23rd June, 2022
A future view for how data will continue shaping our choices in business in years to come.
What will managing a business be like in 2025? Although it’s not far away, the pace of digital evolution means things could look markedly different.
One key change that’s already coming into play is that data will be the driving force behind every business decision – big or small. While most businesses are already using data to make broad business decisions, accelerating tech and increasing data literacy will continue to evolve the speed and accuracy of business intelligence.
That’s because, by 2025, humans and machines will be working in tandem – we’re not talking sentient robots, but smart workflows, ultra-optimised operations and seamless interactions between people and computers.
Many companies are already on their data digitisation journey, with some further along the path than others.
Although there are opportunities for everyone, businesses already set up to leverage data and take on new tech are ahead of the game.
But they’re by no means common. In fact, recent research from MYOB found that as many as eight in 10 NZ businesses and seven in 10 Australian businesses are making decisions without full visibility of their core financial data.
Here’s how we see data-driven business practices changing between now and 2025:
Right now, data tends to be used at the top level. Business leaders and managers use data to report on performance and make decisions in the long term and may use real-time dashboards or other tools to track day-to-day operations.
While data is available in most businesses, using it is very much optional.
Leadership may choose to use insights to inform the next steps. but can still choose to go with their gut.
Data systems may be used in some business areas and manual processes in others, creating a patchy workflow with gaps and inefficiencies.
In 2025, expect to see data built into business processes and decision-making for every employee – from the shop floor up.
Instead of using data for reports to inform the work, it will be an inherent part of the workflow.
Automating and streamlining these everyday processes will free employees to focus on the human-centric parts of the job that can’t be done by computers – building relationships with customers, collaborating with colleagues and coming up with new ideas to push the business forward.
Some businesses have (near) real-time data available through an ERP or business management system, but due to tech limitations and underpowered processing tools, it’s generally not able to be processed, queried or analysed in real-time. This limits its value and means instant decision making isn’t possible.
Data collection, processing, analysis and visualisation will evolve even further, delivering sophisticated insights and functionality in something approaching real time (noting that the laws of physics and other engineering constraints means actual real-time data sharing will continue to elude us).
New analytics architecture, already in development, will be readily available, giving businesses far greater processing power and the ability to harness data very soon after it’s collected.
Most businesses collect and store data in some format but it’s not
necessarily accessible and usable without intervention.
Unstructured data systems store data effectively, but it often needs to be extracted, analysed and reworked for use in CRM or business management systems. This means no real-time access or analytics, and a major lag between data collection and use.
The proliferation of new data storage technology – including time-series, graphing and NoSQL databases – will give businesses more flexibility around storage and use. This technology works within advanced architecture to help businesses understand and leverage their business data.
With this sort of accessibility in place, businesses can build data products to drive greater insights, such as data platforms and real-time data models that represent physical spaces or products – for example, a manufacturing floor.
These tools offer a sophisticated way to test scenarios and model outcomes for better decision making.
Data is an important part of doing business, but it’s not treated as a valuable resource. It’s often stored in a slapdash way, siloed in different databases and duplicated in various formats across a business, without any way to get to the latest version or most accurate view. This makes it difficult for business owners and other users to access, organise and use the data they need.
In the future, data will be treated as a product. Rather than being spread out across the organisation, it will be stored in organised, centralised and accessible databases, usually integrated with other business management software.
Another major change: instead of an amorphous ownership model, data will be monitored and managed by dedicated teams focused on security and smart integration.
While CDOs (Chief Data Officers) already exist, they’re not standard. Most are tasked with ensuring data compliance and managing access, rather than analytics or deeper insights.
In a data-driven world, the CDO has a central role.
Expect to see more businesses creating data teams responsible for driving data strategy within the business.
Data strategy and digital enablement teams of the future won’t just manage data, they’ll find new ways to use it, continually improve integration with other business units and even find ways to sell datasets to other businesses.
Data is segregated within businesses and only shared in a limited way between organisations.
With data being treated as a product, data sharing and selling could become standard – even between competitors.
Data marketplaces act as a central repository for data from multiple organisations, offering deeper insights and understanding.
Of course, this will need to be balanced with security and privacy, ensuring that businesses can exchange data without compromising customer details or proprietary information.
Although data security and privacy concerns are increasingly visible, they’re often treated as a straightforward box-ticking exercise.
Access to sensitive data is often managed with manual controls, making it complicated and error prone.
Driven by increased understanding and high customer expectations, data privacy, ethics and security will move up the priority list for many organisations.
Security will be built into data systems, with automated access controls based on roles in the business.
Instant backups, sophisticated security features and a greater awareness of the ethical use of data will become the norm.
You can start moving toward the not-so-distant future of data management right now. The details depend on what your business already does with data.
You could leverage cloud tools to store and manage key data and automate backup processes to boost security. You could create a data-ethics framework to help your business work through potential ethical and regulatory issues as they arise.
You could even develop a road map to help you streamline migration to new technologies as they evolve.
Of course, the most important step doesn’t involve creating a plan, it’s about changing the data culture within your business. Adopting a flexible, iterative approach to your data protocols and establishing an improvement-focused culture in your team are the best ways to set yourself up for data success – now and in the future.
2025 will be here soon, so start your data improvement journey now. The best place to start? Talk through your current data systems with an expert and find out exactly what will need to change in the next three years.
One way to transform data and set your business up for future flexibility is a smart, feature-heavy ERP platform like MYOB Advanced Business. Book a no-obligation chat with an MYOB specialist to find out more.