Looking ahead to 2020, it’s going to be an incredible year in data trends. The potential of data and analytics is unrelenting, with more organisations realising this power. In most cases, these businesses are doing it with more care than ever before.

Data privacy continues to appear in the headlines with massive GDPR fines. Similarly, new governmental bodies are scrutinising the growth of AI on an international scale.

The data industry has also seen a lot of change over the year. Consider the major acquisitions of data tools by Salesforce and Google alike. What impact will these events have through 2020? How will the culture of data and analytics transform as more data leadership takes on?

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7 Data Trends for 2020

We’ve mapped out 7 data trends for 2020, based on everything we’ve seen over the past year. Did we miss any data trends? Let us know on LinkedIn or Twitter.

The AI ‘Hype Bubble’

In 2020, the famed hype around AI probably won’t burst, so expect to hear more buzzwords and headlines than ever. However, it’s become clear in 2019 that the realities of AI are starting to bite.

We’ll likely see a realignment of expectations, and a new focus on foundational use cases that support the automation and optimisation of internal operations. We had Daniel Hulme, CEO of Satalia and expert in everything AI, on the podcast to share his perspective on the awareness of practical AI.

Move towards DataOps thinking

The ability to deliver value quickly, with robust processes and move data through the value chain – from idea to activation – is where organisations will win with data. Through 2020, we’ll see the growth of DataOps as a method to achieve this ambition.

Thinking about building data products and solutions with similar methods seen in digital native businesses and startups will increasingly be a focus.

Continued push for democratisation and self-service

Many tools and vendors are enabling people to approach technical tasks more easily – for example, in data ingestion you now have an array of tools to choose from, with Panopoly, Fivetran, Dataiku, etc.

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Research paper: Data – guided organization

However, more people need to be careful not to over-democratise; trying to make everyone an expert isn’t a solution, and we’ve already spent years pushing back against the foundation of new cottage industries.

Evolution of ‘Smart Cities’

There’s a whole lot of hype around the concept of Smart Cities, and the development in IoT, APIs, and cloud platforms are enabling more and more collaboration between citizens and local government (and between local governments themselves).

For example, the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has been set up to drive increased collaboration and shared technology between London Councils. These projects will continue to grow and deliver real value to the tax payer and citizens’ wellbeing through 2020.

Acquisitions will bear fruit

Despite being announced earlier this year, in 2020 SalesForce will maximise their acquisition of Tableau, and we’ll finally see this integration start to take shape. It’ll be interesting to see the effect of Tableau giving SalesForce some real firepower in the data and BI space.

Will we see them pivot completely to be a data, data warehouse or analytics platform? Likewise, Google will start to fold Looker into their stack more fully – and maybe we’ll see Google Analytics delivered through Looker?

Cloud platform wars

With AWS, Google and Microsoft fighting over the cloud platform market and ensuring use cases on data, analytics and AI are in their kit bag, we’ll see a continued and rapid rise in organisations moving their workloads to the Cloud.

Whilst we’ll see 3rd party vendors like Snowflake collaborating with the Cloud vendors, we’ll also see them taking some of the consumption and provision of their own tooling direct to customers instead of people purely using the native tools that come from the Cloud vendors themselves.

The Chief Data Officer

Similar to the growth we’ve seen over the past decade, 2020 will see a continued trend of organisations taking on a senior data leader to own and lead the definition and delivery of their data strategy. The expectations are always high with this position, and tenure can be short because of that.

2020 will see some movements across the industry through a combination of the hype deflating and early foundational work over the last couple of years coming to an end,  and the focus in organisations switching to value and outcomes over governance and consolidation.

data trends

How accurate were our predictions for 2019?

This isn’t our first rodeo – in 2018, we made eight predictions for what would change in data throughout 2019. How well did we do?

Increase in data breaches and GDPR fines.

Absolutely. In January, we saw Google hit with the largest GDPR fine to date. In June, British Airways contested a record £183m fine, and a month later Marriott Hotels were hit with a £99m penalty related to a data breach discovered in 2018.

For Tim Connold, this was only the first step for ICO, with these fines laying down the groundwork for the watchdog to fully bear its teeth in years to come.

More backlash and protests against big (data focused) tech companies.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a sizeable rock this year, you’ve probably read about the furore against Amazon and Facebook this year. Amid opposition from customers and lawmakers, Amazon’s profits fell short in their second quarter.

In a similar vein, Facebook has come under more scrutiny than ever with Mark Zuckerberg spending time with Congress and Facebook introducing new internal controls – but this hasn’t hindered growth.

Power to diversity: an increase in diversity in data and tech roles.

There’s been some progress in gender diversity this year, but there’s still lots to do. Looking across the industry, not enough leadership positions are held by women. Likewise, most funding in tech startups goes to male-led organisations.

Women in Data continue to do an incredible job raising awareness and educating the importance of gender diversity.

Growth of data at the board level.

Looking at LinkedIn, there are now over 6000 people with the title ‘Chief Data Officer’. Back in 2010, Gartner reported that there were just 15 CDOs in large organisations, with that number rising to 400 in 2014, and leaping to 4000 in 2017.

Closer to home, membership in the CDO Hub community has doubled this year. However, we’ve seen a drop in board ownership of data, likely due to many GDPR programmes finishing, with many CDOs not integrating into Board level.

Ethics start to take more prevalence at the heart of data analytics in 2019.

In the UK and beyond, we’ve seen a greater interest in data ethics than ever before. The UK’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) grew its footprint and remit this year. Likewise, they published their first papers on the ethics of AI. Further afield, new ethics bodies have also been set up to consider similar issues abroad.

Renaissance of the Data Warehouse.

There’s certainly been an increase in discussions about building data warehouses and using traditional data warehouse techniques. Snowflake is a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant this year, and had a valuation of $4b. That’s pretty impressive growth for the cloud-based data warehouse.

Focus on data fidelity, instead of data quality.

Of all our data trends, this hasn’t really proven true in 2019. Quality and governance are still big priorities, and are considered to be a foundational requirement for success. We haven’t seen data fidelity take off as a term or approach to replace quality, as predicted.

Data literacy across a business, not just focused on Analysts.

There has been some progress in data literacy, gathering traction with programmes like Qlik’s Data Literacy module, but most literacy still focuses on creating analysts – and not levelling up to the board room.


That’s everything from us. What are your data ambitions for 2020?

Interested in driving business with data? Our 'Data-Guided Organisations' research paper explores where businesses have succeeded, and how to use these lessons to create your own data-guided organisation.

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Written by Jason Foster


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