Converged, Cloudy and Cognitive: The Top Information Management Trends for 2021

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Knowledge and understanding of the key differences between “managing data locally and managing your data remotely is the most important resource that an organization can develop,” said Fritchey. “You simply can’t move quickly enough to keep up with the changes in the out­side world without direct knowledge of how the various cloud-based offerings work and what you can do with them.” Organizations missing this knowledge are going to be playing catch-up all year on it because it takes time to develop internally or acquire by hiring, Fritchey said.

DataOps and MLOps

Over the coming months, expect to see greater attention on DataOps and MLOps (machine learning operations). “While DataOps is not a household phrase, it is a hot topic in the data-an­alytics industry and is steadily going mainstream,” said Chris Bergh, CEO of DataKitchen. Over the coming months, expect to see greater attention on DataOps and MLOps (machine learning operations). “In an era where enter­prises increasingly view data analytics as a competitive differentiator, organiza­tions with the most responsive analytics will emerge as market leaders. DataOps will be the most significant trend shaping the data market in 2021.”

“These capabilities help organizations respond swiftly and intelligently to business disruptions caused by external forces such as the pandemic, global market changes, and technology advances,” said James Cole­man, solutions lead, data to insights for DXC Technology. The tools and processes associated with these approaches “drive up the quality of enterprise data and reduce the time to generate analytic insights from that data,” he pointed out. “Companies that adopt DataOps and MLOps become resis­tant to disruption.”

DataOps “automates the integration, testing, transformation, and delivery of data and analytics across data cen­ters and heterogeneous toolchains,” said Bergh. “DataOps automation also sim­plifies new data analytics development, testing, deployment, and monitoring. Think of DataOps as a combination of lean manufacturing, agile development, and DevOps, but applied to the unique problems inherent in data operations and analytics creation.”

The Data Business

For the year ahead, there will be more adoption of sophisticated approaches to data over the coming year in day-to-day business. “PowerPoint will be replaced with interactive dashboards and AI-gen­erated stories,” predicted Igor Ikonnikov, research director, data and analytics at Info-Tech Research Group. “It’s hap­pening in the top 5% of organizations where data is taken seriously—treated as a value-yielding asset.” Getting there requires “changing your data culture from ‘data is an IT thing’ to ‘we live and breathe data every day,’” he said. “Make advanced analytics one of your core busi­ness capabilities—not just a function. Start building your enterprise knowledge graph. It will enable data analytics over tremendous amounts of data of varying complexity and diversity with predictable and transparent processing.”

Data Marketplaces 

In the year ahead, self-service will be elevated within organizations. For starters, “we see the rise of the data marketplace as the next generation of self-service data that truly bridges the gap between IT and business users,” said Ben Sharma, founder and chief product officer at Zaloni. “Unlike many of today’s data catalogs that provide an inventory of data, companies need a more business-friendly user interface to search, prepare, and provision trusted data through an ecommerce-style experi­ence while providing the management and security controls required by IT.”

Data marketplaces actually go a long way toward “making data democratiza­tion a reality,” Sharma said. “Data market­places provide various benefits, including faster time to analytics, enabling data-driven decision making, supporting AI and machine learning initiatives, uncover­ing data monetization opportunities, and improving competitive advantage.” To get started, he advised establishing a solid data management and governance technology foundation through a unified DataOps platform. “This will set companies up for success when implementing a data mar­ketplace by providing end-to-end control of the data supply chain and the pipelines needed to source, prepare, and surface data in the marketplace.”

Programmable Data Centers

As we go into the year 2021, the phys­ical data center continues to fade away. “Physical data centers and all physical infrastructure, for that matter, have come to be seen as a potential liability by IT organizations,” said Russ Kennedy, chief product officer for Nasuni. “We are see­ing a dramatic acceleration of all of the layers of the infrastructure stack to the cloud. The programmable data center is the future of the data center. We are see­ing the start of an irreversible division between those companies whose job is to rack, stack, and keep data centers oper­ational 24x7, and a new redefined cor­porate IT function that interfaces with infrastructure via APIs.”

As a result, Kennedy says, “the IT leader is becoming more of an integrator, an architect, and an operator. The challenge is to understand the capabilities of the different cloud services and to bring them together in a way that serves the goals of the business.”

Even Faster Collaboration 

While greater collaboration has long been the dream of corporate advocates for decades, we are starting to see it actually happen, thanks to technology. “In 2020, we saw a step change in the embrace of web conferencing, remote collaboration, and online learning,” said Dan Sommer, senior director and global market intelli­gence lead at Qlik. “We’re in a new world where we can’t gather as often for a quick huddle in the office or to sketch out an idea on a whiteboard.” Collaboration will also be pushed by the rapid pace of inno­vation now required, he added. “We’ll see more experiences that introduce easy and enjoyable ways of working together in areas that were previously rendered boring or difficult. Tasks for moving data from raw to analytics-ready will become more engaging, fast, and iterative. The separate, siloed worlds of data cura­tors and consumers will begin coming together, and business logic will persist, enabling analytics-ready data to become business-ready much faster.”

One thing is certain: As it was in 2020, the year ahead is just as likely to be filled with surprises as it is with predictable trends. Data managers need to prepare for any situation with the flexibility and agility that today’s technology affords.

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