It’s safe to say 2020 was a year marred by unprecedented disruption—of shock, panic, and uncertainty for many. However, while we can expect the aftereffects of the past year to last well into the new year and beyond, what has been a time of “how do we keep the lights on” reactionary measures is quickly being replaced by a new mindset of “how do we adapt and climb into economic recovery.” This makes 2021 not merely a year of return to business-as-usual but something even more exciting: An opportunity to reinvent and thrive in a post-pandemic economy. For data-driven organizations, this means taking advantage of a unique opportunity to re-envision what our data and analytics strategies will look like in the days ahead.
If 2019 was riding an economic high, 2020 was a nosedive into austerity. Businesses were forced to set aside existing data and analytics strategies and instead prioritize a shift to the tactical—a focus on achieving resiliency and stability in a time of cost-cutting, fail fast, and intense scrutiny on business resources. For some, this was a time of screeching halt on planned data initiatives; for others, an uncomfortable season of constant volatility and quick fixes. While rapid experimentation and knee-jerk responses certainly led to some improvements—most markedly in things like collaborative tools and a new breed of virtual work-from-home tech—the massive disruption in the way organizations manage their data and analytics strategies paved the way for reinvigorated commitments to agile methodologies and technology infrastructures, especially those which enable data and analytics at scale. These events led organizations to not only question how to recover in a new, post-pandemic economy, but, more importantly, how to meet the essential business demands for data and analytics going forward—as well as insulate and enable, sustain, and transform analytics methodologies?
Within the answers to these questions are what Radiant Advisors predicts to be the three most prominent themes we’ll see in the year to come:
Double Down on Digital Transformation Efforts. While a movement toward digital transformation has been happening for years, 2021 will be the year organizations make a hard pivot to accelerate their current transformation strategies as they double down on ways to support direct-to-consumer business operations. With relationships between businesses and consumers already disrupted, new emphasis has been set on digital delivery for products and services. These will seek to reduce dependencies on external partners and delivery chains and elevate, simplify, and streamline how value is delivered directly to a more connected customer.
Methodologies and Tech Infrastructure that Drive Business Outcomes. The rise of self-service analytics has dominated the dialogue of the data industry for some time now. Going forward, 2021 will see the reinterpretation of this need not just on platforms to enable self-sufficiency among data users, but in everything that contributes to agility: methodologies, organizational structures, and technical infrastructures. The goal will be to empower IT and businesspeople, not systems or merely IT, to explore, discover, and act upon business information faster—leaner, more agile, and more innovative than ever before.
- Education and opportunities to gain experience with agile methodologies for data enablement may require companies to retool platforms that facilitate collaboration for data engineers with DataOps and data scientists with faster deployments and better operations found in MLOps.
- Cloud platform migrations will shift to increasing cloud-native maturity that have the potential to realize more business value in agility than cost reduction.
Tackling Data and Analytics at Scale for a Data Culture. Data and analytics at scale have expanded from a goal of empowering business analysts and citizen data scientists to a mandate of enabling everyone in the organization to work with available data to make quicker business decisions. If nothing else, the past year’s impact only highlighted the fact that traditional data warehousing and business intelligence approaches fall short of the rapid innovation needed. With more data to process, the adoption of machine learning and automation efforts, including robotic process automation, should increase in 2021.
- Modern data and analytics strategies will balance BI/DW with architectures to support self-service and ML platforms for the business to work as independently as possible—and at scale—with its people and partners.
Ultimately, 2021 will see a shift from a tech-centric mentality to a people-centric, data-driven culture. Decentralized approaches, smaller teams, and more emphasis on data platform enablers—like the cloud—will drive 2021 data culture, spurred by a renewed focus on programs and technologies to invest in people to (1) do more analytics faster, (2) more fully exploit existing technologies, and (3) avoid increasing technical debt. As a post-pandemic data and analytics strategy crystallizes from the experiences of 2020, we can expect to see a much sharper focus on business outcomes linked to stakeholders to implementations and ownership. Meanwhile, the convergence of 5G networks, IoT, and embedded AI will continue to lead the next data and analytics mega trends for companies on the leading edge, and become the new shiny object for others.