The most important thing to know about the data and analytics space is that the industry has momentum, and if you aren’t embracing data-driven decision making and using your data as a strategic asset, you’re going to be left behind.Uncharted territory waits ahead for everyone in 2021. The world is changing. Customer behaviors are shifting. Supply chains are adjusting. It’s even more critical now for businesses to harness the power of data and analytics through creating a data strategy.If there’s one thing that Patrick made clear through his 2021 projections: all of your peers are doing it, and you need to keep up.Data and Analytics is the New Arms RaceCustomers are evolving. The definition of a customer is changing across virtually every industry because everybody’s behaviors are much different than before and continuing to change. Understanding their new patterns will make or break businesses in the upcoming year.There is also a supply chain issue. Supply chains have changed radically over the past year, and we have seen how brittle and fragile supply chains can be at both global and local levels.The better you are at squeezing all the value you can out of your data—both data generated in-house and data gathered from third parties—the better you can respond to changes in your business landscape.Staying competitive in 2021 is going to be vital, and it will be achieved through how expertly your business can handle data and extract useful insights through analytics.Three Data and Analytics Trends for 2021The trends for 2021 are shaped by the speed at which the industry is changing.Data and analytics consumers need solutions that are going to be nimble to keep pace with the industry.Trend #1: Moving to the cloudMost organizations and businesses are moving their systems to the cloud. Mainly because it gives you an environment in which you can prototype.A short time ago, all of our operational systems—accounting, ERP, CRM, and time-tracking systems, for example—were running on-premise. In turn, all the data they were generating and analyzing were also on-premise.With all the enterprise data on-prem, it also made sense to have analytics systems on-prem to consume this data. However, this required provisioning servers, procuring licenses, installing and maintaining an operating system, installing and maintaining analytics software, and more. It was a laborious effort.Working in the cloud eliminates many of the old steps and the on-premise infrastructure. It also allows you to more easily combine all of your data sources in a place where you can analyze them.Putting your data sources and analytics systems together in the cloud is not only faster and cheaper, it also takes advantage of the inertia of generated data.All operational systems are moving to the cloud, and many of Analytics8’s clients have no on-premise operating systems at all.Trend #2: Augmenting your company data with third-party dataIt is not just about analyzing your own data anymore.Businesses are combining the data they generate in-house with data they procure from outside of the organization. Third-party data—such as demographic, market, competitive, and geospatial information—helps build a more holistic perspective of the business, market, customers, or anything else you’re trying to analyze.Third-party data providers such as AWS Marketplace and Snowflake Data Marketplace have simplified the data augmentation process because they are also in the cloud and have taken advantage of the distribution channels that are only available in the cloud.These providers are also moving toward new and more practical business models. Data used to be sold on a one-time basis through a DVD or two that you could import into your database. It was a one-time cost, and the next time you wanted a refresh, you would pay the license cost again. You would also have to go through the laborious efforts of reloading databases and reperforming data validation.Now, the data providers offer pricing models similar to SaaS providers that are consumption-based and subscription-based, making the process smoother.Due to its ease of access and high analytical value, augmenting company data with third party data is a trend that all businesses should consider.Trend #3: Taking risksCompanies are taking more risks because of Trend #1 and Trend #2.People can be more agile because of the cloud. They have disposable resources that can be provisioned and used very quickly.They can move faster, and the typical barriers to entry (cost and time) are effectively eliminated. This dynamic is causing companies to take more risks than they were before.Risks come in two flavors:Companies can be more aggressive and forward-thinking with data science, artificial intelligence, or machine learning projects.Companies can launch a new business offering, branch, or endeavor.Companies are taking these risks because following the first two trends of migrating to cloud infrastructure and using third-party data have provided them with the modern architecture and firm-footing needed to explore new options.Top Recommendation to Implement Right Now: Create a Clear Data StrategyYou can be nimble, have disposable resources, and take more risks, but it’s critical to have a firm foundation to start from. That begins with a data strategy.A data strategy outlines your business goals and how you can use data and analytics to get there.The real world is dynamic. Rather than using that as an excuse to not invest in the right people, processes, or technologies to solve your data challenges, the exact opposite is true. You need a firm footing from which you can pivot.A data strategy will give you that firm footing.Success Story With Analytics8One of Analytics8’s clients who offers an electronic healthcare platform with a massive supply chain needed to lean heavily on data and analytics and the cloud because of how dramatically COVID-19 changed their business.Demand changed, their supply chain was getting constrained, and their systems were decades old. They needed the ability to understand what their customers were buying at the moment and how preferences had changed in the new stay-at-home home environment. They also needed full visibility into their supply chain so they could pinpoint where weaknesses existed.They recognized the immediate need to improve their data and analytics techniques, processes, and systems and came to Analytics8 for help.In less than six months Analytics8 helped them:Establish their KPIsDesign a data strategyMigrate all their analytics to the cloudCreate a solution to share both the raw data and analytics with their channel partnersRedefine and measure what they consider a customer, moving their focus from businesses to directly on the consumersOptimize their supply chain by finding its weaknesses and redundanciesArmed with a solid data strategy and modern data architecture, the client was able to address immediate problems at hand and create the foundation they needed to thrive during COVID-19 and beyond.SummaryData and Analytics is the new arms race.Data has inertia and momentum. It’s important to refine your data and analytics processes, tools, techniques, and strategies so you can keep up with your peers and remain competitive in the marketplace.Customers are evolving and having strong data analytics is going to be vital to keep up with their changing patterns.The Three Data and Analytics Trends for 2021Companies are going to keep moving their data and analytics systems and workloads to the cloud.Companies will get the most value from their data when they augment their company-generated data with third party data.Companies will take more risks because of the first two trends.The top recommendation for all businesses is to ensure you have a solid data strategy in place.