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Gartner Data & Analytics Summit Recap: Data Drives it All

Last week, Collibra sponsored and attended the Gartner Data & Analytics Summit in Orlando, Florida. Across all the sessions, analyst meetings, and customer conversations I had at the event, one thing was crystal clear – data continues to be the biggest driver in business, no matter what it is you are trying to accomplish. Whether you work in an industry where personalization is crucial to customer engagement, such as retail or eCommerce, or an industry where transparency of information across the business is a necessity for compliance, like banking or healthcare, or you’re among the growing number of companies that want to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) – data is the driver of it all. And what I seemed to hear loud and clear, is that without a plan (or the right tools) to find, understand, trust, and use that data, your business will struggle to succeed.

Personalization vs. Privacy

Lydia Clougherty Jones, Sr. Director and Analyst at Gartner, and Penny Gillespie, VP and Analyst at Gartner, spoke to a packed room about the balance of personalization and privacy, and how companies can leverage both to create business value. The major takeaway is that many organizations think they have to sacrifice how they currently use data to personalize customer engagement in order to address growing data privacy concerns – but the truth is, they don’t. What they do need is a way to understand what data they have, how each data set can be used (and how it can’t), and a clear grasp on the privacy-related rules and regulations, like GDPR and CCPA. For me, it highlighted the need for businesses to have an enterprise-wide view of their data, and a platform that makes it clear where data comes from, who owns that data, how trusted that data is, and how it can be used. They also need a partner who can help them accurately address data privacy needs, while balancing the ways a company might want to leverage data for the kind of personalized engagements that differentiate their brand and deepen customer loyalty.

Garbage in, Garbage out

The concept of “garbage in, garbage out” around data is not new, but it is increasingly applicable when you think about tapping into the powers of AI and ML. My conversation with Svetlana Sicular, VP and Analyst at Gartner, confirmed much of what we’ve known for some time: the algorithms that drive AI and ML – and the output from them – are only as good as the data being used to create them. If the data set selected is not right, can’t be validated, or hasn’t been updated recently enough, it won’t work. And neither will your algorithm. If you can’t trust the data, you can’t trust the AI either. Before companies look to implement AI/ML broadly, they need a data governance strategy that will allow them to understand the data that will drive algorithms, how data sets relate to one another, what it is representative of, etc. And while current adoption of AI strategies is lower than CIOs anticipated it would be (14% adoption, compared to 20% that thought they’d have widely adopted it by 2019), it is still a top priority for organizations across all industries.

Data Transparency Gets Business Users On Board

I also had the pleasure of joining one of our amazing customers, AXA XL, on stage while they detailed their journey toward creating data transparency across the organization. Ashish Haruray, Senior Center of Excellence Leader for Data Governance, Enterprise Data Solutions at AXA XL, spoke at length about the various teams within AXA XL who needed access to various data sets in order to get their jobs done, and how his group created the transparency those groups needed to see and understand that information. Some teams, like Legal and Compliance, needed data to adhere to rules and regulations. Others, like Business and Operations, wanted information that could help them create operational efficiencies. Regardless of who, where, and what, AXA XL needed a one-stop-shop for finding their data and making it easy for those business users to understand what information was available, where it came from, who owned it, and how they would be able to use it. The transparency the company has created, and tools they’ve implemented to make it easy for business users, has driven exponential adoption of their data transparency solution and made it faster and easier for employees across AXA XL to create business value using data they didn’t previously have access to.

These are just some of the key takeaways from the event, which brought together over 4,000 data-minded individuals. We had so many meaningful conversations at the event, all of which reinforced that data is driving many of the challenges that businesses are facing – but also that it has the power to transform the way businesses today operate, differentiate themselves, and create value.