Introducing Trends 2021 – “The great digital switch”

Trends season is here.

Many companies do them, and you will see them scattered everywhere. Our ambition around trends is different though. We want to contextualize and embed trends into a broader theme, capturing the zeitgeist. That way the strands become interwoven into a fabric, showing a structural pattern and hopefully also indicating where we are heading.

Big, sustainable themes have come out of past trends reports from us, such as “data literacy,” “de-silofication of data,” “postmodern analytics,” and last year, “analysis is no longer enough.” And they link up with each other. Last year, our argument was that in a fragmented world, you need synthesis AND analysis. If you have that in place, then 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. The severity of the here and now has prompted the imperative for immediate change. Those changes pervade this year’s theme, pointing out the requirements we didn’t think we needed so soon, but that are now critical. Inertia is no longer an option, and trends that used to evolve linearly are now sudden.

However – beyond the immediacy, with Covid-19 as the catalyst, we’re also gleaning a future of bigger and more permanent changes to data and analytics. No matter how you describe it, in an interconnected world, the frequency and impact of major events that disrupt markets will likely increase. And while you can’t predict when a transformative event will happen next, you can be prepared, even thriving on anomalies in a way that the competition can’t. What we call the great digital switch is therefore two-fold. To adapt in a volatile world, you must be able to “react” and “pre-act.”

Switch 1: “React.” The first switch is about 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 through-out 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. Let’s go back to the previous financial crisis in 2008/2009. Then we saw a generational shift, from reporting centric BI to analysis centric BI, as new requirements arose for agile, get-started-fast 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. This is enabled by a real-time data pipeline that can trigger action at the speed of business. Organizations will be looking for analytics that can embed tactical actions into workflows, processes and moments, but also, strategically, to synthesize and surface data and signals early, enabling options for organizations to embark on more informed paths. It’s driven by necessity, so organizations can react and pre-act quicker to current and future disruptions.

I look forward to speaking to you in more detail about this in an upcoming webinar. Register here, where you can also access our 'BI & Data Trends 2021' eBook.

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