The race for organisations to get a handle on data has remained strong in 2018. More individuals, companies, industries and countries are recognising the huge value that data can provide. We’ve also seen the dark side of data, not only taking industry press by storm, but more regularly making front page news. Think Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, high profile data breaches, facial recognition, AI being used to track individuals at a Taylor Swift concert, and so on. What about data analytics in 2019?
At the end of 2017, we made ten predictions about what 2018 might hold, as well as some light-hearted alternatives. How well did we do…?
We certainly saw GDPR take a lot of attention for the first half of the year, shining a light on data and data governance at a board level that many organisations hadn’t experienced before. There are still plenty of organisations looking at data from a cost (and risk) reduction perspective, rather than fully focusing their efforts on driving business value. In this case, we didn’t quite get as far as I’d predicted.
Data visualisation and ‘storytelling’ has certainly progressed, and there is a greater understanding that literacy around data is a fundamental characteristic of a data-enabled business. We saw a number of organisations invest in academy type programmes to support this.
In hindsight, our prediction for the Chief Data Officer role was too ambitious. Whilst the data leadership position carries more importance today, it hasn’t yet realised its position in reporting to the CEO, or its place on the Board.
Has Artificial Intelligence (AI) gone mainstream? The hype certainly has; and that hype has moved away from the experts, with business mainstream now trying to catch up. We’re also seeing deployments in proof-of-concept and production also heating up. Big Data hasn’t quite dissolved as a buzzword, with a number of popular events still using the term, such as Big Data LDN or Big Data Analytics. Yet, we certainly don’t see Big Data as often in the press today, and organisations are back to talking about just ‘data’ again (they’re too distracted by AI now).
The Data Science job market, and in particular the need to flood business with these skills, has definitely stepped up in 2018. New tools are helping organisations accelerate, but not yet removing (or even reducing) the need for Data Science skills. Cloud is undeniably in the mainstream for data, BI and analytics; it’s almost a no-brainer to have a Cloud first approach now. The speed at which solutions can be deployed makes data and analytics solutions far more accessible for these organisations.
As for our light-hearted, ridiculous predictions… Amazon didn’t buy Walmart to get physical space, but they did buy Whole Foods. More importantly, whilst there was no formal announcement naming the Chief Data Officer as the ‘sexiest job around’, it did receive this accolade by Michael Li from The Data Incubator.
Let’s see how we fare for the coming year!
This year, high profile data breaches have affected major organisations including British Airways, Dixons Carphone, Ticketmaster, Facebook/Cambridge Analytica and Marriott hotels (in which up to 500 million guests may have been breached). We believe this trend of data breach and cyber-attacks on customer data will continue to increase in 2019.
With the new European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) bedded in, we’ll likely see fines and legal proceedings against firms who fail to meet the obligations and legal clauses of GDPR.
The general public’s acceptance for big corporates and big tech using their data is quickly diminishing. Today, people are more aware of their personal data, their right to privacy, and the commercial uses that tracking gives to these organisations.
Pro-privacy search engine DuckDuckGo focuses on anonymous browsing instead of tracking. In 2018, it hit 30 million daily searches, after reaching 20m only last year — a year-on-year increase of 50%. It took seven years for them to hit 10m daily searches, but only another two to get to 20m, and just one year to hit 30m.
Whilst they’re still small fry compared to the 3 billion daily searches that Google handles, there is a definite increase in people wanting privacy online – a trend we expect to hockey stick in 2019.
We are seeing a shift in mindset and action, towards a more balanced gender representation in data and technology. This is thanks to the work of brilliant champions like STEMettes, Ada Lovelace Day, Women in Data, Tabitha Goldstaub, Edwina Dunn and The Female Lead, and many, many others.
Of course, there’s still loads more to do. Data analytics in 2019 will see some major shift happening here (and in diversity more generally). We expect to see more roles across the spectrum being taken by more and more diverse profiles, and maybe even the end of the ‘Manel’ (all Male panel).
Cynozure will continue to contribute to this agenda in 2019.
Moving on from our 2018 predictions surrounding the role of the CDO, we believe that data will be a focus at the Board level more than we have ever seen before. The recognition at the Board that data is a major game-changer, major accelerator and major advantage to the business, if managed and executed correctly.
We hope that the CDO champions will lead this charge, but the emphasis is making sure that data is taken seriously, supported, and put to work in your business.
As many organisations race to become data-enabled, discussions of the ethical use of data analytics in 2019 is also growing. This is a real concern, with notoriously bad practices in how data is used, and the potential for harm in technological advances when it comes to areas like Artificial Intelligence.
A number of ethics committees and boards have been set up in 2018, both here in the UK and across the world. These organisations work to understand the impact of Artificial Intelligence and ensure that ethical considerations are taken seriously, potentially even driving new laws. 2019 will see these forums get more teeth, deliver more actionable change, and advance the ethical agenda.
For a long time across the late 90’s and 00’s, data warehousing (along with Management Information and Business Intelligence) was the preferred route to accessing to data and visualising the performance of the business. This started to shift from 2010 onwards, with Big Data and Data Science, and more recently to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Thankfully, organisations have started to recognise that to deliver benefit from these at pace and scale in real situations, they need to have the fundamentals of data management sorted. Good access to good quality data, exactly when it’s needed.
The term ‘data warehouse’ has started to creep back into the vernacular this year, with organisations such as Snowflake actually doubling down on it. As such, we’ll see a reboot of the data warehouse as a common term and a corporate asset. This won’t be the same as last time, but it will enable organisations to gather, manage, secure and exploit the data that exists within its business…. what everyone is after, right?
The quality of your data is a fundamental issue to resolve, in order to continually get value from your data analytics in 2019 and be confident in it. Quality data encourages trust, and trust supports the responsible use of your data.
However, owing to the poetic thoughts of Ross Simson, we agree that 2019 will see organisations considering Data Fidelity as a method of understanding how detailed the data needs to be, in order for it to be trusted. High fidelity creates strong faith in the data, and facilitates using this data in the way it should be used.
Data Literacy as a concept is about developing the data savviness of an organisation, and the people within. If people can understand data, what it is saying, and how to use that insight, they can drive better business outcomes.
In the last year or so, data literacy has focused on developing people within an organisation to be analysts. This includes the ability to apply maths to data, to analyse data sets and present them in the right way, and to use Business Intelligence and analytics tools correctly. As such, the focus has been on the up-and-coming granular skills of using data.
Data analytics in 2019 will see this climb upstairs to senior management, the management team and the Board, encouraging them to become more data literate. In the next year, it’s imperative that they can understand the answers that come from data , to drive conclusions for the rest of the organisation. Likewise, if they can understand how data is deployed, and how to change business operations and strategy based on what data is saying, everyone will benefit.
In conclusion, 2019 will be an exciting year for data and the data ecosystem. How do you think our predictions will stand up? Give us your thoughts on Twitter – we’d love to know if you agree, and what your predictions for data analytics in 2019 are too.
Jason Foster, Cynozure Founder & CEO, named Entrepreneur of the Year at The Allica Bank Great British Entrepreneur Awards for the Services Industries in London
Cynozure named as the 14th fastest growing company on London’s 2023 Fast Growth 50 Index
Jason Foster, Cynozure’s Founder & CEO, recognised as One to Watch in The LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders for 2023