By Joe DosSantos, Chief Data Officer of Qlik, winner of Best Cloud Business Intelligence or Analytics Solution in Cloud Awards 2021-2022

Businesses have been in reaction mode for the past few years – reacting to a global pandemic with numerous waves, reacting to a growing number of black swan events, and reacting to the endless need to keep up with the pace of digital transformation. These challenges aren’t going away, and businesses cannot afford to be constantly in reactive mode.

Change becomes the new normal

Companies are now looking for analytics infrastructures that allow them to simultaneously be deliberate and intentional in direction while remaining adaptable in paths and methods. This shift involves many key changes in data governance strategy and data tooling, but increasingly centers on effective use of the cloud.

This change is occurring opportunistically as organizations strategically transition from their legacy applications and analytics technologies for a hybrid solution that includes cloud-based approaches. As they make this pivot and realize efficiency and cost savings, they should always keep in mind the other key benefit of the cloud: stronger, faster and more informed decision-making with demonstrably better security than traditional on-premises solutions.

With the cloud, data can be delivered in real-time, providing immediate answers to almost any question. My colleague, Paul Barth, often muses that successful data architectures can answer a question that a person did not know they had five minutes ago. Given market realities, real-time data is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a crucial requirement for remaining competitive. 

For those who embrace it effectively and at scale, the cloud is making their businesses more resilient. As more enterprises put aside security concerns that are based on historical impressions versus realities, the cloud will become a central driver in improved operations, deeper customer relationships and superior results through cloud-enhanced decision-making.

React with a much higher level of confidence

The last 23 months have served as a case study for why businesses need to be ready to adapt to unforeseen changes. Between the pandemic (which is still causing problems for businesses around the world), a global chip shortage, last year’s polar vortex and other weather/environmental hazards, few businesses have had it easy. At times it feels like the supply chain may never fully recover from recent events, with material shortages and delays affecting everything from appliances to automobiles.

Cloud technology provides a level of speed and access to volumes of data that are critical for enabling predictive analytics. This is a particularly important part of any scenario planning strategy, especially when preparing for the worst. The next black swan event can happen at any time and severely hinder – even devastate – any industry in its path.

Examples of how real-time information can inoculate a company against sudden shifts in market and customer conditions vary across industry, but are plentiful. Take, for instance, a food manufacturer, which could move from flatfooted to ready when key ingredients are delayed by a snowstorm or shipping bottleneck. Or a car manufacturer dealing with the silicon chip shortage. Or even, a financial institution grappling with consumer preferences shifting to digital wallets and cryptocurrencies. With real-time data through the cloud, they will be much better positioned to quickly assess alternative suppliers in time to meet demand.

There may even be times when positive developments – a sudden increase in product sales, for example – catch a business off guard. Without knowing the source of the increase, and without the data necessary to execute a plan to satisfy demand, additional sales opportunities may be lost.

In these scenarios, data is a key determining factor of success. But it will only be truly successful if collected and shared in a way that provides governed access for those who need and can best use the information when it matters most, which is in the moment. With cloud-enabled predictive analytics, organizations can update their models with small, incremental changes to match real-world conditions to act with a much higher level of confidence.

Empower staff with superior, more actionable insights

Access to relevant data is just as important as the quality of the information being collected. That might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but even the best, most valuable data would be fruitless if the teams and people that need that information couldn’t take advantage of it. Accessibility is critical to every organization’s data strategy.

Unfortunately, data silos persist throughout many firms, particularly those that are still overly reliant on on-premises storage solutions. This creates gaps across the organization that limit the value of data to positively impact the business. For example, the accounting department may unknowingly possess insights that are valuable to the firm’s research and development team. Sales and marketing may be able to take advantage of data generated by manufacturing. The potential is limitless – by opening the door to more open data sharing across departments, businesses can better leverage their insights and make smarter decisions.

That said, we know organizations are struggling to do so. According to a report by Accenture, less than one-third of data creates tangible and measurable value for businesses. But if 30 percent of organizations are going to harness the collective intelligence of their analytics communities and outperform their competitors as Gartner predicts, they’ll need a better way of sharing and using their data.

The upside here is that things are finally changing thanks to the growth of cloud storage, which has made it possible to eliminate the major barriers to data. With governed access for all necessary stakeholders, businesses can protect sensitive information through data pipelines while empowering more of their staff with superior, more actionable insights.

A modern data analytics pipeline can protect data security by authenticating users, verifying that they are who they say they are. It can also provide detailed access controls (which can be enabled by role or individual user), offer data-field obfuscation to mask sensitive information, and encrypt data at motion and at rest.

Improve decision-making and outperform competitors

The cloud was built for storage convenience and flexibility, but it is proving to be so much more valuable than that. Cloud technology opens the door to greater data sharing, removing data silos while providing a path for predictive analytics to shine. Businesses are no longer limited by the information they have from yesterday, they can gather insights in real-time and react immediately as conditions change, regardless of the situation. This improves their decision-making and allows organizations to outperform their competitors in this extremely challenging business climate.