A Look Back and a Leap Forward: 2020 Predictions

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Photo by Lÿv Jaan on Unsplash

With 2020 already getting off to a fast start I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past few years. When we started this company a few years ago we had a goal to tackle some very hard technical problems that change the way people and data interact.

At that time, insights were seen as the endgame for unlocking data’s true value. Big data and data analytics were generating lots of noise and excitement. So we built a product that could get insights from data in real-time from people who had little to no technical background. Our team came from the consumer world of search technology and we had a nearly unrivaled depth of natural language processing expertise. So we brought that vision of the world to the realm of security.

Bringing our first product to market was a blast. We had great market-fit for a product that solved real-world security challenges. We removed the dependency of relying on only highly technical people being able to ask questions of your data to keep it secure and opened up the world to those that are data curious.

We’ve always believed that technology should remove hurdles to progress; not create them. We don’t envision a world where AI and machine learning takes over human jobs. Instead, we are building products that enable humans to do better, more interesting things with their time, where AI, machine learning, and technology help them achieve their potential. Part of this means removing the time consumption of mundane tasks to enable people to be more creative and curious with the skills that bring value to their roles.

The Cloud Rolls In

2017 was the year the cloud really started making big noise and 2019 was the year that the talk of moving to the cloud finally started to become a reality for many organizations. It never ceased to surprise us at how unprepared most companies were to actually make this journey. The executive levels of the business had been hearing about the benefits of moving to the cloud for a few years at this point and were frustrated at their lack of progress to this new land of opportunity. So when the mandate came down to the people that would have to actually implement a cloud strategy, many were rushed to find solutions without fully grasping just how new the cloud world is.

This last year we really started dissecting the problems that our customers have had around the way they’ve interacted with data and the suite of data products they have cobbled together in a piecemeal fashion as they start their journey to the cloud.

One major challenge is that very few people can really reap the benefits of the cloud. Highly technical people are the gatekeepers of the cloud, because most cloud technologies have been built for technical people, by technical people. Lots of on-prem strategies were being force-fitted to try to work in the cloud because of the on-prem framework had been hardwired into many people’s heads. They couldn’t see how different the cloud world was. It was like trying to imagine a color that had never been seen.

Another challenge is that once you start letting people have access to data, there is a slew of issues that begin to pop up because organizations haven’t prepared their data for generalized usage. Behind the promises of AI and machine learning is a dirty secret. To get that technology up and running and into the hands of all requires a massive amount of behind the scenes data janitorial work. If data isn’t properly on-boarded, organized, and cleaned up, it’s useless. In fact, building data products that run on dirty data can harm a company since all of the insights will be foundationless.

Looking Forward

2020 is the year that people begin to realize more data isn’t necessarily a better thing. We’ve spent the past few years gorging ourselves at the all-you-can-eat data buffet. With greasy lips, distended belly and shortness of breath, we’ve hit a tipping point. We cannot carry on as we have. This year is when we start being purposeful about the data we ingest.

People realize data isn’t the new oil

The idea that there’s intrinsic value in all data that’s readily extractable will start to crumble. Companies will start paying closer attention to the cost of their data log stores and cloud storage services. They’ll notice only a small handful of people in the organization are making use of their data analytics investment. They’ll wonder why these million-dollar line items aren’t outputting well-polished insights at beck and call.

People question the cost to value their data provides

Now is the perfect storm; everyone is planning on or in the process of migrating to the cloud. Most are going to be in a hybrid situation for the foreseeable future. Applications are being built for everything imaginable. Organizations need to build out a short and long-term data strategy that is purposeful about onboarding the data that will actually provide value to the business. What data goes to the cloud? What makes sense to keep on-prem? What legacy applications stay, and what needs to be built with a cloud-first mindset?

People get curious about using data

The only people who truly deal with data are still highly technical. Because the world of data was built by technical people for technical people. So there still needs to be a translator role between data and non-technical people. But as those in non-technical roles — marketing, HR, finance, sales, etc. — work closer with engineers, IT, data scientists and analysts, they will see data in new ways. They will become data curious and want to explore data on their own and take it into their own hands and mold it, shape it, twist it, and shake it, to tell stories with it. The data curious will be the drivers of innovation rather than iteration.

2020 is going to be the year we stop pretending we have all the solutions for moving to the cloud figured out and come to grips with the complexity of the task set in front of us. We don’t have a daunting problem; we have an exciting adventure ahead, and we are lucky to be part of the people that are leading the charge

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