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That Was the Year That Was: Major BI Events of 2017 (and Predictions for 2018)

Industry analyst Michael Schiff shares the results of last year's predictions and what he foresees in the coming year.

As 2017 draws to a close, it's time to once again review some of the major events of the year and speculate on what might occur in 2018. First, let's review my predictions from last year.

Results of Last Year's Predictions

In December 2016, I predicted that the following would occur in 2017:

Industry consolidation will continue: My prediction about additional consolidations proved correct. Companies large and small continued to acquire other companies to increase market share and gain complementary technology (in particular: cloud, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and its machine learning subset, and cybersecurity) and provide additional pieces of a total data warehouse solution platform. See the "Major Data Warehousing Events of 2017" section (below) for examples.

The United States/Russia cyberwar will escalate: If anything, my prediction underestimated the actual and alleged incidents of cyberwar escalating events and has expanded to other nations including North Korea. Among these were Russia's targeted social media postings in attempts to influence the U.S. presidential elections and attempts to penetrate voter databases, servers, and software systems. As a precaution, or perhaps in retaliation, the U.S. banned its agencies from deploying Moscow-based Kaspersky software and the U.S. Cyber Command choking the servers of North Korea hackers with enough traffic to prevent Internet access.

Windows 10 market share will show renewed growth: Although I correctly predicted that Windows 10 market share would grow in 2017, I expected it to be higher given that Microsoft disallowed OEMs from selling new PCs with Windows 7 or 8x after October 2016. According to StatCounter's October 2017 numbers, Windows 10 desktop market share is now almost 41 percent up from its October 2016 measure of almost 31 percent.

Net neutrality will be repealed: As I predicted the Trump administration is seeking to overturn the net neutrality rules passed in 2015 under the Obama administration. A Republican-led bill is seeking to limit the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) authority over the Internet and the current FCC chairman, appointed by President Trump in January 2017, is on record as opposing the net neutrality rules. However, this now two-prong battle against net neutrality has yet to be decided.

Voice analytics will become more prevalent: This, too, proved true. Several vendors introduced technology that used speech analytics and artificial intelligence to analyze voice intonation, pace, indications of stress, and other non-content variables to predict user behavior in CRM and call center applications.

Blockchain data will feed big data analytics: As I predicted, blockchain and its role in the decentralized collection and securing of ledger transactions has extended well beyond Bitcoin to a wide variety of healthcare, financial, fraud detection, and supply-chain applications. Several vendors are already highlighting their ability to analyze blockchain data as part of their overall big data capabilities.

Major Data Warehouse Events of 2017

Continuing industry consolidations: Although the pace has slowed, industry acquisitions continued. These included IBM's acquisition of Agile 3 Solutions for its cybersecurity risk management technology and Verizon's private cloud and managed hosting service. Oracle purchased cloud API vendor Apiary, development tool vendor Wercker, and marketing analytics vendor Moat. SAP added to its portfolio with Gigya's customer identity and access management technology while Tableau acquired ClearGraph for its natural language processing query technology.

Teradata bought startup StackIQ for its software provisioning capabilities. In August, private investment firm Centerbridge Partners took over Syncsort, which in 2016 significantly enhanced its data integration capabilities with its purchase of data quality vendor Trillium Software.

HP Enterprise spins off its software: After splitting off from the original Hewlett Packard in 2015 and spinning off its enterprise services business to CSC in 2016, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) spun off most of its software assets (which included software previously acquired with HP's acquisitions of Autonomy, Mercury Interactive, ArcSight, and Vertica) to Micro Focus in September 2017. After a history of somewhat questionable acquisitions, HPE now appears to be focusing on its hardware heritage and is portraying itself as "A National Asset In Supercomputing."

Equifax suffers a disastrous data breach: Data security and identity theft were major concerns after the major credit bureau credit reporting database was hacked and sensitive data (e.g., Social Security numbers, birthdates, driver's license numbers, etc.) of over 143 million people exposed. This has led to numerous investigations, company executive resignations, calls for better ways to protect data and stricter compliance rules, as well as concerns about storing some sensitive data at all.

Social media data potentially used to influence the presidential elections: User demographic and psychographic data collected by social media platforms such as Facebook were allegedly used by Russia to identify and target users with questionable, if not outright false, messages to influence their votes. This has led to concerns about how social media data warehouses can be used to generate revenue associated with targeted advertising.

The Internet of Things (IoT) continued its explosive growth: With the almost ubiquitous presence of Internet-connected devices in our own and our organizations' lives, the number of Internet-connected devices continued to grow exponentially in 2017. Our mobile phones and tablets, televisions, digital assistants, fitness monitors, GPS tools, and smart-home devices derive much of their functionality from their Internet connections. Many of us have become accustomed to being continuously Internet connected and the Internet of Things is evolving into the Internet of Everything.

My Predictions for 2018

Industry consolidation will continue: Once again I expect major platform vendors to target smaller, more focused product and service companies in order to obtain additional big data analysis capabilities, augment their cloud capabilities, establish or supplement their artificial intelligence capabilities, and enhance their cybersecurity and privacy technology.

Data lakes will be drained: As organizations realize that their data lakes may have become data swamps (due to factors including data quality and business relevance), the practice of "collect everything" will be replaced by true cost/benefit analyses to determine the data's potential value.

Data warehouse automation will extend to query automation: Data warehouse automation capabilities currently include functionality such as database design and data integration. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced technologies will be deployed to automate intelligence queries and applications as they mine the data warehouse to formulate queries and generate non-obvious insights. As users rate the usefulness of these queries, the algorithms that generated them will modify themselves to generate more useful ones.

Security and identify theft prevention will be primary drivers: Ramifications of the Equifax data breach will lead to stronger authentication procedures, compliance regulations about what data can be stored, and consumer protection laws. Portions of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations (scheduled to be effective in May of 2018) defining personal data while restricting what can be collected and how it can be aggregated (e.g., it should not be possible to include non-ID data elements that could be linked together to uniquely identify an individual and thus reveal their religion or sexual preference), will likely be adopted in the United States.

Monetization of smart-home device data: Vendors of smart-home devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home Mini, smart thermostats, and home security devices and other digital assistants will be tempted to monetize the personal data they collect by selling it to companies or advertisers wishing to better target their one-on-one marketing activities. This will lead to a backlash over privacy concerns and possible legislature over who owns this data as well as restrictions regarding what the smart-device vendors are allowed to store and do with it.

Escalating demand for data scientist and AI practitioners: Although the past few years have seen increasing demand for these skills, the demand will further increase and competition for experienced and even recent graduates will become even more acute. However, as anyone who has ever taken a single statistics course tries to work "data scientist" into their resumes, organizations will further vet potential hires and expect to see solid experience or coursework.

I'll report on the accuracy of these predictions next year, when I make new ones for 2019.

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