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2015: The Year of Data Strategy

Susan Etlinger

2015 The Year of Data Strategy
I’m not generally a fan of annual predictions; they always remind me of a carnival in which you’re encouraged to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”; you almost never win the giant teddy bear. So I apologize in advance if you were hoping to hear that your vacuum cleaner will soon become sentient, or that Google is planning to acquire Yosemite National Park and turn it into an incubator for middle-schoolers.

But I am thinking a lot these days about the impact of data: big, small, synchronous, asynchronous, structured and unstructured. I’m thinking about how we take signals from across the business, make sense of them and act upon them at scale.

I’m thinking about the challenges inherent in taking these vast rivers of human expression—what we affectionately call social networks—and analyzing them in a way that organizations can understand and from which they can extract value. And I’m thinking a lot about how we do this ethically, in a way that drives business value, builds relationships and honors both the implicit and explicit expectations of our customers, partners and audiences.

So, instead of predictions, here are the topics that I expect will be keeping us up at night in 2015. At Altimeter Group, we’re using a Watch-Plan-Act model to lay out what we think are the most important themes and priorities for the year. All of mine fit squarely into the “Plan” category for now, but, that said, it is extremely important to monitor these trends very closely to see how public opinion, case law, and technology innovation are evolving.

Data strategy is business-critical

What should organizations focus on? Big Data, Internet of Things, Social Business, Digital Transformation, Mobile First, or a mix? Or should they just sit on the sidelines for now? In my opinion, the common thread of all these trends is data. We operate in organizations in which we no longer control the flow of information, and we’re frequently not first to know some of the most important things about our customers, our products, our brand. Siloes and incompatible technologies make things so much harder.

This is the year to sit down and really think through how we will approach data as a critical business asset.

Organize for insight

Say the word “data,” and thoughts go to IT, to analysts, to people whose job it is to process and/or analyze. With big data (and the Internet of Things), that horse has left the barn. We can no longer afford to make data the province of siloed teams who don’t talk to each other. Want to understand the customer journey? You’re looking at social, mobile, email, web, CRM, BI, market research, supply chain and soon sensor data, at a minimum.

Organizing for data intelligence should be a top priority in 2015. It will require an unprecedented level of collaboration between business and IT to ensure that business context makes its way into big data initiatives, that technical innovation inspires “the art of the possible” in business, and that it’s done rationally and at scale.

Digital ethics is a mandate

In 2014, we saw so many examples of what happens when gray areas collide: the Facebook “Emotional Contagion” experiment, recent Uber revelations, the Samaritan “Radar” app. The fact is, we have not yet as an industry truly clarified our position about who owns our digital data, how and when it can be used, what “informed consent” really looks like, what privacy means, and how as organizations we intend to keep our digital spaces safe.

I do anticipate an escalation of these issues next year, as “the law of unintended consequences” collides with our increasingly fluid use of data. In 2015, organizations should examine their risks related to digital ethics, whether it is:

  • how they act; specifically, where they get their data, their analytics methodology, and how they store, steward, aggregate and use the data
  • how they communicate disclosures related to the above
  • potential impacts to customer privacy, security and safety

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of charting a strategy for digital ethics now.

That’s it for now. It’s going to be a tumultuous year, so let’s start it with a clear head: strategy, organization, ethics.

I look forward to discussing all of this with you throughout the remainder of 2014 and into 2015.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit TechPageOne. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.