Interview: Exploring Data Science at Brandwatch with Hamish Morgan
By Olivia SwainAug 23
Published April 8th 2019
Chris has been on quite the journey since he started as the very first employee at Crimson Hexagon back in 2008.
He’s seen the company grow, prosper, and now merge with Brandwatch – a huge shake up to the wider industry.
“One of my colleagues said it’s kind of like getting a new job without having to go and get a new job,” Chris says
Many of the familiar things have remained since Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon announced we would merge. But there’s a whole lot of new stuff to experience, too – people, products, places, and pressure.
I sat down with Chris to chat about the process of combining two large teams of engineers, aligning on a joint mission, and how he feels about the upcoming release of the integrated “super-product”.
“There are certain commonalities you’ll find in engineers who are working on similar problems, and that gives you a lot to share and talk about and makes it easier to get to know a new set of people,” Chris explains, when I ask what it was like for the two teams to meet initially.
“I think our teams were pretty compatible. There’s a good culture of curiosity and interest in solving problems, doing creative things with technology and data science, collaboration. I think it was a pretty easy match.”
Part of the meeting of these teams meant exploring the technicalities of how each product was built, from fundamental data storage through to different focuses on segmentation (Crimson’s system is built around machine learning, while Brandwatch offers users a flexible rules-based system). An integrated product will mean a mix of all these things.
Despite the pleasant union of great minds focused on similar problems, there’s surely some pressure to get things going, though.
“I think there’s definitely pressure – we’ve made commitments to the company and customers about the integrated product, migrating customers, and for sure there’s a ton of work to do there. But we knew when the merger happened that we needed to start immediately.
“There’s been an appropriate sense of urgency. It’s helpful – when you have that clarity of importance you can make decisions on how to prioritize things accordingly.”
There are a lot of people involved in bringing together two products, but the most important of those are the end users. I asked Chris how the concerns and voices of customers are being built into the integrated product.
“It’s really been on everyone’s minds, and we’re doing it all for them. If it doesn’t benefit customers we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If they don’t come out way ahead of where they were before then we’ve done the wrong thing.”
He says that customer migration is an important point where the interests of all customers, with their diverse range of experiences and organizational structures, will be prioritized.
Chris says, “It’ll be different for people migrating from Analytics and people migrating from Forsight. Our customers are diverse. There are different sized organizations, there are different use cases, different things that concern them. We have to think of migration as the beginning of the next phase, not the end.”
It feels like there’s a long way to go, and change can be scary – especially when you rely heavily on a particular platform. But Chris assures me the best features of both products won’t be forgotten about.
“We’re going to be auditing all the features in each product to make sure everything people care about exists in the new product in some way – there’ll be an equivalent of it. There are beloved features we need to make sure are still available. We want to be systematic about making sure we don’t forget about some really important feature that people were relying on.”
With both teams now building things together, as opposed to constantly chasing each other’s tails on small features, there’s potential for a lot more innovation. Looking at the big picture, there’s no question in Chris’s mind that the integration is the right thing to do.
“The new product will be better than anything they had before,” Chris tells me.
“Many of our customers are aware of the other product, and there are strengths and weaknesses that each one had previously. You’re going to get all the strengths now – it’s a no compromise solution.”
Thanks to Chris for sharing his thoughts with the Brandwatch blog.