Introducing BI & Data Trends 2021 – “The Great Digital Switch”

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Big, sustainable themes have come out of our annual trends reports, such as “data literacy,” “de-silofication of data,” “postmodern analytics,” and most recently, “analysis is no longer enough.” Last year, our argument was that in a fragmented world, you need synthesis AND analysis. If that’s in place, you can be more strategic, innovate and navigate the regulatory maze. We also said that approach “can factor in so called black swan events, which looks at unusual things that may happen, or tipping points, or changing circumstances in politics, economy, regulation, social circumstances, technology or environment.”

As it turns out, 2020 became that year and has prompted the imperative for immediate change.

Beyond the current Covid-19 crisis, we’re gleaning a future of bigger changes to data and analytics. In an interconnected world, the frequency and impact of major events that disrupt markets will likely increase. While you can’t predict when this will happen next, you can be prepared and even thrive on anomalies in a way the competition can’t. We call this the Great Digital Switch and it’s two-fold. To adapt in a volatile world, you must be able to “react” and “pre-act.”

Switch 1: “React.” The first switch is the need to digitally react to this crisis. Is your business model and internal operations set up to operate in a more virtual world? When your factory, shop or hotel is without physical people, you need to do something quickly. For that you need transformation that comes through modernizing your information flows, infrastructure and applications. Up-to-date, accessible and accurate data is mission-critical. And it’s not just about data, but about having agility throughout the entire information value chain, so you can react fast.

Switch 2: “Pre-act,” is about the next disruption, and the ones after that. How can you see the signals earlier and react faster? To tackle future anomalies, you must move from being only reactive to being “pre-active” – that is, to both prepare and act. This means preparing scenarios and options and not only having up-to-date data, but also triggers acting at the speed of business.

Crises usually act as the catalyst that triggers inflection points, and Covid-19 will change the course of analytics. Looking back at the previous financial crisis in 2008/2009, we saw a generational shift from reporting centric BI to analysis centric BI and new requirements arose for agile BI that sat closer to the business.

Drastically changed circumstances have again accelerated and prompted completely different expectations, driving a need for next-generation technology that can be summed up in moving from passive to active – enabled by a real-time data pipeline that can trigger action at the speed of business. Organizations will look for analytics that can embed tactical actions into workflows, processes and moments, but also, strategically, to synthesize and surface data and signals early so to react and pre-act faster to future disruptions.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.