Examining the data and analytics trends for 2022
It is that time of the year when thoughts turn to what can be expected in the data and analytics space for 2022. But even accounting for what the likes of Gartner and other industry experts say, I feel the most relevant trends for South Africa will centre around similar themes as what we saw during the past 12-months.
This can be attributed to differences in the data and analytics maturity levels of some local companies. Some will remain focused on establishing the right foundation, and rightly so, while others will look at embracing these trends in an accelerated manner. Far too often, international trends are not practical from a timeline perspective especially considering the challenges of doing business in Africa, as well as the associated shortage in skills.
Considering all this, here are what I believe will be four hot topics that will continue to remain important for 2022.
#1 The move to the cloud continues
Despite a rapid acceleration, organisations are still finding their way on the journey to the cloud. What has become apparent is the challenges that have come to light around certain aspects of this transition.
For instance, the practicalities of a hybrid approach towards public, private, and on-premises environments. And then there are the evolving offerings of the various cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, Google, and many others to consider. Things are not much easier when having to wade through the service offerings (such as IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), or even identifying the relevant native tool options that can best unlock value. Furthermore, for some organisations, regulatory and governance aspects have become serious blockers if not carefully considered in advance.
All of this has combined to complicate an already difficult decision-making process. The best strategy would therefore entail taking small steps along the road as the means to better understand the cost implications of the cloud.
Underpinning this is the data platform readiness. Things like data architecture, data modelling, data engineering, and data governance remain key ingredients to a successful data and analytics strategy, even more so in preparing for the rocky path to the cloud.
#2 Making artificial intelligence real
One thing that is certain is that companies will turn their attention to realising the benefits that artificial intelligence (AI) promises. Also in South Africa, companies are finding significant value to be had.
Invariably, AI will become smarter at an accelerated pace. To fulfil the promises of pilot projects, it will require organisations to operationalise the AI models they have been running. So, while data scientists might be developing great AI models, they might not have been optimally deployed.
AI must therefore be productionised with an increased emphasis placed on automation and repetitiveness.
#3 Keep attention on DataOps
While the skills shortage will continue, there remains a push to reduce time to market on data products and services. This will contribute to the further maturation of DataOps inside the data and analytics functions. The merging of data pipeline process and IT operations will help to improve the velocity, quality, and predictability of these data and analytics environments.
DataOps will strengthen collaboration, orchestration, monitoring, and ease of use, along with much-improved maintainability when it comes to data and analytics. However, organisations will have to adopt this philosophy to realise the benefits.
#4 Use data governance to establish a data-driven culture
At a fundamental level, data will remain a key ingredient to any digital transformation strategy. This means that organisations must continue with their data initiatives to ensure that true transformation takes place that will positively impact the entire business.
Contributing to the demand of adoption is the ongoing regulatory and compliance pressure. It could assist in enforcing the focus on all aspects of data governance (people, processes, and technology). It also provides an opportunity for the business to use data governance to necessitate ownership and replace certain structures and put in place the means of establishing a data-driven culture.
As we head into 2022, companies will realise that when it comes to data and analytics they need to walk before they run. And only once they start running can they confidently jump the hurdles that come along their way. Taking small steps, getting the basics right, and delivering continual value will assist in this regard.