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Turning Data Into Disruption: The Story of 2019

Brian Householder

January 25, 2019

We’re at the dawn of another year, a time to reflect but not over what transpired in 2018. Disruptive businesses are always looking forward at the road that lays ahead and, in this instance, at what we can expect to see in 2019. For me, the theme that will permeate the next 12 months and beyond is change.

The business world is quite familiar with change. From the industrial revolution where water and steam began power to mechanize production, all the way to the birth of the internet and beyond; It’s always present. So why will 2019 be any different? Here are four reasons that I believe it will.

1. Exponential Change Becomes the New Normal

As I stated above, none of us is a stranger to change. But what we are beginning to see now and what we will see much more of this year, is a new rate of change, one that will eclipse anything that’s come before. What’s driving it all is data and this data mountain is growing—according to MicroStrategy, by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes, 10X the amount of data generated in 2016.

Today businesses have access to more data than ever and for companies that play their cards right, it can completely change the game. In 2019 we will see a growing number of disruptive-minded businesses doing just that by:

  • Reimagining every single part of their business, how they transform, the solutions and services they provide, how they can operate differently, and more.
  • Changing expectations that will impact all of us, whether you are CEO, CIO, CMO, a big business or a small business. For example, rather than serving as the custodian of technology assets in a business, CIOs will change their role to focus on applying technology and company data, and figuring out how they can harness it to drive digital transformations.

According to Dennis O’Brien, chairman of Digicel’s World Economic Forum, “We’re poised to experience more digital progress in the next ten years than we have in the last 50.” This progress will really begin to shine in 2019 when more businesses choose the transformation route, becoming disrupters that harness one of their greatest assets, their data, using new innovative technologies. These companies will secure insights that can advance the business while helping them keep the unique needs of each customer at the center of everything they do.

2. AI and Machine Learning Become Mainstream

When we talk about activating our data and changing the game, the discussions often center on innovations such as AI and machine learning. In fact, we’ve been hearing about these innovations for so long, there’s a pervasive feeling that they’re already meeting their promise. This mindset is premature. It’s true that AI and machine learning have advanced significantly and continue to evolve, especially as more data becomes available but here’s the challenge: Data scientists are still spending too much time finding, cleaning and reorganizing huge amounts of data rather than analyzing it.

This year, the disruptive organizations will look for orchestration capabilities that streamline the machine learning workflow. In doing so they will help data scientists, engineers and analysts collaboratively build and deploy predictive models from big data that they can then use to fuel their business transformation.

Winning solutions will enable smooth team collaboration, maximizing limited data scientist resources and putting predictive models to work on big data faster – regardless of use case, industry or language. Does this sound familiar? It should. Last year we introduced these capabilities in Pentaho, which streamlines the entire machine-learning workflow. It’s through solutions such as this that the 80/20 rule of data scientist productivity will be a thing of the past (if you’re interested in reading more about the 80/20 rule, check out this Forbes article titled, “Cleaning Big Data: Most Time-Consuming, Least Enjoyable Data Science Task, Survey Says”).

3. The Disrupters Assume a Commanding Lead

When we talk about exponential change, it’s inevitable that some businesses will have success while others don’t. GoodData CEO Roman Stanek summed it up nicely in a Forbes article where he said, “embracing disruption is easier for some companies than it is for others.”

There are many reasons why a business will become a laggard. It could be due to leaders not buying into this new mindset or a small business not having the resources needed to transform. Whatever the reason, a very clear gap will develop in 2019 that separates the disrupters from the disrupted. Imagine the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and the separation he creates in a 100-meter race. That’s the type of performance gap I am talking about.

There is some good news for those who are late to the race. Unlike an Olympic sprint, there is no finish line in the business world, which means that lagging companies can get back into the race. Just keep in mind that the longer they wait, the harder it will become to be relevant.

4. Exponential Changes Takes Employees Back to the Classroom

Education is something I could have touched on above but I think it warrants its own time in the spotlight because, in my eyes, there’s a somewhat frightening trend taking place—today the rate of industry change equals or exceeds the rate of learning within a given business. If that thought isn’t daunting enough, consider this—The lifespan of many skills we learn is shrinking due to the rapid pace of innovation around the world.

Here’s just one example—according to GitHub, “Software engineers must now redevelop skills every 12-18 months.” Just think about that for a moment. A person you hire today who has mastered a critical skill could be obsolete in less than two years if they don’t evolve. That’s why exponential learning programs are vital. It’s also why we’ve been committed to learning and development at Hitachi Vantara so our employees can keep their skills up-to-date.

Over the course of the next 12 months companies with the disrupter mentality will follow this same path, shifting greater resources to the ongoing education of their most valued asset, their employees. The goal of these efforts will be to provide each person with the insights and skills needed to stay a few steps ahead of the changes lurking around each corner of the industry.

If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that the pace of innovation has ascended to unimaginable levels. Over the course of this year, we will see a growing number of companies that are thinking differently, planning differently and ultimately acting differently by taking the disruptive approach to their business. These are just four areas where I think this shift will be most visible.