2019 – The rise of the CDO, a data bill of rights, the unstoppable cloud, and more

6 min read

Originially published on itproportal.com.

2019 is shaping up to be another eventful year in technology. Below are my thoughts on some of the stories we’re likely to be talking about as the year unfolds.

The rise of the CDO

Until recently data management has been the responsibility of the CIO or CTO with a heavy focus on data collection, storage, and security. Yet, as the value of data becomes more apparent and impossible to ignore, the need for the smart use of that data across all LOBs has become every bit as important as data management and maintenance. Organisations understand that, if utilised correctly, data can be an invaluable resource and offer a substantial advantage over their competition. In line with this shift in attitude, in the last year, we’ve seen the emergence of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) within organisations to preside over the data landscape. Increasingly they are taking a seat at the boardroom table along other c-suite members, and have become a key partner to the CIO.

Although CDO’s are not yet commonplace in all businesses and role definitions can vary from one organisation to another, the best of them are a product of both tech and business and must have an aptitude for both. Crucially they must understand their company’s business strategy and the financial nature of their organisation as much as a CFO or CRO, as well as be able to navigate vast quantities of data, identify what data is most useful to various business units, and provide data-driven insights that will help the business achieve their goals.

Data science goes mainstream

In 2018 we reached a critical mass of people talking about, studying and practicing data science. The ready availability of courses from the likes of LinkedIn and Coursera has placed more knowledge and best-practices in the hands of more people and at mainstream businesses worldwide. At the same time, technology vendors are introducing self-service tools to help data-savvy analysts and professionals, well beyond the elusive data scientist, put data to work in new ways. Now it’s not uncommon for organisations of all sizes to direct new investment into data science boot camps for their employees and we’ll see this trend grow in the coming year.

However, the introduction of GDPR makes the practice of data science, which thrives on large pools of data from multiple sources, difficult to execute cleanly. Machine learning can cloud the ability of a company to clearly identify how they came to a decision especially when ‘machine learning magic told us’ is not an adequate answer. In 2019 businesses both large and small will need to refocus their efforts not just on the outcomes that their data can achieve, but where the data was collected, how the data was input, and how the data was used. With Facebook front and centre for many of this past year’s tech blunders, it’s clear that transparency with data access, data use, and more broadly data science practices is the now the name of the game.

The unstoppable cloud

The unstoppable tide of cloud is showing no signs of slowing down as enterprises continue to shift responsibilities and processes to the cloud. Tech vendors, such as Salesforce and Adobe, who a decade ago offered a single or handful of SaaS apps have broadened to develop additional LOB capabilities and/or acquired companies in order to enter new markets, essentially moving to form a stronghold as a robust platform provider.

The number of clouds enterprises use as well as the traffic between each cloud is increasing too as enterprises want the flexibility and resilience that a multi-cloud approach can provide. They want flexibility to adapt to shifting market expectations and technology advances, as soon as they arise. And it’s not just resilience in terms of recovery after a potential disaster they are looking for, but also security. In an age where data breaches are front page news, multi-cloud storage and disaster recovery offers business protection and the chance to refocus efforts elsewhere in the event of an attack.

Although cloud adoption is expected to continue apace, a key difference between 2018 and 2019 is the move of the entire core ERP systems off-site. Whilst many organisations have been embraced cloud based ERP software for specific functions, like Marketing and HR, 2019 is the year that we see a greater shift with organisations relying on the cloud to serve up applications across the whole of the business. Beyond cloud apps, we’ll also increasingly see data lakes, data warehouses, and big data analytics shift to the cloud.

Data bill of rights

People’s data has been front and centre in the news this past year thanks to some high profile news headlines uncovering insecure social media platforms, questionable business practices, or wide-scale data breaches. Understandably this means people are now questioning what and how much of their personal or business lives they want to put online. The amount of data that can be accessed, correlated, and monetised is reaching a critical mass and as businesses realise the value of this personal data, so too have consumers. A key theme throughout 2019 will likely be a debate around the extent to which a person has a right to their own data, how information about them is captured and when and where, and who gets to profit from that data.

One example is in the growing use of facial recognition. From smart phones authentication to border security, facial recognition software is already part of our daily lives, but many of us might not give a second thought to the personal data being captured as part of that process. But with times changing it’s going to be interesting to see where people choose to draw the line in what is an acceptable use of the data that technology generates. For example, the Metropolitan Police have announced the trial of facial recognition at street level cameras in order to combat crime, and for the majority of us we would likely be willing to sacrifice this data in the interests of safety. But what happens if or when that data is used by commercial entities, or for uses other than what was initially intended? It’s likely we may feel very differently if facial recognition is used to help line the pockets of businesses. Both Disney and Universal Orlando have been stated to use facial recognition for both security and to help improve the customer experience in their parks, the latter of which can have a big impact on driving more sales, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming year.

Voice-enabled devices rev up IoT

Homes around the world are laden with devices connected to the internet that allow us to review, alter, and track just about everything from the lights and thermostat to baby monitors and home entertainment hubs. In 2018 IoT was slow to pick up steam; the revolution that was promised was instead replaced with a slow and steady rumble towards automation. The process of internet-enabled devices creeping into our homes is now mostly accepted but the way in which we will interface with these technologies continues to evolve and change. The likes of Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homepod allow us to adjust every aspect of our home by simply speaking.

It’s this voice-based interaction which in the coming year will help to deliver a smoother and more effective way of interacting with our home tech. It’s also likely to make aggressive moves into the enterprise, although this is likely to start out very niche and be aligned with very specific use cases. Manufacturing in particular has already seen huge potential from the implementation of IoT and with the addition of voice for key activities, it’s only going to further streamline processes. Look for IoT and voice-enabled devices to continue to advance into healthcare, retail, and other industries in 2019.

Former Chief Data Officer at SnapLogic

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