Hot topics in data
The volume of data being created, captured and consumed worldwide is increasing exponentially and is forecast to reach more than 180 zettabytes by 2025. 1 zettabyte is equivalent to 1021 bytes and is a term we first had need for less than 10 years ago when the amount of digital data first exceeded this amount. For context (and to borrow a widely used metaphor), if 1 byte of digital data was the equivalent of 1 grain of rice, 1 zettabyte would fill the entire Pacific Ocean. Imagine 180 Pacific Oceans of data available within the next few years!
The thought can be a little overwhelming: surely this is far more data than we know what to do with. However, the availability of data in such volumes (alongside other rapid technological advances) is already having a profound impact on businesses and how they operate.
Consider the following:
Airbnb was founded in October 2007 and is the clear leader in the short-term rental market despite owning no properties. Likewise, Uber owns no vehicles but grew quickly to become the world’s largest taxi firm following the development of the app in 2010. Both entities represent a new form of business whereby their business model is built around existing purely as a data service and facilitator relying entirely on the availability and use of data. This type of business is becoming increasingly more popular as it requires very little initial investment and, when data is harnessed efficiently and effectively as in the case of Airbnb and Uber, the scalability is phenomenal.
Technological advances and a move into the digital world have colossally altered the concept of a business cycle and products now have the capacity to be launched in a matter of hours instead of months. This calls for a more proactive than reactive approach to doing business.
What, then, are the current hot topics around data that all businesses should already be thinking about?
Business insights need to be generated in real time if they are to be useful in influencing commercial outcomes. The reliance on periodic reporting to make decisions is shifting; business leaders cannot afford to wait days, weeks or even months for accurate financial and non-financial information to drive operations and decisions.
Even more than this, digital twins are being utilised with greater frequency. A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical device, whether it’s an asset, system or process. Simulations can be run, and problems detected before they arise in reality.
Increasingly, data democratisation is being viewed as crucial to the success of a business. But what is it?
Put simply, data democratisation in business is when data is made accessible to all employees and stakeholders. Accessible here refers not only to physically granting access to data but also implies that suitable training is given, and the data made available is at the appropriate level for each individual.
Even small businesses produce a considerable amount of data every day but too often this data is siloed, making it difficult to make data-driven decisions (or certainly timely data-driven decisions). Have you ever had to wait for key information held within an Excel spreadsheet on someone’s desktop? Or has a staff absence caused delays in a project because only they have the administrative password (perhaps held on a post-it note on their screen!) to a specific piece of software? These and other similar issues are all too common and could be eliminated by data democratisation.
The concept serves different purposes for different functions across the business but ultimately leads to greater efficiency, profitability and the capacity to achieve business plan objectives.
The changing workforce
Recruiting and retaining the right staff with the right skill levels is growing more difficult in a world where employers need to prepare themselves for the demands of a business type that potentially doesn’t exist yet.
Furthermore, Generation Z are hitting the workforce. They were born into a world of technological innovation and having easy and immediate access to data is their norm. As a result, they are often willing and able to adapt more quickly to change, be proactive in their learning and have evolving expectations around what they want from a job.
So, what are the key points and questions we should be asking ourselves?
- Data democratisation is already here: we need to embrace it, or risk being left behind in a rapidly digitalising world. Are we giving the appropriate individuals access to timely information that allows them to make effective decisions?
- Data silos and the multiple technologies which inevitably exist within every business can be significant blockers in achieving business outcomes. Are our systems and processes converging and talking to each other in an effective manner that drives output?
- Automating systems and processes can drive efficiency and effectiveness and free up the time of employees to focus on more value-adding activities, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction among the workforce. Have we considered possible areas for automation within each business function?
Have you read something in this article that has made you pause for thought? Reach out to one of our digital team for a conversation as to where you might go next.