We know, we know… it’s difficult enough to predict what the world will look like next week, let alone that we have rock-solid confidence in our ability to look an entire year ahead.
Of course, that doesn’t keep us from trying.
After all, data is at the very heart of most corporate strategies and plans or, as we put it last year, data is like the sun – abundant and unlimited in its potential. This is therefore the perfect moment in time to envision what breakthroughs data, analytics, and AI may bring to 2022. For context, a few business and societal parameters seem to be pretty clear:
1) the pandemic has a powerful, yet unstable afterburn
2) sustainability tops many executive agendas yet again
3) scarcity is a determining economic factor, in terms of natural resources, but also in terms of skilled personnel, and
4) innovation is a must for organizations, as (online) movers and shakers quickly change positions.
With all that in mind, we believe the following is quite likely to happen this year within the thriving realm of data-powered business:
1. Data mass gravity
Isaac Newton knew it: objects with more mass have more gravity. And gravity gets weaker with distance. So, the closer objects are to each other, the stronger their gravitational pull. We see more and more data stored and handled by the major cloud providers of this industry – the likes of AWS, Microsoft, Google, and other established names – plus regional, sovereign cloud providers (such as Bleu). With these data masses rising, many players in the surrounding data platform ecosystem will come closer for partnering and collaboration, as a simple consequence of the law of gravity.
2. Edge keeps giving
Data may indeed be stored en masse in a central cloud, but its sources are more diverse than ever. The Internet of Things – with so many physical objects now equipped with sensors, storage, computing, and connectivity – and the merger of operational technology and information technology keeps providing new flows of data. And it all comes straight from the edge, where the real action tends to happen. Intelligent Industry is the trail-blazing domain here, but watch out for the public sector (have a look at the emerging concept of ‘Society 5.0’, for example) and more domains to rapidly catch up and learn.
3. Data mesh rising
The edge is a concept that has already surpassed its technology roots, extending to entire business models. The same is happening with the notion of “mesh” which originates from lightweight, ad-hoc networking. Now, data mesh is all the rage with data platform architects. And for good reasons, as the notions of domain-central data ownership, data product thinking, federated data governance, and self-service platforms (original credits to Zhamak Deghani) enable organizations to become far more data-powered. But the cultural impact is high, and getting stuck in complex technology details turns out to be tempting – even for the founders of the approach.
4. Data sharing is caring
Ah yes, that extra-special moment when data becomes so much more valuable: when it is exchanged and shared with others and organizations collaborate on data to achieve their objectives. This is where the sun-like energy of data truly shines; Data sharing makes the difference. And mind you: these objectives are not ‘just’ about growth and cost-effectiveness. The very raison d’être of an organization (think in terms of sustainability, inclusiveness, and societal good) may depend on its ability to not only share its data with the outside world but also to tap into the right external data sources – because others care for sharing too.
5. Battling data waste
My Data is bigger than yours: we used to take pride in storing as much data as possible – because we could, prices were low, and future algorithms were waiting. Turns out, this consumes loads of energy and precious natural resources, and it creates a growing heap of unsustainable e-waste. We need to become more aware of what data we really need to store, how many times we duplicate it, and how long we keep it available. Also, although AI may be key to addressing climate challenges, it slurps energy itself too. Think only about how much energy it takes to perform one training cycle for a major AI language transformer model (hint: really a lot). The battle against data waste will therefore be a continuous, delicate balance act.
6. Creations by AI
Although powerful AI systems indeed trigger energy consumption considerations, their results are more spectacular by the day. This is particularly the case with Generative AI systems. Massive language transformation models such as GPT-3 can produce seamless translations, flawlessly finished emails, synthetic test data, legacy code transformations, management summaries, entire articles, and even poetry. But it can also bring high fidelity sound and video to old footage (instrumental to the Fab Four Get Back documentary), and it is destined to play a key role in the metaverse – whatever that may turn out to be. Expect to see more of the awesome, creative powers of AI in 2022.
7. Augmentation against scarcity
With all that, is AI increasingly threatening our jobs? Think twice. Demographic and economic shifts make the scarcity of skilled, committed personnel a determining factor for success or failure. Augmentation by AI is therefore not a potentially negative disruption, but one of the very few ways to keep performing with fewer people. This certainly pertains to IT, where skilled data scientists, security experts, software engineers, etc. are an increasingly rare breed. Augmenting people with AI – intelligently automating repetitive work, but also helping with challenging cognitive and creative tasks – will keep any workforce productive and motivated.
Whether we turn out to be spot-on, or dreadfully missing the point, there is no doubt 2022 will be another transformational year for business. And data is at the very heart of it all. Ergo, Data Mastery is the key capability. To learn about more technology trends for this year and how your organization can prepare for the future, see Capgemini’s TechnoVision reports and our Data-powered Innovation Review series.