The State of Data – A Recap of the Q1 2020 ElevateData Dinner

Last week we kicked off our ElevateData dinner series for 2020 with our traditional first event of the year, The State of Data. Despite concerns of Covid-19 and increasing financial volatility, we were joined in San Francisco by data executives representing companies like KeepTruckin, Metromile, United Healthcare, Lime, Ethos, Salesforce, Torodata, Layer9, DataCoral, and SVB. We reflected on the progress data made in 2019 and got out our crystal balls to form predictions on how 2020 would unfold. 

Review of 2019 Predictions

First we reviewed a set of 2019 predictions that the ElevateData group made a year ago, and then assigned a grade for each prediction. See how we did below!

  1. Our group had a diverse set of perspectives on consumer sentiment of data privacy in 2019. Several people in the group predicted that 1) consumers will continue to fight for more control over their data, visibility into where it is, how to delete it, and more. On the other end of the spectrum, others predicted that 2) consumers will fatigue on data privacy. And somewhere in the middle, 3) consumers will become more comfortable with less privacy, but will become smarter about their data and what privacy means.

Grade: B | The group believes that we are currently in a paradigm that falls somewhere between the second and third predictions. So while we were not totally accurate in our prediction, we covered the spectrum! 

  1. Blockchain and distributed ledger will help to solve data privacy

Grade: D | The group still believes these technologies could potentially help with  data privacy, but this certainly did not happen in 2019. Instead, we saw a host of data privacy tools like Transcend gain popularity in 2019. 

  1. Big Cloud providers will lead a consolidation in the business intelligence and analytics space (Looker, Periscope, etc.)

Grade: A | Not only were Looker (acquired in 2019 by Google) and Periscope (acquired in 2019 by SiSense) both acquired, but Salesforce announced the acquisition  of Tableau for $15.7bn! We’re excited to see how these cloud leaders will integrate the different businesses and how the next wave of BI and analytics innovations will look like.

  1. More and more data orgs will report directly into the CEO

Grade: C | While the group believes that this is an ideal end-state, it has not yet happened at scale. Many data leaders believe their organizations are still early on the data-driven journey, with roles and hierarchies being reshaped on an ongoing basis. More on this later. 

  1. Bonus prediction we had: AWS will acquire Snowflake

Grade: F | Snowflake remains a private, independent company at the time of this writing so this was a miss. In addition, the Company recently announced a $479MM fundraise at a $12.4bn valuation. The group still believes that Snowflake will continue to be an extraordinarily valuable asset for any of the major cloud providers. 

2020 Predictions

We then set about making our predictions for 2020: 

  1. Decisions and data will be centralized. There is more data and it’s becoming more challenging to know what data users in a decentralized data organization have and what they’re doing with it. A centralized function will enable high ROI from investment in data. 
  2. Data scientists will spend less time reporting out of Business Intelligence and Analytics tools. Instead, data will undergo a process of democratization in 2020 with Self-serve data becoming more prevalent. 
  3. While AI, ML and related technologies will continue to be a critical focus, we will move from hype to a more grounded reality and will find conversations broadening to include other critical topics around data catalogue, quality, accessibility and governance etc which are necessary pillars for all data products including AI and ML. Governance, cataloging, visibility, and monitoring will be critical in 2020 and beyond.
  4. While the ultimate org structure will still report to the CEO, the group was split between Data org directly reporting to CEO vs COO. We agreed that in the organizations where COO is fully running business operations, data orgs will fit well with-in COO org as well.
  5. We’ll see a growing number of novel data technologies born out of tech leaders that are known for their data prowess like Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, and more. 

Bonus prediction: The Houston Rockets will win the NBA Championship. **Nearly a week after our event, the NBA announced that the 2019-2020 season would be suspended indefinitely due to Covid-19. Not a great start for this prediction but time will tell!

We are curious to see how ElevateData’s 2020 predictions unfold, and we are excited to dive deeper into a few of these topics at our subsequent events this year. One of our favorite themes we discussed at this dinner was that data leaders had grown tired of the hype surrounding AI/ML and other “shiny object” technologies. Instead, data leaders are focused on implementing processes and technologies that can deliver immediate ROI. Given the excitement around this topic, we’re going to focus on it at the next dinner and dive into subjects like Data Cataloging, Management, Governance, insights/inference automation and more. If you’re a data executive and interested in joining our lively events, let us know! 

Your ElevateData Founders,

AlexBarkha and Oren 

Published by Alex Choy

Director at SVB

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