Fred Askham provides innovative client insights as Director of Analytics at IMM.
I expect to see three trends in business analytics and reporting in 2021: cloud dominance, data privacy, and expansion of data accessibility within organizations. Everyone in data analytics can give lip service to those subjects, but the industry has yet to adapt to (or even fully comprehend) their true implications.
First, let’s talk about the cloud. This solution provides inexpensive and scalable storage and processing that’s immensely helpful for businesses (hence its widespread adoption). “I don’t understand the cloud” isn’t a good excuse in 2021—I suggest partnering with an analytics consulting company if you don’t have the skills or expertise to implement cloud solutions effectively. By the way, give yourself ample time for the cloud migration process, which can be tricky.
The cloud industry has seen sustained growth over the past decade and beyond, and it’s not going away anytime soon. More than four-fifths of small business owners consider cloud services “essential tools” for their business operations, underscoring the utility of the cloud for organizations of all sizes. Gartner is projecting nearly 20 percent growth for the public cloud industry in 2021 alone, with cloud services set to take over a greater percentage of IT budgets over the next few years. The lesson is simple—cloud services are relevant in nearly every industry.
As far as data privacy, you should be aware of the host of recent regulatory and technological changes that could affect your practices. Top of the list: Apple’s updates to iOS14 privacy features and Google’s plans to eliminate cookies on its Chrome browser in 2022. These developments are going to have an impact on eCommerce and marketing data, and you’ll need to update your site to comply with new cookie policies. Also keep an eye on server-to-server integrations with media platforms like Facebook, which must be set up to maintain marketing performance. And you’ll need to be ready to deal with data deletion for consumers who demand it, so now is the time to start putting new processes in place.
Keep in mind that responding to changes in the privacy landscape isn’t always affordable. A 2019 report to the California Attorney General found that companies with fewer than 20 employees would spend around $50,000 to ensure compliance, while those with over 500 employees would end up spending an average of $2 million each. They forecasted a total cost of $55 billion for initial compliance alone, nearly two percent of the state’s total economic output. It’s easy to miss these costs when considering privacy regulations in the abstract, but they clearly have a concrete effect on overhead for small businesses as well as larger enterprises.
Finally, there’s the expansion of data accessibility within organizations. Reporting tools and platforms have rolled out user-friendly dashboards to make databases more accessible. Non-technical SMEs will no longer struggle to query a database. The people closest to the data who already have the business context can use the dashboard to answer their own questions instead of filtering them through analysts. Self-serve BI dashboards are an increasingly popular request.
With the rapid growth of data accessibility solutions, it’s no surprise that the business intelligence market grew to nearly $15 billion in 2020. We’re now producing around 44 zettabytes of data every single day, and our approach to data needs to change accordingly.
This is no longer something that’s limited to large-scale enterprises—the banking industry is the largest consumer of business intelligence products and services, but the impact of business intelligence is trickling down to organizations of all sizes. In fact, almost 75 percent of all organizations consider business intelligence important or critical to their day-to-day operations.
If you’re working in the data space, your job isn’t to sell clients on specific theories or initiatives; you should simply be trying to provide the most accurate and incisive view of the business that you can by using the tools at your disposal.
All of that is to say, 2021 is set up to bring about a large amount of change, and the data industry is no exception to that. Approaching that change as an opportunity to grow and find even more innovative solutions for our clients is a cornerstone of what we do at IMM. While change can be scary, if managed appropriately, it can also be a catalyst for positive outcomes. Just look at the growth that many brands that were well positioned in the eCommerce space saw in 2020. As a business, your ability to leverage cutting-edge technologies—and do so in a cost-effective manner—will only grow moving forward. The question that remains is, are you using that technology as effectively as possible and getting in front of the trends that will drive positive change for your business.