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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

2017: Five Data Predictions for the New Year

From disruptions to new technologies, 2017 is shaping up to be an important year for data and the people who use or manage it.

Data is finally stepping into its rightful place and being recognized as the critical business asset it is, enabling organizations globally to comply with a growing host of regulations and helping employees make better and faster decisions. In the age of digital transformation, harnessing data's power for strategic advantage is what sets apart the businesses that are disrupting their categories from the ones that are struggling to remain relevant.

As more organizations undergo the transformation to being truly data driven, there are a number of changes I predict will follow. Let's take a look into my crystal ball and look at five major drivers of the changing data landscape in the year to come:

Data Prediction #1: The Chief Data Officer Will Rise ... and Fall

Industry analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2019, 90 percent of large organizations will have a CDO, but that's no indicator of success. I agree that the hiring of CDOs will accelerate in 2017, fueled by heightened competitive pressures, aggressive global regulations (such as GDPR and BCBS 239), and the general increasing speed of business.

However, just as the role of the CDO rises, so will the number of casualties. Some of these new CDOs will struggle to manage the many new challenges inherent in the role, such as cross-organizational collaboration, change management, and enterprise adoption. They will fail to establish the governance processes, and platforms needed to take control of the data chaos across the enterprise. The business users will become frustrated because they can't find the data they need, let alone understand it or trust it. This proliferation of poor or inconsistent data will cause data brawls to erupt throughout the organization.

As a result, responsibility for the data will likely default back to the CIO who can manage data repositories but lacks the business understanding to truly transform data into a strategic business asset.

The good news is that many CDOs will thrive when faced with new challenges associated with managing the never-ending data tsunami. They will figure out a way to control the data anarchy that likely exists today by implementing governance processes and platforms that enable the business to use data strategically. They will, however, stop short of implementing a data dictatorship that establishes so many rigid rules and controls that it prohibits innovation.

These CDOs are the people who will succeed at elevating data to a strategic business asset and empowering every business user (the data citizens) with access to trustworthy data. They will emerge as the data heroes.

Data Prediction #2: Educational Opportunities Will Explode

Top talent is hard to find, especially when that talent needs to be both business- and data-savvy. This blend of skills is imperative for digital businesses to thrive. That's why I believe we've reached a tipping point: there will be an explosion of new degree and certification programs offered to educate and certify the new class of data citizens.

These new degree and certification programs will do more than just train the next generation workforce. They will also re-educate existing workers about how to shift their mindset from storing data to using data to propel the business forward because the next generation of data leaders will need to blend both business and data skills to succeed.

The best educational programs will teach aspiring data citizens how to think strategically about critical data issues such as data protection, data management, big data and analytics, regulatory compliance, and data quality. They will also develop the skills most successful data leaders possess: communication, change management, and collaboration.

Data Prediction #3: Data Citizens Will Unite and Rise Up Against the "Data Dictators"

If you use data to do your job, then you're a data citizen, and all data citizens have the right to use data to unlock unlimited possibilities for the business. Too often an organization's data is in a state of anarchy or ruled by data dictators.

I predict that in 2017 these data citizens will rise up against the data anarchy and overthrow the data dictators. They will defeat the old-school knowledge workers by sharing their data and collaborating with others to ensure data is trustworthy. They will demand the ability to find, understand, and trust their organization's data.

In exchange for these basic data rights, they will use data strategically to uncover business potential and drive a competitive edge. They will come together as data citizens and drive the business to new heights.

Data Prediction #4: The Internet of Things will Disrupt Traditional Business Models

I predict that next year IoT will continue to push its way into mainstream business. As it does, it will massively disrupt business as we know it today.

With IoT, businesses have the ability to measure everything -- yielding insights and information to help assess risks and costs. Organizations will be able to be much more granular in the service they provide. For example, in the past, B2C companies could target their marketing campaigns to general categories of people, such as men or women. With IoT, that same targeting becomes hyper-customized. IoT allows these same businesses to target their campaigns down to an individual's digital behavior (such as their search history), making every touchpoint relevant to each unique person.

The hyper-customization that IoT enables has the potential to completely transform the way organizations work. It will cause businesses worldwide to rethink their traditional business models in the context of data.

Data Prediction #5: The Blockchain Will Emerge

The blockchain is a cutting edge public ledger system where users record and confirm transactions anonymously. Today, the blockchain is emerging from proof of concept, piquing the interest of organizations worldwide. In 2017, organizations will begin to look at if -- and how -- the blockchain fits in with their existing systems.

For the blockchain to work in the real world, we'll need to agree on standards and policies. Data governance is crucial to establishing and maintaining these standards and policies across those enterprises involved in it.

Many unknowns remain with blockchain, and I believe massive adoption is at least three years out. If you're not familiar with blockchain, use 2017 to understand what it is and how it might impact your business.

A Final Word

I'll look forward to seeing how many of these predictions are realized over the coming 12 months. Regardless, organizations will only continue to become more data-driven as more data citizens recognize the power of leveraging trusted information to do their jobs better and faster.

About the Author

Stan Christiaens is co-founder and chief technology officer of data governance specialist Collibra.

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