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The Endless Possibilities of Data as a Service

February 10, 2022 (6 min read)

In recent months, LexisNexis has been meeting with the team members behind our products to ask them their expertise on content, data enrichments, and more. These are the people who work directly with our solutions and our clients—meaning they’re the ones solving problems, finding opportunities, and pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished with data as a service (DaaS), APIs, and data enrichments.

Dianne Glynn and Mark Davis are Integrated Solutions Specialists at LexisNexis, and they joined us for our latest round of interviews to tell us about a day in the life from their perspectives.

Q: Let’s start with an easy one. What are your responsibilities at LexisNexis?

Mark: I’d say we work to transform data feeds into something our clients can use. The end state the client is aiming for can be anything from populating an Excel spreadsheet or an in-house solution with data to powering a natural language processing engine or other third-party tool. Regardless, we collaborate with clients to make sure they understand how an API works, what the data they’re after looks like, and what kinds of data they should be receiving from our APIs.

Dianne: I’d agree with that description. It sums it up really well. I usually describe our role as helping clients who want to integrate our content or our products into their platform. One thing I’d also add is that we have to be, in a way, experts in everything. We have to know the LexisNexis content really well. We have to know our technology and data enrichments really well.

Q: Is that challenging for the DaaS teams?

Dianne: Oh, definitely. Just keeping up to date with everything going on across the LexisNexis organization can be hard. Things move so fast around here! But, ultimately, when you’re offering DaaS solutions, every element of LexisNexis affects what we’re providing to our clients, so it’s really an important part of what we do.

Q: What are some of the other challenging aspects of your work in DaaS?

Mark: We often push the boundaries of what’s possible, and I’d say we do that because there are endless possibilities when you’re talking about what’s achievable with data and offering data as a service. There are things you can’t do with data, but because there are an infinite number of ways you can harness content, we don’t know what those things are unless we search for those concrete boundaries. Also, things that might be boundaries today won’t necessarily be boundaries tomorrow.

Because of the comprehensive data we offer, the enrichments, the flexible delivery options, the use cases for data really are endless. If I was to compare it to something, I’d say think of data as a live line of electricity. It’s raw and powerful in its form. But when you connect electricity to a machine, it can accomplish literally anything. By itself, data is raw energy. Once you connect data to something in the right way, it transforms into something else. That’s what we do. We take raw data and connect it to the right solutions that harness that data in the right way.

Q: Does that make this idea of “endless possibilities” a double-edged sword, in a sense?

Mark: There is definitely a drawback to that, for sure. Thinking about all the things you can do with data can be exhilarating, but also very daunting. Anyone who’s ever built a home knows that when you go to the design center there’s nothing worse than having 5,000 choices of cabinetry to pick from. It’s impossible! I don’t even know where to start.

For us, the hard part sometimes is when we get involved in solutions, we need to get the client a bit farther down the road than merely starting with a blank slate. We try to get them to what I call the “magic wand” scenario. If you had a magic wand and you could wave it, what would the ideal end-result be for you? From there, we at least have a starting point. You know what they want, and you can kind of walk them back from there.

Q: What’s it like trying to get potential or even current DaaS clients to that point?

Dianne: When we first get to interact with potential clients, we’re probing. Asking questions. Providing examples. All of that is really to try to dig a little deeper into what it is they’re trying to do. They’ll say that they want a particular dataset. But that just means they think having a dataset will solve a problem they haven’t told us about yet. We have to peel back the layers and figure out what that problem is they’re trying to solve. That way we can quickly realize whether or not we can help them. For me, that means doing a lot more listening during an initial interaction with a client and looking for ways, like the “magic wand” scenario, to get them to tell us exactly what it is they’re trying to accomplish.

I will say that, from the customer perspective, I work with very clever customers. They come to the table and want to do some very interesting things with data and our enrichments that I’ve never even thought possible before. That’s what I enjoy the most. The customers want to collaborate with us. I love it because you’re really partnering with them.

Q: You say working with DaaS clients is like a partnership. How else would you describe working with them?

Dianne: Every engagement with a customer is unique. We’re always collaborating. We can challenge each other. And we work so close with customers, they almost become more like co-workers. They really look at you as part of their team. If they have something new going on, they’ll reach out and ask our opinions and ask us to brainstorm. That creates a much deeper relationship with the customers, and they express that. That makes you feel good.

Q: Are there benefits to working closely with your clients beyond helping them meet their needs?

Dianne: We’re benefiting from their different perspectives on our data, for sure. I’m amazed nearly every week at how often customers look our data from a new angle and ask a question that no one has ever asked, or they have an idea that’s never been thought of before. That’s such an interesting part of the job. You’re constantly growing and trying to figure out possible solutions to use our data. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes to help us learn something we can either apply to the challenge at hand or to another one down the road.

Mark: Sometimes we learn something from a client that results in us being able to knock down one of things we thought was a barrier.

Dianne: You just brought it full circle!

Q: So when you’re working with a DaaS client, what is your approach to solving a problem?

Dianne: If we’re solving a technical problem with one of the APIs a client is using, we’re pretty methodical about it. We go in to see if we can reproduce the issue on our own within the API or the online tool. Then we kind of know the difference between the tool and the API delivery. The one great thing we have going for us is that we have very close relationships with the product team. The APIs team is fantastic. We can call them up, send them emails. We’re in constant communication so we can get to a solution quickly. So, I’d say our approach is to balance a methodical and deductive approach with the ability to move quickly and coordinate, so we can resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Mark: Yeah. The important thing too in an overarching sense is that we never stop building or exploring. That goes back to the “endless possibilities” idea. There will always be new problems or challenges, but as long as we keep thinking outside the box and challenging ourselves, then whatever the need or issue, I’m confident that we can get our clients the data they need in the exact way they need it. So, it’s less about problem solving and more about finding opportunities.

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