Top Data Trends and Predictions for 2021

Top Data Trends and Predictions for 2021

November 23, 2020

Qlik Senior Director, Global Market Intelligence Lead, Dan Sommer discusses the top data trends and predictions for 2021.

By Dan Sommer

COVID-19 has been a much-needed catalyst for change and innovation. Across the globe, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years, with an even greater leap observed in Asia.

As a result, the digital development that was once linear suddenly became immediate and a ‘digital switch’ is taking place. Companies are now accelerating their digital transformation and ensuring the data they are using to make decisions is not only up-to-date and accurate, but readily accessible and understandable to drive more informed decision-making and support new business moments.

Here are five trends that have developed with this digital switch:

Up-to-date, business-ready data is more important than ever. The last six months have taught us that when forecasting, variables can change rapidly and disrupt planning; yet many organisations are working with data that is too old to support such an agile approach to business. This affects their ability to identify opportunities or risks on the horizon – both of which are critical to their survival in these uncertain times.

Now is the time to ensure that analytics engines are not only set-up to show the most pertinent insights to enable fast, informed decision-making, but that the data integration processes from all systems – whether ERP, CRM or SaaS applications – can feed them in real-time.

Capturing and synthesising alternative data has become essential. While investment firms have long used alternative data – like audio, sentiment, and aerial photos – to capture information at an early stage and use it to inform decisions, it’s potential is being rapidly recognised in new industries.

We are dealing with an unpredictable business landscape. Other sectors have begun to see the value in mining alternative data to help them read signals earlier and establish a clearer picture before making a decision.

SaaS is everyone’s best friend. Even the most conservative companies with the biggest inertia are moving toward ‘as a service’ to help them offer more services to their employees and customers remotely. Many have done this to enable operations to keep running in times when we can’t go into the office.

Others have adopted software-as-a-service (SaaS) to take advantage of high computing power in the cloud, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to drive greater efficiencies.

While the focus is on SaaS right now, to co-exist with on-premise, this shift will be the start of bigger data integration and migration efforts. This holds a lot of promise, but businesses should be aware that when applications are configured into SaaS, the cloud software processes can result in data being locked-in.

Shared data, visualisations and storytelling are consumed by the masses. In 2020, data and data visualisations exploded in mainstream news. General audiences pored over data in sources like the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering and Our World in Data. Now more than ever, we’ve seen the importance of delivering the last mile in data storytelling and infographics.

There has been a massive up leveling in the conversation about data, where armchair epidemiologists are able to say things like, ‘That’s a logarithmic scale’, and ‘Here’s the problem with comparing per capita’. This development will bring in millions more on the journey toward data literacy. But data is too often becoming politically fraught. How do we double-click beyond the picture? Get to the point behind the data point? Surface lineage and easily bring in new data sets?

Technically, an expansion of context will be supported by more common data models and more business logic, accessible in catalogues and data marketplaces. This will help synthesis and more productive discussion. But we’ll also need to start building ways of agreeing on the common ground – and work on an etiquette for intellectual honesty in debating data.

Collaboration has to coalesce earlier in the chain. In 2020, we’ve seen a step change in the embracing of web conferencing, remote collaboration and online learning. We’re in a new world where we can’t gather as often for a quick huddle in the office or sketch out an idea on a whiteboard.

Also, an increasingly fast-moving world means that in many cases, people don’t have time to wait to make a decision while someone builds a dashboard.

The convergence of data management and analytics in the market has created opportunities for integration points between the components of a data pipeline, combining synthesis with analysis and enabling active metadata, business logic and catalogues to act as connective tissue. This in turn will push collaboration, innovation and discussions to the data itself.

The digital switch has increased our dependence on technology and data in a way that the world has never seen before.

Timely access to accurate information is informing every aspect of our lives and is fundamental to not only the ability of companies to survive in this environment, but in helping us manage the virus and identify the safest ways that we can interact with society.

Now that this shift has begun, the transformation that we will see in the way that data is used to accelerate innovation and improve the services that we interact with every day will be phenomenal. The above trends may lead us down that path, so let’s wait and see how 2021 unfolds.

(Ed. Sweden-based Dan Sommer says he is the global lead for Qlik’s Market Intelligence Program. With close to 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, Sommer says his previous roles included Research Director, Agenda Manager and Global Lead for BI and Analytics Markets at Gartner. Featured image of Sommer provided courtesy of Qlik.)


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