Taking the Pulse: Data Management

How prepared are businesses for managing the influx of data across the next decade? We asked IT decision-makers to share their thoughts on their readiness and likely use cases.

To take the pulse of technology and business trends, Dell Technologies regularly surveys 800 IT decision-makers across 6 countries (USA, UK, France, Germany, Brazil and China).

This month we cast a spotlight on data management and asked ITDMs whether they’re prepared for the Zettabyte era, including the risks and opportunities that an exponential growth in data affords. We then asked Steve Todd, Fellow and Vice President of Data Innovation and Strategy at Dell Technologies to comment on the results.

Q. So, we just quizzed IT decision-makers on how Data Management will revolutionize business in 3-5 years. Looking at the research, what three things strike you the most?

A. The study confirms that we’re on the precipice of breaking data out of silos (finally) and putting it to work in groundbreaking new ways–as ITDMs across industries and geographies attest. The research surfaces several profound examples of how data will transform the world as we know it. Here are my top three:

  1. We’ll save lives: 82 percent believe that within 3-5 years, pharmaceutical companies will harness data to pinpoint patients with rare diseases and accelerate delivery of drugs to patients who would ordinarily lack options. 90 percent forecast healthcare providers will use data to better predict responses to care and provide tailored health plans. These changes will lift some of the burden on healthcare providers today–and most importantly, lead to better patient care.
  2. Data has the potential to become an equalizer (when adequate data transparency controls are in place), by making financial products fairer for instance. 90 percent foresee financial services companies analysing alternative sources of data to service customers that do not fit pre-existing credit models (such as small businesses). 92 percent believe insurance companies (healthcare and automotive) will wield data to accurately predict risk on an individual basis and offer customized plans (many of which will yield more favourable terms).
  3. Data will throw businesses vital lifelines during trying times: 90 percent will use data to attract cold/dormant customers with hyper-customized offerings, 93 percent will analyze data to rapidly strategize a new business offering in response to changing consumer habits (post-pandemic).

Q. Based on the findings, do businesses appear to be ready to capitalize on the Zettabyte era?

A. Based on the enthusiastic predictions above, it would appear we’re sailing into a Zettabyte world. The results point to tremendous consensus among ITDMs that they’re ready for the promises that come with an explosion of data. 83 percent of respondents forecast that within 3-5 years their organization will become a Zettabyte business–handling vast amounts of data.

But that’s less than the 95 percent of businesses that believe they will become a ‘smart’ enterprise: collecting and analyzing data from across the business, and the 93 percent of businesses that believe they will act on these insights to make decisions. In fact, the responses suggest our entry into the future might not be so smooth.

More than a third (36%) fear a tsunami of data may soon overwhelm their IT infrastructure, and 54 percent fear they’ll be more vulnerable to data loss and cyber-attacks.

There are some curious country responses too. For instance, China is particularly optimistic: 99 percent of Chinese businesses forecast they’ll be a smart business. But in the next breath, 46 percent portend the exponential volume of data will cripple their systems.

Looking across verticals, ITDMs in the IT industry are the most worried about being overtrodden by data and the heightened security threat. The business and professional services industry is least likely to believe this is a threat–yet it’s not excelling in areas that might mitigate this threat. For instance, the proportion that say they will have a chief data officer and will increase the number of data scientists at the firm is lower than the global average, as is the belief that they will be a smart enterprise and data-driven organization. These contradictions don’t augur particularly well.

However, all is not lost. With the right interventions now, businesses can look forward to what the data decade has to offer. They’ll need to ready their infrastructure, their people and their business practices, but if they’re prepared for what’s coming down the pike, they’ll better insulate themselves from some of the risk.

Q. What future use case (listed in the research) most excites you and why?

A. I am particularly excited by the prospect of real-time analysis of data in motion and the creation of digital twins, using vast amounts of data to test ideas in virtual future scenarios.

I’m not alone: 83 percent of ITDMs agree that real-time data analysis will enable frictionless transportation and autonomous vehicles. In fact, every industry stands to gain to varying degrees. For instance, by tracking anomalies in data in real-time, financial services companies will be able to better detect and stop bank card fraud, saving millions in damages. Even small-scale wins can reap huge benefits.

Similarly, 83 percent believe testing data in virtual, future scenarios (digital twins) will be commonplace, while 90 percent imagine production lifecycles will be routinely augmented with “digital threads” (allowing a connected data flow and integrated view of an asset’s data). Each would enable businesses to experiment with new products and services, while minimizing risk and cost–two major barriers to innovation.

Together, digital threads and digital twins, represent a new go-to-market paradigm, in which processes can be peeled back, examined, corrected and rolled forward in a data-rich, simulated environment, without having to create or recall flawed products that will only be wasted.

Q. Lots to look forward to. Conversely, does the research ring any alarm bells or prompt further questions in your mind?

A. If data is currency (not to mention the many other idioms we use to ascribe value to data), it would be foolhardy to place too much weight on data that can’t be trusted completely.

If we consider the contradiction that 85 percent of ITDMs trust their company to protect their data (possibly because they’ve been tasked with this job, making them somewhat bias), yet 54 percent are afraid the proliferation of data will make their organization more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data loss–should we be on our guard for similar inconsistencies, regarding the integrity of the data for instance?

Businesses need to know they can trust their data hasn’t been tampered with, provides a complete viewpoint and can be traced. Meaning we need to ascertain whether businesses are explicitly and forensically measuring their data’s trustworthiness, scoring the data when it moves between assets and handlers and using immutable methods and technologies like to Blockchain to audit their data. Being able to use and reuse data across different initiatives, without eroding the data’s value, is paramount.

We ask businesses whether they’re planning to recruit more data scientists but that in itself isn’t a mark of excellence. Companies need clear parameters in place to ensure their data scientists won’t then inadvertently violate data regulations as they attempt to access enormous amounts of varied data, subject to a kaleidoscope of different regulations.

Compliance isn’t a boring tick-box exercise, it’s core to a digital business, by protecting the data and removing the threat of being levied with fines worth hundreds of millions, enabling them to trust their data-driven decisions and protecting customer favor in a world in which data privacy has become a basic human right. If the provenance, quality and accuracy of data can’t be trusted, its business value will soon wane–along with the business opportunities to benefit from the data.

With so much at stake, the one thing we can’t compromise is trust in the data.