Back when I entered the workforce in the late 1990s, “data” was cool. And actually harvesting it to make business decisions was a novelty.
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But that was long before “big data” became buzzworthy, before Moneyball started an analytics revolution in sports, and before consumer data privacy became a hotly debated social/political issue.
Data isn’t cool anymore, at least not like today’s more buzzworthy sectors like blockchain or AI. But what about the tools and applications that we build to transform data into actionable insight?
My industry has finally matured to the point in time where the utility of the data — and the business problems we can solve with it — is more interesting than the data itself. And we’re now seeing an explosion of microtrends relating to how we use data, where it sits, and what it means.
As we head into 2020, here are just a few of the data-related trends worth watching:
Process Automation Becoming A Thing — Or Several
Business process automation (BPA) is exploding, and so too are the related acronyms , including RPA, DPA and even IPA (not to be confused with the IPA you can drink). Often used interchangeably, they are all part of the trend toward making the enterprise more efficient and intelligent.
Automation is especially a big deal in business intelligence circles, where crunching weekly reports and reconciling data discrepancies in the supply chain can take up a huge proportion of business analysts’ time. Automation can help free up analysts to do what they were hired to do: analyze.
Gartner estimates that the category of enterprise software referred to as robotic process automation (RPA) grew 63.1% in 2018 to $846 million and will reach $1.3 billion this year (another 54%), making it the fastest-growing software segment in the enterprise.
But buyer beware: Like any emerging trend, many will hastily jump on board, leading to failures. Companies will try to automate things that are far too complex or nuanced.
As Juniper Network’s Mike Bushong recently writes, “Any team that does not understand their workflows with enough precision to codify them will find that automation is always just out of reach.”
Automation Vs. Jobs, Or Automation + Jobs?
As process automation takes hold, there is a lot of concern about how it could eliminate jobs. There’s also growing support for the concept of “universal basic income” as a means to counteract potential job loss from automation.
There’s no question that automation will eliminate certain kinds of roles — particularly those that are administrative. But some think automation, like many forms of innovation, will create its own jobs — maybe even more than it eliminates.
Regardless of your view, expect to hear a lot of debate in political circles as we approach the November 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Non-IT Groups Hiring Technology Experts
One of the biggest recent changes I’ve seen from our clients is that the business units, or “lines of business,” are hiring technology and system specialists to build solutions rather than relying upon internal IT organizations. A recent Forrester report found that “24% of developers working on internal software tech said they report to a business unit outside of CIO or IT departments.”
Traditional IT groups are measured based on their ability to roll out projects and close help desk tickets. And when it comes to creating tools that can truly help decision-makers, the business units are in a much better position to understand what users need. […]