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Three ways businesses will adapt to become data-driven in 2019

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Putting data to work has never been more of a priority in business, with 86 per cent of organisations having already implementing data-driven strategies or planning to do so within the next five years. Businesses no longer throw around the term big data like it’s going out of fashion, now it’s just data – measured for its potential to drive growth and reduce costs. As the way we look at data has matured, so too has our understanding of how to achieve the contemporary business dream: data-centricity.

In order to achieve this goal, however, organisations must first focus on becoming data-driven. 2018 has been the year for taking data seriously, for basing key business decisions on data and letting the data analytics take precedence. In fact, research we conducted earlier this year revealed that, 80 per cent of organisations are no longer able to function without their data sources.

Data management has also been subject to much tighter regulation, since the introduction of GDPR in May this year. Progress slowed as businesses regrouped and readied their data analytic initiatives for the new legal landscape. As all personal data now poses a potential business risk, it became imperative to know exactly what data is stored where and how to access it quickly. The consequences for those who fail to do this go far beyond the increased monetary fines; they jeopardise consumer trust and their business’ bottom line.

On a more positive note, GDPR’s requirement to take a data inventory has provided organisations with the opportunity to discover new data relationships and better understand information lifecycles. As a result, businesses can uncover better data strategies, and learn to work even more intelligently.

Businesses should be looking to keep evolving their data practices, using select information intelligently rather than hoarding it – a mentality left over from the big data days. To achieve data-centricity, data must become the core of organisational operations, thought of first and last in every process.

In 2018 we entered the age of data, but what’s to come in 2019? Here are three ways that I think businesses will adapt to be become more data driven in the year to come.

1. They will bring together Data Science and Business Intelligence

It’s a clash of two worlds: large organisations employ separate teams for their Business Intelligence (Data Warehouses, Dashboards, Reports, SQL) and Data Science (Statistical Models, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, R/Python). While Data Science projects began in isolation, aiming to generate new insights out of often complex data, these developments are increasingly converging with BI as their technologies advance in the enterprise.

Next year, I think this trend will accelerate with more organisations than ever set to unite their Data Science and BI practices on some level. The secret is to ensure the needs of both teams are met. A “bring your own language” approach where data scientists can run scripts in their preferred language and BI teams can use SQL on a common data analytics repository can improve productivity and collaboration. Data Scientists can leave their laptops behind, freed by access to live data and increased computing capacity, as they apply statistical models to the single ‘point of truth.’

It’s not just about making the data scientists happy. Advances in BI tools make it possible for the data science team to build advanced algorithms into BI reports so that the C-suite can access deeper insights – if needs be on-demand. Access to data will ultimately need to be democratised, allowing teams throughout an organisation to work together to deliver more value, and more integrated into the fabric of the business.

2. They will make Business Intelligence self-service

Gartner’s recent CIO Agenda research revealed that data analytics remains the biggest area of IT and business investment, and with the rise of data analytics came the rise of business intelligence dashboards.

Primarily used by executives and senior members of staff, these dashboards give customised up-to-date reports on key business metrics and important business-driving data. Outside of the C-suite, business intelligence reporting is more ad hoc. The process for most staff is to request reports from their seniors, who request it from theirs, who request it from the analytics function. Failing that, such data is only accessible via monthly reports or updates.

The next evolution for business intelligence reporting is to become self-service, allowing all employees direct access to relevant business metrics and empowering them with the latest data.

Our research showed that 85 per cent of companies acknowledge the benefits of data and are actively working towards using it better. As this continues into 2019, business intelligence will become ever-more powerful, sitting upon high-performance analytic databases to enable all relevant teams with access to self-service reporting. 

3. They will hire the right people

While the move towards a technology-powered future has left some worried about their relevance in the workplace, leading companies cite skills shortages as a major impediment to growth. Deloitte’s Technology in the mid-market report found that 46 per cent of organisations are looking to hire more people now that they have implemented technologies such as cloud, AI and data analytics. In fact, the productivity of employees who are equipped with these technologies is exponentially higher than in the time before such developments.

Data-related skills, especially, remain in high demand. According to LinkedIn’s annual skills report released earlier this year, the top two essential skills that companies look for when recruiting are cloud computing followed by statistical analysis and data mining. This has remained the same since 2014, when data skills first became the most in-demand skill for employers.

As businesses work hard to deliver on their digital transformation plans in 2019, there will be an increasing need for employees with valuable data skills. In fact, it is predicted that Europe alone will need 346,000 more data scientists by 2020. Businesses are recognising that, as data becomes increasingly vital, so too are the employees who record and decode it.

As businesses embrace the transformational benefits of implementing intelligent data analysis, technology and techniques will continue to improve. It looks like we are in for another boundary-pushing year in 2019. I look forward to seeing how far we can progress data analytics next year and what we will be predicting for 2020.

Mathias Golombek, CTO, Exasol
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