Look for AI to ramp up its role in augmenting business processes as well. “Companies will roll out more AI-augmented processes and roles to drive improvement in critical areas, including profitability, efficiency, and customer experience,” said Justin Silver, AI strategist at PROS. This will create demand for new roles, he predicted, “to help manage expectations and implement systems to capture the business value being driven by AI.” At the same time, all levels in the organization—from the C-suite on down—will need to understand how AI can be applied to business problems.
More Progress With Edge Computing
Expect to see more progress with edge computing during the coming year as a driver for data management. Devices such as smart switches, third-generation voice assistants, and smart thermostats “are gathering voluminous amounts of data during their daily operation, and use that data to learn and adjust automatically,” said Ravi Shankar, SVP at Denodo. “Now, multiply the amount of information one device gathers with the billions of devices in use. It will be impossible to collect all of this information into one central repository, analyze that information, and then push the recommendations back to the device.” To address this, technology is evolving “to execute the compute function on the devices at the edge, rather than doing it centrally.” This movement of processing to the edge “will improve the functional efficiency of the devices to learn and adjust in real time, rather than being slowed down by the transfer of information to and from a central system,” Shankar pointed out.
There will also be continued adoption of distributed compute platforms for data-centric and analytical workloads within the coming year. “With the continued demand for faster and more agile analytics to serve the growing demand for insights, organizations can no longer limit deployment of analytics to on-premises relational or Hadoop platforms,” said Piet Loubser, SVP at Paxata. “Cloud-first initiatives are now the pervasive mandate, regardless of industry. While this eases the initial deployment of data processing initiatives and reduces costs, it creates new data integration and transformation challenges that cannot be solved by traditional tools—putting strain on IT organizations, data governance, and data-to-insights value chains. Next year, organizations will be investigating next-gen platforms that enable business analysts to empower the business to easily find, profile, clean, and shape data for their purpose.” Loubser added that these next-gen data integration and preparation platforms will augment traditional platforms, and leading organizations will continue to actively replace traditional technologies with modern, self-service platforms to drive data democratization efforts in their companies.
Another area being enriched by data that will increasingly be emphasized in 2020 is customer experience. “More and more brand interactions are happening through digital services so it’s paramount that companies find ways to improve updates and deliver new products and services faster than they ever have before,” said Nick Piette, director of product marketing and API services at Talend. “With speed in mind, companies will be led to adopt a modern cloud-native mindset that promotes containerized deployments using modern microservices architectures that are developed and managed using the latest DevOps methodologies. This DevOps mindset will only become more intertwined with business in the years to come, and we should expect companies to get on board if they haven’t already.”
Part of the data-driven customer experience in the year ahead will come from a surprising place—physical environments. “Across our retail customer base, from top companies such as Walmart, HelloFresh, and Quotient, I’m seeing a retail renaissance with a renewed focus on brick-and-mortar,” said Brent Biddulph, managing director of retail and consumer goods for Cloudera. “People still have an innate desire to go into a physical store to experience a product. Ninety percent of retail revenue still comes from physical stores. This renaissance will continue in 2020, with brick-and-mortar shops embracing digital innovations like in-aisle robots that capture inventory levels, smart mirrors offering product customization, and beacons and sensors to build visual heat maps to better understand customer journeys. The companies that will be most successful in the retail renaissance are those that can most effectively harness the data generated to refine and adapt their strategy quickly.”
LOOKING AHEAD INTO THE 2020S
The decade of the 2020s will see the data-driven enterprise come to fruition, with automated processes and decisions embedded within every corporate strategy. Industry leaders provided some longer-range predictions on what they see unfolding over the coming decade.