How Can Organizations Maximize the Impact of Data in 2021?

In what feels like a lifetime ago now, way back in 2012, the Harvard Business Review called out the role of data scientist as the sexiest job of the 21st century. Almost a decade later, does that still ring true?


As we enter 2021, the world has changed. Events are happening which will alter our lives forever, and the role of data and data science is transforming business processes at breakneck speed.

And it’s this evolving role of data within organizations that is one of the trends I’m seeing for this year and is something I discussed at length in the latest episode of Data Brilliant.

Chatting with my colleague, Joe DosSantos, and Susan Linnell, IT Enterprise Data Management Lead at Novartis, one of the major players in the medical, pharmaceutical and Life Sciences industry, we discussed the key trends in data for 2021 and, crucially, how they’re impacting how organizations work and are structured today.

And, arguably, there are few industries that have received such global attention over the last year as the pharmaceutical industry. So, it was fascinating to hear how Novartis’ analytics strategy is evolving as it drives to reimagine medicine to address some of society’s most challenging health issues.

Focusing On The Breakout Moments For Data

Susan encouragingly told us that her company is transitioning from an organization that just consumes data to one that treats it as a strategic asset. The good news is, that I’m seeing that all over the world, with 2021 set to be the year that many firms focus on the importance of data availability. And this cannot be overlooked.

Like many people within the industry, as a trio, Joe, Susan and I have probably all been talking about real-time analytics and how data is going to be the new oil for what seems like a long time. But, as data is made more readily available to users throughout an organization and access to data is democratized, we will undoubtedly start to see some breakout moments in 2021.

To get to these moments, we first need to look at how people will consume data in the future. What’s clear is that we need to make data available on demand and in an easy to access format so that we can start to move away from simple self-service and towards self-sufficiency.

But, it’s not just about throwing raw data out there to be consumed by the masses. That won’t work. Governance structures and controls need to be in place, not only to protect potentially sensitive company data but to give people access to the data that they need to do their jobs, without overloading them. Because ultimately, the more people understand the data within the context of the business and have the ability to argue and analyze it themselves – no matter what their job function – the more opportunities we are going to see derived from that data. We call that data democratization.

But, there has to be a spectrum. Arguably everyone within a company is a consumer of data. As Joe said during our talk, we have to look at the different personas of our users to give them the right controls and access – from the data scientists who need to work in deep data sets, to the sales representative who just wants to ask a simple question.

Applying Data To a Business Context

By democratizing data across an organization, we can start to look at interesting and innovative combinations of data through different perspectives.

Trends in data and technology don’t all need to be about the latest and sexiest innovations, often genuine breakthroughs come from merging data sets or types that you hadn’t tried before.

As Joe rightly said during our discussion, we must embrace the new, but we can’t forget what we already know. To truly focus on the business impact, organizations must first build on and make available their existing data. This is what will make us all successful in 2021.

Listen to @DanSommer & @JoeDosSantos from @Qlik & Susan Linnell from @Novartis discuss how orgs can proactively use #data & #analytics in a continually evolving world

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