Thought Leader Interview

Dave Schrader: Leading edge decision support applications

Director of Strategy and Marketing
Teradata Corporation

Dan Power, Editor of, conducted an email interview with Dave Schrader in January 2013.

Q1: How did you get interested in decision support and especially data warehousing, analytics and BI?"

Schrader's Response: I’ve always been interested in the scientific method, majoring in math/statistics as an undergraduate, then doing a Masters and PhD in computer science, focusing on databases and operating systems. All three of my industry jobs have involved building database systems – at Servio, I led software development for an object-oriented database, while at Digital Equipment Corporation we focused on distributed database technology. During my 22-year career at Teradata, I’ve worked in advanced development and then marketing of enterprise data warehouses, including hot topics like pervasive business intelligence and big data.

Q2: How can companies get business value from their data?

Schrader's Response: I focus on three areas – Active Dashboarding, Active Customer Management, and Active Operations. Active Dashboarding involves the use of data by managers, moving from old-style monthly or weekly reports to newer, often mobile-based dashboards/key performance indicator scoreboards with alerts based on real-time data feeds. Active Customer Management has evolved from old-style “push” marketing campaigns to event-based and dialogue-based interactions that can involve not just marketing, but also customer service and self-service uses of real-time data. Finally, Active Operations involves the use of real-time data to improve operational processes, by squeezing out costs and time in supply chains, and using data for real-time quality control.

Q3: What are leading edge applications of data-driven decision support?

Schrader's Response: For the Active Dashboarding area, people are focused on mobile access to the dashboards. This can range from business intelligence reports for executives and top-level managers on smart phones to hand-held devices for frontline operational employees where the data is used to tell them what to do, or to provide information. Examples include: handheld-inventory devices at home improvement stores that be used to ask, based on a laser scan of a bar code, how a particular product is selling, date of the next delivery, and the nearest store where the product is in stock.

In the Active Customer Management area, I’m seeing a very high level of interest in multi-channel dialogue synchronization, something we call omni-channel in retailing. When customers switch channels (e.g., from the web site to the contact center, or talking to a sales clerk), a company is able to maintain the context of the conversation. How to monitor and use Tweets and social media is also a very popular topic. The Contact Center in particular is a good target that can benefit from much more insight and data so that customer calls can be completed, not only more efficiently, but more thoroughly. One of Teradata’s customers calls this “One and Done,” meaning no follow-up calls are needed.

In the Active Operations area, clearly big data and sensors, plus RFID tagging, are the big stories – and the “killer apps” involve tracking/tracing, much deeper quality and warranty analytics, as well as process instrumentation and improvement. For example, a baggage handler might be told which of two inbound flights need to be serviced first in order for the overall airline flight schedule to get back on track under bad weather situations.

Q4: What is BSI Teradata? How did you get involved with that project?

Schrader's Response: BSI stands for “Business Scenario Investigations” and is a mocked-up consulting company I invented to illustrate using some video “episodes” how technology can be used to solve common business problems. Each video shows a company in trouble. Episodes include a telecommunication company with too many dropped mobile calls that has an attrition problem, or a retailer trying to improve their customer service across multiple channels. They hire BSI to get ideas about best-practice use of data and insights to drive better actions. In 7-8 minutes, we paint a picture of a problem, show how analytics can be used to dig into the data to derive insights, make process changes, and highlight typical key performance indicator improvements. We wrap all the techno-stuff in the content of a “real” story, something that people can identify with as end-consumers, and show how the world can be made better if only companies used technolog to spot and resolve problems faster.

Q5: What is the purpose of the Business Scenario Investigations videos? Who is the target audience?

Schrader's Response: The purpose is to show leading-edge business uses of Teradata technology. Each case is a composite of “real” customer stories, and illustrates practical approaches to advanced analytics. The primary audience is Teradata customers and prospects who want to step up their game to the next level. For example, Teradata acquired two companies - Aster (big data) and Aprimo (marketing optimization) – two years ago. To increase understanding of why we did these acquisitions, I created four stories that show how those technologies can be used in conjunction with Teradata. This education was important not only for our customers who needed to understand how the technology can be used – and how it fits together with other Teradata product lines, but also for our own employees. Plus we have also made the episodes available to faculty and students through the Teradata University Network – and some of BSI’s biggest fans are faculty who use the episodes in their MBA or MIS classes as case studies or discussion topics for their students. A good example would be the Case of the Retail Tweeters, in which the episode shows students how to build a social listening platform, score customers talking about your new product introductions, and use that information to drive supply chain planning and pricing.

Q6: What episodes are available? What is planned?

Schrader's Response: Ten episodes appear on YouTube (just search for “BSI Teradata Case” and they will pop up):

  1. TELCO: Case of the Defecting Telco Customers
  2. AIRLINES: Case of the Misconnecting Passengers
  3. RETAIL: Case of the Retailer Tweeters
  4. ALL: Case of the Credit Card Breach
  5. CONSUMER GOODS MFG: Case of the Fragrant Sleeper Hit
  6. TELCO: Case of the Dropped Mobile Calls
  7. 3 parts BANKING: The Sad Case of Stagnobank Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  8. RETAIL: Case of the Retail Turnaround

I’m currently working on a food safety episode – The “Case of the Tainted Lasagna,” and have three more in the queue. I’d like to do a chronic healthcare story, showing how mobile sensors can help provide real-time feedback to people on exercise, diet, and prescription management. Big data is always a popular topic, and I think a case on digital advertising could showcase changes that are coming when consumers “own” their data, can collect a terabyte of information on their cell phone, and sell or control it.

About Dave Schrader

Dr. Dave Schrader is one of the Marketing Directors for Teradata. He is responsible for marketing the Active Intelligence initiative, which helps Teradata customers and prospects derive more value from their Enterprise Data Warehouses, using both traditional and big data to create insights for front-line employees and systems. This includes frontline systems like call centers and the web, as well as industry-specific points of contact like banking ATMs and mobile scanners. He is currently focused on collecting the best customer practices, and gives talks or workshops for customers about how to fast-track new uses of Teradata, Teradata Aster, and Aprimo.

He joined Teradata in 1991 and held various positions in Engineering - Advanced Development until 1998 when he moved into Marketing. Schrader holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Purdue University, has published in the areas of Customer Management and Pervasive BI, and is a popular worldwide speaker on how companies can gain a competitive edge from using technology. He is on the board of the Teradata University Network, and regularly gives talks to students and faculty.

In the past two years, he created and has produced 10 episodes of “Business Scenario Investigations” (BSI), a show on YouTube that demonstrates how data forensic investigators solve business problems by analyzing tweets, social media, geospatial, and other types of data. Follow the link to a sample case study about a telecommunications company with a dropped mobile call problem at


Power, D., "Dave Schrader Interview: Leading edge applications", DSSResources.COM, 01/27/2013.