Four trends that will shape your data strategy this year

The next step is to use data to gain the agility needed to address disruptive events in the future. To do so, they need to ensure that their data strategy can address these four trends that we foresee dominating 2021

Four trends that will shape your data strategy this year


Although 2020 has presented us with many uncertainties, one thing that is certain is the mission-critical role that data will continue to play in 2021 and beyond.

Many organisations in Asean have leveraged data to strengthen their business resilience in the past 12 months. The next step is to use data to gain the agility needed to address disruptive events in the future. To do so, they need to ensure that their data strategy can address these four trends that we foresee dominating 2021:  

Trend 1: The rise of 5G in ASEAN and the resulting data storm

5G is set to provide a wealth of opportunities for Asean countries, according to Kearney, representing up to 22 percent of enterprise revenues by 2025, with Indonesia expected to capture the biggest share followed by Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

We foresee more telecommunications providers (telcos) in the region starting or continuing to upgrade their current networks to deliver the high-speed, low latency and more reliable connectivity that 5G can offer.

In fact, emerging markets or new telcos may outpace developed countries and established telco players in the 5G race as they can simply leapfrog to the latest system instead of overhauling their existing infrastructure.

The rise of 5G will impact an organisation’s data strategy as the technology can provide massive connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT). Since a 5G network can handle up to 1 million connected devices over one square kilometre, Asean organisations that are embracing IoT must be prepared to navigate the data storm created by those connected devices.

As organisations digitally transform, they will be faced with exponentially growing amounts of data and increasing complexities of new technologies. More businesses are turning to machine learning to overcome those challenges.

Some Asean telcos, like Malaysia’s Axiata for instance, are starting to explore how machine learning can help them manage their networks and better predict workloads, to ensure that their services are consistent and reliable. Meanwhile, manufacturers in the region are using machine learning for predictive maintenance to prevent unplanned downtime.    

Despite the increased interest in the technology, many organisations are taking a piecemeal approach to machine learning, hindering them from becoming truly data-driven. Organisations can overcome this by operationalising machine learning, which means enabling business users to leverage machine learning without requiring help from IT and data science teams.

This requires them to understand, trust, and communicate a machine learning model’s ability to meaningfully impact the business. Those that can do so — to the extent that they can produce action from AI-derived insights — are well-poised to survive and thrive in the next normal.
Trend 3: Data governance will take centre stage in a hybrid cloud world

Hybrid cloud is set to become the default choice for most organisations.

IDC predicts that by 2021, over 90 per cent of enterprises in APAC (excluding Japan) will rely on a mix of on-premises/dedicated private cloud, several public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs.

With data spread across the hybrid cloud, it is vital for organisations to effectively secure and govern their data regardless of where it resides or is used.

Businesses that lack strong security and governance systems not only risk being vulnerable to cyber-attacks and insider threats but will also struggle to comply with regulations such as data privacy laws and Know Your Customer (KYC) obligations. 

Forward-thinking organisations have countered these challenges by using an enterprise data cloud that can enforce a consistent set of security and governance policies across hybrid cloud environments — including fine-grained access controls, data lineage, and audit logs.

Case in point: Asean banks that have done so, such as United Overseas Bank (UOB), are better able to comply with anti-money laundering regulations. By having visibility of their entire data lifecycle (i.e., knowing how their data is produced, consumed, and used or manipulated by various business applications/users in the organisation), they can easily demonstrate to regulators that they are using complete and accurate data to monitor money laundering activities. 

To address the increasing number of cyber-attacks and data privacy concerns, we expect more organisations to focus on ensuring that their data platform can provide consistent data security, governance, lineage, and control across their hybrid cloud next year.

Trend 4: AI gets a dose of data ethics

As more companies use artificial intelligence (AI) to create scalable solutions, the move also increases their reputational, regulatory, and legal risks. 

Since AI systems learn from the datasets they are trained with, organisations must tackle the ethical problems that arise from the widespread collection, analysis, and use of massive amounts of data.

Today, ethical AI conversations revolve around the anonymisation of data — while Australia, Singapore, and South Korea already have AI frameworks in place, other markets, including India and Indonesia, will continue to create regulations and set national standards for AI innovation in 2021.

Besides that, APAC organisations can do their part by having strong data governance. They can consider using enterprise data cloud to simplify their governance and address the lack of transparency around the data models and information infrastructures used to power AI systems (i.e., what data the AI system uses and how the AI makes its decisions).

As we look to 2021, we will see the conversation of ethical AI and data governance applied to multiple different areas, such as determining who owns the data generated by connected vehicles and smart devices, and who should protect consumers’ personal cyber profiles as they increase their cyber footprint.

Future-proofing your business with data strategy

Data is no doubt a strategic asset that can help organisations gain the agility needed to navigate through the uncertainties in 2021 and beyond. However, the rising importance of data and increasing usage of new technologies such as AI will create new challenges and concerns.  

To ensure that your data strategy can address new business requirements, it should be supported by an enterprise data cloud, which will provide every employee access to relevant data and insights while controlling costs, reducing risks, and enforcing consistent security and governance across all data assets.

By making data known, discoverable, available, trusted, and compliant, those organisations are in a better position to improve operational efficiency, find new revenue streams, and deliver better customer experience or services to citizens —even in the face of disruption.

Originally published at The business times