Disruptive companies that are leading the way in their domain have always appealed to me. My career path of nearly 20 years in data technology is certainly testament to that and I’ve been privileged to witness some of the most fundamental, exciting shifts in technology during my career.
When I joined Alterian in the early 2000s, we were helping companies target customers more effectively using direct mail. Within a few years, the digital marketing revolution took off. The way companies analysed and targeted their customers with relevant information and offers changed dramatically – almost overnight. It was thrilling to be part of such a fundamental shift.
Similarly, when I first joined Tableau, the idea that data should be available to everyone within an organisation so that they could answer their own questions and make data driven decisions was revolutionary. Today, this is the norm – people are empowered by data and can let their creativity shine. Helping people succeed with data has been a consistent theme in my career and, what do you know, being a data junky is suddenly cool.
I’m a software guy and a data guy. I’ve spent a lot of time in my career helping people and businesses harness the power of new technology to create opportunities and achieve results that surpass expectations.
But it’s seeing what our customers can achieve when they unlock value from data that is the most exciting and rewarding. Learning what organisations such as PATH, UNHCR and World Food Programme are achieving by using Tableau is remarkable. These organisations are using data for good to make a positive, long-term impact on people’s lives – from helping to eliminate malaria outbreaks in Zambia, to getting food and aid into the hands of those most in need.
In November 2019, I was fortunate enough to be in the audience at Dreamforce, as Barak Obama was being interviewed by Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff. Obama was captivating. At a time where many of our world leaders don’t exactly inspire, it was a joy to listen to someone who appears driven by deeply held values and simple common sense. Obama was the absolute epitome of “smart humble” – a combination I greatly admire.
Aside from the data industry which constantly challenges expectations, I had picked England to win the Ashes, India for the One Day Cricket World Cup and New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. That’s zero right from three. So, no, 2019 was not as I had expected.
I think last year brought natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to the forefront, with technology becoming more conversational and intuitive, but 2020 will be a year where businesses really understand its value and impact.
In the years to come, we’ll see NLP mature as a key component of analytics, allowing people to get even closer to their data. Data will become more democratised thanks to NLP – so that all people, even people who are not data experts, will be able to see and understand their data and create business impact. It’s a very exciting time for our industry right now and I cannot wait to see what’s to come.
Today, organisations are investing trillions of dollars into getting value from their data, but very few are succeeding. I think that becoming truly data-driven is the greatest challenge for companies today – and it’s also the greatest opportunity.
Becoming truly data-driven means embedding data into the core identity of the organisation, where people want to use data and encourage others to do the same. This is a fundamental shift for many companies; it’s a change in mindsets, attitudes and daily habits. Such a shift requires leaders who value data and can bring people together around a shared mission, to have conversations and make decisions led by data, not intuition.
Data and technology are absolutely changing business, but the real impact only comes when there is a change in culture. This is the greatest opportunity today.
Data management is a key challenge today. Processes of the past just don’t work any longer. Today, the entire business – from marketing to finance – has diverse types of data and unique needs. Employees are capturing data before they even know what to do with it, and often IT isn’t even aware.
As analytics deployments grow at massive volume and speed, IT is faced with the issue of how to curate, manage, and share this data. Likewise, employees struggle to find the relevant, trusted and up-to-date information they need for effective analysis.
For today’s analytics strategies to succeed and scale, organisations need to take a new approach to data management. Doing this will help improve visibility within IT, while helping employees analyse data with confidence.