to detect fraud then it may take them 24 hours, but with Confluent that can take a matter of seconds. The real value of the data in motion is shortening that business process. Like with any business process there are people involved, there are teams, and there are people that need to manage all of that. There are gaps in terms of skills, there’s no disputing that, and it’s very difficult to hire great people,” said Crehan.

The Area Vice President, Emerging Markets at Confluent said that the company helps to address this challenge for businesses by providing them with tools that automate the management of data in motion – and said they equip them with the solutions they need to scale much quicker.

“We offer a fully managed service which removes the people burden that you may have if you’re trying to run things by yourself, and allows you to scale much quicker. Especially, when you’re talking about software companies that use a lot of Kafka, and a lot of data in motion. Those companies absolutely need to rely on software, automation, and fully managed services to help them scale. It drives better efficiency, and it lowers the cost of moving data. Efficiency is an equation between two things, it’s generally a cost equation – and if you reduce cost and time, and increase revenue and value to customers then that’s technically more efficient, and that is what Confluent delivers. We help reduce infrastructure and storage costs, and we move data quicker than anybody else,” said Crehan.

Data privacy is a hot topic in the Middle East, and there’s been a lot of regulatory evolution across the region in terms of how companies and institutions manage data.

Crehan said the fact the company works with major companies in heavily-regulated industries gives them another key advantage over their market rivals.

“It is a topic we’re well versed in, and we are a global player in this space. We work with highly-regulated industries like telecommunications, and financial services and there are stringent requirements around the way in which data is being managed. We are certified to the highest standards, and that means our customers can have confidence that when choosing Confluent they are selecting a highly rigorous solution with regards to data privacy,” said Crehan.

Crehan concluded a brilliantly candid exchange by giving a summary on where Confluent is at in terms of market visibility across the GCC – revealed that he’s an extremely optimistic for what the future holds for the data in motion leader, and explained how Kafka is at the front and centre of everything Confluent does.

“My responsibility spans all the GCC countries and Israel, and I think there’s incredible opportunities throughout the region. There are some markets that are bigger than others in terms of population and GDP, but we see opportunity everywhere. Kafka is at the heart of what Confluent does, and we see an increase in Kafka adoption across all types of markets and industry verticals. We have customers all across the region and some of them are doing some really interesting things around data in motion, and we get excited and surprised around their creativity in terms of how they want to use the technology. We’re in a great place, and we’re excited for what the future holds for us at Confluent,” said Crehan.

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