What does 2021 hold for the data management industry and the wider world of business it serves? We all know 2020 was a year like no other, but will it cast a long shadow over the next 12 months or will new or underlying trends emerge, providing significant new opportunities? Will artificial intelligence applications expand on the back of 5G technology, or will organisations struggle to get their data in the right shape for the future?
We asked five senior leaders at InterSystems UK for their views on what could be in store.
Chris Norton – Managing Director, UK & Ireland
2020 was hard year for many of us. Some of the changes that were experienced as a result of the pandemic are likely to become the new normal post-coronavirus. There is now light at the end of the tunnel with the roll-out of new approved vaccines and a prediction by the Health Minister that restrictions could be lifted by late spring. This would bring a much-needed boost to the economy. Whatever happens, we will continue to support our customers by being responsive and resilient. Helping them to make timely decisions informed by healthy data using hyper-scale analytics, with robust options for multi-cloud deployments and managed services.
Chris Wilson – Director of Sales
Smart data means smart decisions and in 2021 many businesses will grasp more fully how they need to capture data, increasingly in real-time, to better understand how their business is operating and make it easier to adapt and more agile.
However, gaining better knowledge of what is the right data to retain and leverage will remain a challenge. Capturing and retaining “everything” and putting it into cheap object stores just creates swamps that become increasingly difficult to draw value from, let alone leverage in an adaptive manner. So organisations will need to be smart about what to collect and how it’s maintained and used. That is going to be crucial.
Angela Arnold – HR Director
In 2020 rapidly transitioning to support remote working was energising, however it’s hard to predict the long-term effects of personal isolation. Analysing employee performance and learning programme data might give us clues. Video conferencing worked better than hoped, “You’re on mute,” perhaps being the most memorable message. In 2021 while we’ll open offices when practical for those who need them, we’ll continue to explore new inclusive collaboration and automation options. It will be interesting to see whether artificial intelligence (AI) can be trusted to avoid biases to sift job applications and CVs to match candidates to vacancies or customer projects. I think this is the underlying trend, to use creative data technology for smart automation. Enabling our professionals to concentrate on higher value, people-centred activities, enabling people to work with people.
Jon Payne – Head of Sales Engineering
Understanding how to operationalize analytics and particularly AI/ML in a way that is robust, well managed and affordable is one of the key areas that developers need to face this year.
Following on from last year, there is a massive and ongoing challenge for organisations around data. The problem is that data spans many types and technical platforms. Gaining the ability to apply analytics to existing datasets across multiple platforms and then apply the output of those analytics into processes that can then adapt in real time is tough. But it is a hurdle that organisations will need to overcome.
Data is being created and managed using multiple models/paradigms, expressed in a variety of different technologies. Often moving to the cloud involves re-inventing applications as a set of orchestrated microservices.
The issue that comes with this is that the complexity of managing the services (and particularly the semantics of data flowing between services) is increasingly difficult as the number of services increases. Add in the challenge of each service encapsulating its own data store, and it means that inevitably a data entity exists in multiple physical places, expressed in different physical models to suit different purposes. Understanding how to resolve this in a way that is robust, scalable, affordable and maintains the integrity of the data across all the data locations will be a clear technical differentiator.
Mike Fuller – Marketing Director
The shift to social media and social selling that was forced on everyone in 2020 will continue. It was an operational necessity, but these channels found their daily rhythm and now there’s no going back. Indeed, video advertising demonstrated its value in a way that left me thinking why it had not already become the universal marketing medium for consumers.
We also saw how difficult video conferences are to run well. As an industry we’ve begun to improve, but we have further to go in 2021. In-person conferences will be convened when required for special reasons, but their virtual versions will have to be even better.
Across the market landscape, buyers are overloaded and distracted, so being consistently authentic to your brand and establishing trust are paramount. Insight from buyer behaviour data will help us hyper-personalize and stand out as vendors. With so many organisations adopting applications that are genuinely cloud-native, almost everything will be presented as-a-service.
I can also foresee that we stop talking about ABM (account-based marketing), which received a lot of hype in 2020, and use it alongside many other methods that build trust with the buying groups through information exchange. In all, 2021 looks to be a promising year, with the maturing of the technology and tools that the challenges of 2020 accelerated.