7 December 2020
The pandemic clearly uprooted the status quo of our personal and work lives, and yet one true protagonist has emerged from this unexpected narrative—technology.
Though we wait with bated breath for this year’s eventual conclusion, many still look to 2021 with hope. Intelligent technology has supported us in the way we work and our ability to remain connected with other humans, despite all odds. And will continue to advance us to new heights in 2021.
The COVID-19-authored new normal has forever changed the global business landscape, with data now weaved into all elements of daily existence. We now see it in our digital media feeds every day – a flood of data visualisations tracking infection rates and fatalities.
While that may not seem like a big deal to BI users, communicating news through data visualisations like heatmaps, charts and dashboards is a major leap forward. The more people using data visualisations to interpret complex information through stories shows that we are moving towards a more data literate world. And the democratisation of data is just the beginning.
The everyday use of data, together with the everyday data user, elevates data analytics from a niche to a necessity. Because in this age of information, data is power. And, in the ‘new normal’ – data is also hope!
So, let’s explore what 2021 has to offer in the world of data analytics and BI for your business.
However, it’s important to understand where that data comes from, how to keep it clean, and how to tell stories responsibly with that data. Since there is potential for data misuse, manipulation or politicisation.
Data, taken out of context, can lead to misinformation and bad decision making. That’s why BI-Survey’s Top Business Intelligence Trends 2021 highlights the importance of establishing a data-literate culture, one of the top trends among the companies surveyed.
There may also be an increase in Micro SaaS – smaller or add-on type SaaS, such as Grammarly for Google Docs. And Vertical SaaS, which offers solutions tailored to niche markets.
However, with more and more SaaS offerings continually popping up, the likelihood of consolidation increases as larger software manufacturers absorb smaller solutions.
Many businesses have already shifted their operations to the cloud to accelerate their digital transformation, especially with current market unpredictability. And many more are following suit since cloud platforms offer significant cost savings, more flexibility and mobility, plus improved speed in handling big data effectively for a quick-thinking and acting enterprise.
Since cloud operations provide more flexibility, a lower total cost of ownership and improved scalability, it is a natural choice for many business leaders. For those enterprises that aren’t ready to shift everything to the cloud, there are hybrid solutions that incorporate both on-premise and cloud infrastructure.
Though users will need to be data literate, these solutions will support how users work with data. Combined with a culture of data literacy championed by the c-suite, 3rd wave BI will put more power in the end-user’s hands.
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Users are already exploring data, forecasting trends and extracting insights on a daily basis, rather than compiling reports on a quarterly or annual basis. And with a faster time to insights, they can also take faster action.
The need for real-time data is especially relevant in operations departments as well as in the healthcare and financial sector, as expectations in these areas continue to grow. A move from historical reporting to near real-time will be the only way to keep pace with business needs.
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As it takes a foothold in 2021, businesses will be able to accelerate their BI. Similarly, Gartner predicts an uptake in augmented data management, using AI and ML techniques to streamline operations.
To improve confidence in short-term forecasting in 2021, leading organisations will use more models and variables to run scenarios. Scenario modelling will help businesses find the right levers to adapt to ever-changing situations. Together with a fresh approach to analytics and algorithms, one that puts the spotlight on data anomalies and outliers, leaders will have the right tools for enterprise planning in 2021.
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It’s not about experiencing the full functionality of dashboards – it’s about bite-sized content. Think TikTok, Instagram Stories or Twitter for your dashboards. Short-form content takes seconds to digest, allows users to follow the source and dig in further if relevant.
Since mobile users are already used to constantly receiving data-driven notifications to their devices, the concept of mobile analytics is likely to catch on quickly.
After the digitisation of workflows, moving collaboration further online and physically on top of platforms is the next logical step. But the shift is not only on where we work, but also when – shifting collaboration online and across multiple time zones.
Closer integrations with data and teams are imperative to tease out actionable and relevant BI. By bringing people and more conversations to the data, processes can be reviewed faster and with more facts.
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BI Survey explains this well: “Valid data lies at the heart of the strategic, tactical and operational steering of every organization. Having appropriate data quality processes in place directly correlates with an organization’s ability to make the right decisions and assure its economic success.”
To meet constantly changing compliance requirements, for instance, organisations will need to embrace processes that improve data quality and data governance – as these become essential deliverables. A prime example is the growing popularity of writeback solutions.
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Cybercriminals know that as the number of data sources we feed into our BI grows, the harder it becomes to protect and keep data secure. Particularly as systems become more automated and integrated, security and privacy must not be compromised.
A common concern is the shift from servers to the cloud, outside of the business premises. Eva Chen, CEO at Trend Micro outlines the issue: “Company ‘headquarters’ will be [increasingly] located in the cloud, shifting how we protect enterprise data in the virtual cloud and how we secure data from more diverse endpoints.”
As Gartner explains in its Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021 , “hyperautomation is driven by organizations having legacy business processes that are not streamlined, creating immensely expensive and extensive issues for organizations.”
Making sense of data as the volume grows exponentially will quickly exceed our human capacity. Increased automation will support and augment how business users work, along with the increased automation of more complex data science tasks.
Though we may not know what the future holds, we can leverage innovation, real-time data and human connection to support our path to greater success in 2021 and beyond!
Data analytics solutions that are dynamic, intuitive and encourage more users to explore data will be essential on this journey.
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