While predicting the future might not always end well - just ask the ancient Greeks or any modern time-travelling sci-fi drama - it is a traditional activity at this time of the year. It’s a comparatively safe prediction to talk about data, since it is growing and ever-renewed by society’s love of devices and computing power. Data is not going away.
When it comes to marketers, there are six key areas on the horizon:
1. A greater focus on gaining trust
It’s safe to assume that brands will start calling all of their processes into question to ensure best practise for the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), soon to come into force. Organisations will start to tame their processes sooner so that it doesn’t come as a shock when the regulations come into force in 2018.
2. A smaller database
In order to reduce risks posed by GDPR, it’s likely that database sizes will fall ,rather than grow as they have been prone to until now. Duplicates, old contacts and errors will be removed. Marketing teams should look on this as a wholly positive move. Good data is better than big data, after all.
3. Technology and budget pressures
More organisations will want to improve their preference centres or introduce full customer contact access and editing. This will take time and need financing – building the business case around customer benefits (not data quality or compliance) will be the best way to get that funding.
4. The rise of open data and its quality
Open data is no longer a niche area. As part of the data spectrum, all organisations need to consider how they manage policies and processes depending on the kinds of data they collect, hold and use. More businesses are looking to use open data as a differentiator - adding richer intelligence to their existing knowledge base. Others are now taking the next step and releasing data openly to foster innovation, new partnerships and social benefits. However, as with any data, it’s only useful if the quality is high.
Open data publishers will be put under increasing pressure to work with their users to ensure data is of a high quality in order to maximise the ROI of releasing it, and ensuring that countries have a strong information infrastructure to realise the benefits of the digital economy. Where standards do exist, it’s now important that the tools are put in place to allow the shaping of data as easily as possible, else the promise of open data will not be realised. The Open Data Institute (ODI) and Experian have recently started to explore the ways in which data quality could be improved to increase efficiency, lower costs and boost downstream use.
The use of open data for the transparency agenda is likely to be put under even greater pressure in countries where major political changes are occurring. Any rolling back of transparency will not be accepted by communities trying to build businesses and improve their society. Data experts (be they businesses or government) working together will need to ensure that the benefits of transparency and openness can be realised by all. Once the demand for data is out there, the demand for quality grows!
5. More IoT data, greater governance
IoT is the latest tech disruptor, following the cloud and big data. The difference is that organisations will need to re-think a lot of their data management and governance processes to handle the new data sources that IoT brings. Security issues have already cropped up with IoT devices (hugely so, with hacked IoT devices turned into massive DDoS spewing botnets in late 2016), so securing data to make it trustworthy and usable will be key for 2017.
A lack of standards is likely to be the first data quality issue. With sensor data coming in from multiple device types, linking it into usable datasets with more traditional sources will present a huge challenge, as well as an opportunity for those wanting to take advantage. Additionally, risks to personal data and identity could also create headaches following hacks and data breaches through or from IoT devices. However, the opportunities in markets such as insurance, retail, automotive, utilities and others are significant. For these to be realised, trusted data aggregators need to be found and data standards need to be agreed upon for such data to become usable and tradable.
6. Emergence of organisations making reference data amazing
Reference data has often been a local market consideration. More advanced data economies have access to greater assets making it difficult for emerging economies to compete. Location data is a great example of this - nations like the UK and USA have strong postal address files and magnificent map-based data (with the benefits of genuine competition beginning to emerge).
However, in other nations, a lack of this basic Information Infrastructure leaves people out of the economic growth being felt by the lucky few. Whether it be accessing ecommerce, healthcare or the political process - those living in emerging economies are often left out as they lack an address.
Solutions are rising though - global address systems such as what3words offer a real opportunity to bring millions of people into the political process, financial services and the wider digital economy. It’s up to businesses and public services to start supporting new standards to unlock the potential of this gigantic underserved market. As the next billion people get online, the data to serve them needs to be in place.
What should organisations do to be best prepared?
On a trust and regulation standpoint, there really is very little time left to be prepared for GDPR. Organisations need to start understanding why the business gathers personal data, how it’s used, stored and shared and, of course, whether the quality of that data creates a risk to the business or to customers. The health of data needs to be understood and, luckily, there are tools out there that offer a lot more around data health than smartwatches offer for our own health.
It’s also important to use the data spectrum to review the wider context of data within and outside a business. Ask yourself what you could share safely or open up to improve efficiency or help your customers and partners. Think if you could start looking at new sources of location or enhancement data to help your regulatory and business needs. Above all, remember that data quality is not just about “data quality”: It’s about the business, customer and social benefits.
Also, plan now for the next billion to come online. If your business can serve them in areas where the web may not be at premium speeds, where mobile devices are their only access points, where English is not their first language, and where addresses may not exist, you will be well prepared. Thinking in this way may also create unique opportunities in existing markets as a lucrative side benefit.
If an organisation can celebrate these two things at the end of 2017, they will be in a good place: Firstly, that their data and business is prepared for GDPR, and, secondly, that they are using their data to contribute to a more open, yet secure society.