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Democratised data: The way forward for business in 2016

The year ahead will bring new levels of flexibility and depth of insight, as companies begin to exploit tools which enable them to collate, integrate and visualise data to improve services and drive sales. In particular, we’re going to see the rise of vertical-specific cloud services aimed at solving common problems within a particular industry; the movement of critical business data into the hands of frontline workers; and the paramount importance of customer engagement built on intelligent use of data.

The power of industry clouds

With the integration of connected devices only truly rolling out over the past year, there has been a tremendous rise in new types of data. Organisations are wrestling with how to leverage the resulting information. Rather than businesses choosing to build new data analytics infrastructure themselves, 2016 will see the adoption of ‘industry clouds’ for analytics purposes soar. These are specific analytics infrastructures hosted in the cloud that can be used by vertical industries to solve certain problems common to their industry– which proves especially valuable for data-heavy sectors that make use of connected devices, such as telco, utilities, transport and logistics and retail.

For example, when it comes to data analytics, utility companies across the board have similar requirements. Regardless of whether they focus on the transmission of electricity, gas, water or another resource, utilities must monitor and process large volumes of data, and an industry cloud for analytics enables them to do so in the cheapest, most efficient way possible.

For the transport and logistics sector, most vehicles today have at least one monitoring sensor that produces data. If each engine owned by one company has just one more sensor added on, that results in tens of thousands times more data to process – which today’s companies are just not set up to do. However, the availability of an industry cloud would make analytics accessible to any organisation that wants to be able to leverage the true value that can be extracted from connected data.

Data for the masses

2016 will also be the year when data analytics truly becomes democratised for businesses. Up until now, there has only been a ‘select few’ who have the resources and skills available to extract the true value from data. However, technology innovations mean that today, data can be made available for anyone who needs it.

The retail industry provides a good illustration of what this will look like in practice.
For example, members of retail teams can now have access to pertinent data that will make their job easier – and this is most important for front line staff, who are actually on the shop floor building relationships with customers. The physical representation of this development is that we see more people walking around in stores with mobile devices such as iPads, using applications that can feed them data directly. This will have democratised the analytics process in a way that now allows a staff member who previously had no insight on the customer in front them to immediately build a rapport and offer a better customer experience.

This ready availability of real time data for the masses will also mean businesses now have unprecedented insight into predicting future trends. Think of it like a blindfold being taken off a business, which now can clearly see what actions to take next! This level of connected awareness in real time will be a true benefit of data for the masses.

The “Relationship Experience” rules

Finally, 2016 will mark a turning point for buying behaviour. With products and services becoming ever more homogenous, over the next year, consumers will be making choices based on trust and customer experience more than ever before. Of course, data security is a huge differentiator when it comes to building loyalty and trust. But more and more, it won’t take a data breach to place doubt in today’s cynical consumers – one wrong spelling of their name, or one suggestion of a wrong delivery address, could lose their trust.

A recent survey conducted in the UK by YouGov on behalf of Informatica showed that the biggest factor that would make a consumer lose trust in a brand is not the data breach itself, but a lack of communication following a breach. The research also found that today’s businesses are being forced to earn customers' trust. Being transparent about how personal information is used (50 per cent), having a privacy policy in place (43 per cent) and quickly responding to any issues (38 per cent) are the top three things that enterprises can do to earn trust.

2016 will see the brands that can leverage data for a 360 degree view of the customer, in order to provide exceptional “personal relationship experiences”, quickly pulling away from the competition. Most industries have already got accurate pricing strategies in place, but the next year will see ‘value added’ refinements to make these strategies more personalised and favourable for customers.

Let’s take the travel industry, for example. The technology is available today for an airline cleverly using data to build relationships with customers to drive the travel process, including personalising check-in at the airport to entertainment and dining experiences on the plane. Data could also drive a series of choices once the customer is long gone from the website. For example, if data shows you’re a driver, they could offer you a car service for the same price as parking. If data shows your favourite brands, they could offer you deals within the terminal building. If there’s a connection to your social media, they may be able to know if you’re travelling with your friends, and give you group deals.

This type of personalisation will begin to come to the fore over the next year and the truly personal relationship experience will see increasing adoption.

In short, data will become more and more useable in 2016 – tailored to niche industry needs, placed in the hands of shop-floor workers to drive smart, quick decisions, and mined with a close regard for the customer. With these innovations in place, data will open the way for more agile, targeted business models in the year ahead.

Greg Hanson, Senior Director EMEA, Informatica

Image Credit: T.L. Furrer / Shutterstock

Greg has over 15 years’ experience of data integration initiatives. He joined Informatica in 2000 and since then has worked on hundreds of data initiatives with Informatica’s clients and partners.