There’s no business like a data-powered business: 2021 predictions for a data-fueled future

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No, data is not the new oil – if only because that has undisputedly become one of the biggest clichés of the industry. It’s actually much more than that. It provides the energy for resilience, performance, agility, innovation and even renaissance-style breakthroughs in every business play.

By Zhiwei Jiang, CEO, Insights & Data and Ron Tolido, CTO, Insights & Data, Capgemini

Just like every business has become a technology business, so must every enterprise become a data-powered enterprise – one that taps into a continuous flow of data to learn and improve. And, it’s data that comes from many different places: straight from ongoing business operations, from external providers, collaborative partners or even as synthetic data, generated by AI.

Businesses have spent years moving away from inflexible, monolithic enterprise data warehouses towards more flexible data lakes. Now, new principles and technologies acknowledge the distributed nature of data and its potential value for the future.

So, what lies in store in 2021 for businesses on their way to becoming data-powered?

1. Data is Energy
Rather than the cliché noted above, we think of data in a more contemporary, sustainable metaphor: the sun. Abundant and unlimited in its potential, just like data. The organizations that take advantage of using it to its maximum capacity, will reap the benefits from a monetization point of view. This will also prompt an increase in data-sharing and exchange, as businesses realize there is so much more value in data that is shared and collaborated on, all without risking their competitive advantage. Data becomes energy, the smarter, reusable kind.

2. Data: be like water
Throughout the pandemic we have relied on AI and data to support ongoing operations, and they will keep playing a vital part in the transformation of business. Data and AI help organizations to build both resilience and adaptability and allow them to respond much more quickly – maybe even automatically or entirely autonomous – in the event of any new threat or opportunity. Part of these shapeless ‘water-like’ capabilities – as cultural icon, Bruce Lee so perfectly describes – will rely on a greater transparency of data; businesses must increase data sharing among their ecosystem of partners to improve overall visibility.

3. Innovation, meet scale
The pandemic has been the unlikely accelerator to many enterprise innovation ambitions. Now it’s gaining momentum. However, innovation itself is not the pinnacle of success. After all, what is the point of innovating without then implementing at scale within, or beyond, an organization?

So, in 2021 and beyond, it will not just be a matter of keeping that appetite for innovations. In areas such as AI and cloud, we must focus more on the strengthening of efficacy within operations – even if it means slowing down in that addictive innovation spree.

4. Data and the reimagined business model
AI and data are changing the business landscape and raising customer expectations. We see this through the likes of Amazon, which has thrived in the pandemic with data-powered capabilities in place – enabling it to react quickly and provide easy, seamless services to customers.

As established enterprises have no choice than to catch up, they need to turn to AI and data to reimagine the way they conduct their business. Utilizing data means even small companies can analyze customers’ changing needs and transform in-person interactions – and that’s just one example of a flurry of data-powered trends that are resetting the playing field.

5. AI and the rediscovery of ethics
Centering ethics, trust, and privacy in the context of AI and data will be foundational. From both a regulatory and societal perspective, AI and data must be transparent and trustworthy. But it’s not an easy ride, as many governmental Covid-19 track and trace initiatives have demonstrated. The new emphasis on AI, intelligent automation, and robotics is putting foundational topics right back on the corporate agenda, forcing companies to reestablish how they look at ethics, emotional intelligence, and the changing role of people in their business.

6. East & West parallels
Many innovations around data, notably in the areas of cloud infrastructure, Edge computing and AI, seem to be applied in Asia first. This is not only the case in online retail, but just as much in life science, intelligent industry, supply chain and smart cities. With a pandemic that crushed physical boundaries and accelerated the move to virtual businesses, this ‘alternative’ universe mingles more with the digital realities of the West. While societal, cultural, and political gaps exist just as much as before, there’s a lot to learn from the data-powered ambition, mobilization and actionability that is rising in the East.

7. The raison d’être of data
Some organizations may feel the pandemic has temporarily delayed their ambitions. Others may have experienced it as the decisive inflection point they have been waiting for. In any case, whatever 2021 turns out to be, most organizations will surely focus more on strengthening their sense of purpose, their raison d’être.

Data will be pivotal to the elevated change that comes with it, and not only to articulate, to define and to monitor the new, desired metrics and results. It will also be leveraging its data sources to reach out to the outside world, sharing and exchanging data for joint outcomes in a more sustainable, more diverse, more inclusive world.

2021 promises to be another transformational year for business. To learn more about our technology trends for this year and how your organization can prepare for the future, see our latest TechnoVision Change Making report and Data-powered Innovation Review | Wave 1.

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