Every year there’s high anticipation to see what key message Gartner will present in the yearly Data & Analytics Summits. The BI industry takes Gartner’s perspective very seriously, and year after year, it’s very common to see messages that were first described in the Gartner summits making their way into the websites of many analytics vendors.
The crowd who attends these events are made mostly of analytics leaders in Enterprises. It’s always fun and insightful to be able to talk to so many CDOs, CIOs, data and BI professionals within 2.5 days. It’s in these conversations where you can take a step back from day to day work and invest a concentrated amount of time hearing about the challenges companies face with analytics, and to inspire them, in return, on how Sisense can help.
Being that this event is targeted at analytics leaders, it was not surprising that the opening sentence to this year’s keynote was “Are you going to lead a successful data & analytics initiative?” in bold writing on the screen.
From our years in the BI space, we have come to learn that successful BI implementations take more than a solid piece of software. Even the perfect BI platform can find itself in an unfulfilled project if there’s no champion for BI, lack of planning, or misalignment on the attention needed for execution. But often times unsuccessful implementations can also be due to culture. Businesses going through BI modernization can frequently run into a natural tendency to object to change and unwillingness to change habits. This is why leadership is important for BI professionals. Without it, they cannot drive change.
This is why I liked that James Richardson, Sr Director Analyst at Gartner, chose to share a slide with the titles of the three books written by one of my favorite authors – Yuval Noah Harari.
The analogy that James made is that just as Harari describes humans as being unique at how they can cooperate at scale and group around common ideas, and especially around stories, so is the importance of a good story important in order to lead successful data and analytics initiatives. Analytics leaders can only get buy-in if people understand the story of the journey and its purpose. Otherwise, clarity is lost and objections are tough to avoid. In his books, Harari also talks a lot about the role AI will play in our future – another topic that was covered deeply throughout this keynote.
Gartner chose to group the rest of the keynote into three main messages according to the following categories:
Here are some of the highlights as presented for each of them:
Data Driven – “Adopt an Experimental Mindset”
I was very happy to see that the first key message – “Data Driven” – was subtitled with “Adopt an Experimental Mindset”. At Sisense we’ve been preaching for BI prototyping and experimentation for quite a while now. A big part of our Elastic Data Hub strategy comes from the belief that even the best data warehouses need rapid prototyping environments for BI professionals. This is why we believe the future is about allowing analytic builders to seamlessly transition back and forth from running live in their slow to change DW environments into the agile and quick-to-change In-Memory environment – Our ElastiCube and In-Chip technology.
Part of the justification Gartner puts behind this is that metrics need to be constantly challenged. In order for us to uncover what we don’t know, we must stop relying on the same metrics. We need to constantly experiment with new hypotheses, even at the expense of getting some of them wrong, in order to uncover insights and metrics that eliminate more blind-spots.
Another point Gartner highlighted here is the use of a bigger variety of data sources. Companies should not rely only on the data that they have today but look for more ways to collect data that can shed more light on their business. This is another message close to our heart at Sisense, where we have been differentiating ourselves by being the best platform for mashing up disparate data sources with ease.
Privacy – “Be the Guide and Guardian of Your Customer’s Data”
While you might think to yourself – “What’s left to say about Privacy?”, Gartner actually correctly addresses it very seriously by focusing on the future implications of privacy loss in a world ever-more controlled by AI algorithms.
First, Gartner made it very clear that we should anticipate that we cannot opt out of privacy loss. We have to assume that whatever we do is recorded and that very frequently that data can be purchased. Even when that data is not for sale it can be obtained by forces that set their mind to it. That data can be used to know us in the most intimate ways. The presenter gave an example of research that was done where an AI model was trained to predict personality traits based on Facebook-like behavior. Turns out, that by showing an AI model 10 things a person liked on Facebook, it can outperform that person’s colleagues in predicting personality traits. By showing the AI model 300 Facebook likes, it can outperform the person’s spouse (!).
Gartner pushes us to assume that privacy as we have known it is gone, and that it is our responsibility to be transparent about how we treat it.
AI – “Automate the Manual, Promote the Creative”
Not surprisingly, Gartner included AI in their three key messages this year. They pointed out that while surveys indicate that people expect a dramatic decrease in available jobs due to AI, most people admit to not having seen AI in the workplace (even if it’s there). In fact, in practice, AI usually contributes to more job creation than to job loss.
Their guiding principle is that we should focus on the augmentation and not a replacement of jobs while focusing on the respective strengths of AI and humans.
Funnily enough, when Peter Krensky, Principal Analyst at Gartner, asked the crowd “Who uses a virtual assistant in their work?” to convey the message, I did not see any hands raised. But Gartner does predict that by 2021 25% of us will be using a virtual assistant in the workplace. I hope that’s true – I’m definitely on board.
Summing It Up
This year Gartner focused their keynote on the core of what analytic leaders deal with in their day to day – becoming data-driven, privacy, and AI. While these topics may seem very generic and obvious, they did a great job addressing these topics in a fresh and relevant way given the challenges humanity is facing today as more and more questions arise on how data, AI and privacy intersect. I can’t wait to see how the BI industry takes these insights and transforms them in 2019 and in the years to come.