The Age of Alt: Data Commercialization Brings Alternative Data To Market

Jennifer Belissent

We all want to know something others don’t know. People have long sought “local knowledge,” “the inside scoop” or “a heads up” – the restaurant not in the guidebook, the real version of the story, or some advanced warning. What they really want is an advantage over common knowledge – and the unique information source that delivers it. They’re looking for alternative data – or “alt-data.”

From the information age where everyone took advantage of easy access to information, we are now entering an age where everyone seeks alternatives: new sources of information and innovative ways of deriving unique insights.  This is the “Age of Alt.”

We know that business leaders want to better leverage data and analytics in their decision-making. But more importantly most decision-makers want to supplement their own data with external data; 81% tell us they want to expand their ability to source new external data.  Demand for data is exploding.

With everyone now chasing data, the challenge is to find something new and different – finding the “alt data.”

Fortunately, the supply of data is booming as well. Forrester’s hot-off-the-press 2017 Data and Analytics survey reports a huge jump in companies taking their data to market:

48% are commercializing their data – and that’s up from 32% last year.

These new data sources out there represent an enormous opportunity to find that information advantage.

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Context Matters, And That Means Your Industry

Jennifer Belissent

It’s likely not news to you that your business context matters.  Your vendors and services providers must understand the reality you’re doing business in.  They’ve got to have the experience and knowledge to intelligently "speak the language" of your internal stakeholders, identify relevant insights, and recommend appropriate actions. And that means knowing the industry in which you operate.  And, that’s even more so for someone providing you with the insights you need to improve your business. 

Some of these industry differences include:

  • Top priorities. Although business priorities are often similar, each industry pursues them with varying levels of urgency. Decision-makers in retail see improving customer experience as a do-or-die requirement, with 80% reporting that it's a high priority over the next 12 months; in oil and gas, only 49% report that it's a key area of focus. Under intense competitive pressure, telecoms look to reinvent themselves: Over two-thirds of decision-makers report that improving innovation is a high priority, while only 47% in healthcare say it's a top initiative.
  • Strategic objectives. Strategies for growing revenue, a unanimous priority, vary greatly by industry. Decision-makers in the consumer goods industry emphasize acquiring new customers as well as launching and selling new products over retaining, upselling, and cross-selling to current customers. In contrast, decision-makers at financial services firms see enriching current customer relationships as key to growing revenues. Other verticals, like utilities and primary production, have a greater appetite for pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets. Yet only a quarter of decision-makers in retail responded that this initiative was on their firms' agenda. It is clear that one approach doesn't fit all industries.
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Context Matters, And That Means Your Industry

Jennifer Belissent

It’s likely not news to you that your business context matters.  Your vendors and services providers must understand the reality you’re doing business in.  They’ve got to have the experience and knowledge to intelligently "speak the language" of your internal stakeholders, identify relevant insights, and recommend appropriate actions. And that means knowing the industry in which you operate.  And, that’s even more so for someone providing you with the insights you need to improve your business. 

Some of these industry differences include:

  • Top priorities. Although business priorities are often similar, each industry pursues them with varying levels of urgency. Decision-makers in retail see improving customer experience as a do-or-die requirement, with 80% reporting that it's a high priority over the next 12 months; in oil and gas, only 49% report that it's a key area of focus. Under intense competitive pressure, telecoms look to reinvent themselves: Over two-thirds of decision-makers report that improving innovation is a high priority, while only 47% in healthcare say it's a top initiative.
  • Strategic objectives. Strategies for growing revenue, a unanimous priority, vary greatly by industry. Decision-makers in the consumer goods industry emphasize acquiring new customers as well as launching and selling new products over retaining, upselling, and cross-selling to current customers. In contrast, decision-makers at financial services firms see enriching current customer relationships as key to growing revenues. Other verticals, like utilities and primary production, have a greater appetite for pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets. Yet only a quarter of decision-makers in retail responded that this initiative was on their firms' agenda. It is clear that one approach doesn't fit all industries.
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Navigating The New Insights Service Provider Landscape

Jennifer Belissent

“We are in the business of building [FILL IN THE BLANK], why would we build an insights platform out ourselves.” 

That sentiment will drive more and more companies to explore the insights services option.  Many already feel like they are chasing a moving target. Data and analytics practices are evolving quickly with new tools and techniques moving the bar higher and higher. Not to mention the explosion of data sources, and the dearth of skilled talent out there.  As executives become more aware of the value of data and analytics, they become increasingly dissatisfied with what their organizations can deliver:  in 2014 53% of decision-makers were satisfied with internal analytics capabilities but by 2015 those satisfied fell to 42%.  These are the leaders who will look for external service providers to deliver insights. They realize they might not get there themselves.

The sentiment expressed in the quote above was actually from a consumer packaged goods company.  For its execs winning in cities has become paramount.  As urbanization increases, cities provide big opportunities. But not all cities are alike and differentiating what they take to a specific market requires deep local knowledge – and a lot of diverse data.  To create hyperlocal, timely, and contextually relevant offers, the company needs data on local news, events, and weather as well as geo-tagged social data. All of that must be combined with its own internal and partner data.  

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Musings on Mobile World Congress 2016: IoT Generates Insights From Cows To Customers

Jennifer Belissent

More than 100,000 people descended on Barcelona, Spain last week to be part of Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s largest annual technology events. My new report, IoT And Insights Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin, recaps some of  the MWC 2016, including expectations for new 5G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and applications that will deliver value from the multitude of connected things — and people. A few of those highlights include:

5G Networks Promise Speed But Require Patience. 

Telecom operators and network equipment providers eagerly discussed the faster speeds and lower latency of new 5G networks.  And, fast it will be. While reports vary, network tests show download speeds peaking at more than 20 Gbps; average 5G speed is expected to be 100 times faster than current 4G networks. With that kind of speed, true video streaming becomes a reality for consumer and business uses. And, that reality can be with virtual or augmented: AR and VR were all over the exhibit hall. I successfully fought with a dragon but had to bail out of the helicopter I was flying as the experience got a little too real.

But alas, these good things only come to those who wait. The 5G standards will not be finalized before 2018; and commercial availability not before 2020 at the earliest. Large-scale network rollouts will likely take much longer. For now, we’ll all have to live with 4G reality as it is.

Interest In The Internet Of Things Is Exploding – Well Beyond Things.

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Introducing The New Insights Service Provider

Jennifer Belissent

Do you ever feel like you’re facing a moving target?  Whether it’s the latest customer requirements, or how to improve operations, or to retain your best employees, or to price your products, the context in which you are doing business is increasingly dynamic.  And, so are the tools you need to better understand that context?  Everyone is talking about the promise of big data and advanced analytics, but we all know that companies struggle to reach the Holy Grail. 

Data and analytics tools and the skills required to use them are changing faster than ever. Technologies that were university research projects just last year are now part of a wide range of products and services. How can firms keep up with the accelerated pace of innovation? Alas, many cannot. According to Forrester's Q3 2015 Global State Of Strategic Planning, Enterprise Architecture, And PMO Online Survey, 73% of companies understand the business value of data and aspire to be data-driven but just 29% confirm that they are actually turning data into action. Many firms report having mature data management, governance, and analytics practices, but yesterday's skills are not necessarily what they will need tomorrow — or even today.

The same goes for data sources.  We all know that using external data sources enhances the insights from our business intelligence.  But which data and where to get it?

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Forrester’s 2016 Data Predictions: Out With Data Pack Rats. Turn Data Into Action

Jennifer Belissent

Instinctively we know that it is not just about collecting the data. Big and bigger doesn’t necessarily make you smart and smarter.  It just makes you one of those pack rats that has piles of stuff in all corners of your house.  Yes, it might be very well organized and could have a potential use that makes it work keeping. But will you ever take it out and use it? Will you ever really benefit from what you’ve so painstakingly collected? Likely not.

Image GalleryDon’t be a data pack rat.  This is the year to turn your data into actions and positive business outcomes.

In 2016, the energy around data-driven investments will continue to elevate the importance of data and create incremental improvement in business performance for many but some serious digital disruption for others.  Here are a few of our data predictions for 2016.

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From Insights To Innovation: Data-Driven Disruption

Jennifer Belissent

Tomorrow Forrester will host our Geneva-based clients for a breakfast meeting and discussion on “Powering Innovation Strategies with Insights.” My colleague, Luca Paderni, will kick off the morning with a presentation on digital disruption in the age of the customer, specifically looking at how to take a pragmatic approach to innovation with the “adjacent possible.” Then I will lead a discussion on how to build an action-oriented approach to data and analytics, exploring examples of companies that have successfully turned their data into new business opportunities – into data-derived innovation. 

Thanks to Forrester’s Business Technographics, we know that business and technology leaders prioritize initiatives that secure their position in the age of the customer – to improve customer experience, address rising customer expectations, and improve their products and services (kind of all the same thing, or very closely related). It’s all about the customer.  But when we ask about these priorities, the one that comes next – right after the customer-focused initiatives – is innovation: “improving our ability to innovate.” They know that the disruptions they face in the age of the customer won’t be addressed with business as usual (BAU as one of my clients referred to it yesterday; I learned a new TLA).  Innovation has been elevated to an initiative, which means that executives are focused on it and likely someone is in-charge of it – we’ll come back to that one. 

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You May Not Need A CDO - But Wouldn’t You Want To Improve Your Odds Of Success

Jennifer Belissent

Gene Leganza and I just published a report on the role of the Chief Data Officer that we’re hearing so much about these days – Top Performers Appoint Chief Data Officers.  To introduce the report, we sat down with our press team at Forrester to talk about the findings, and the implications for our clients.

Forrester PR: There's a ton of fantastic data in the report around the CDO. If you had to call out the most surprising finding, what would top your list?

Gene:  No question it's the high correlation between high-performing companies and those with CDOs. Jennifer and I both feel that strong data capabilities are critical for organizations today and that the data agenda is quite complex and in need of strong leadership. That all means that it's quite logical to expect a correlation between strong data leadership and company performance - but given the relative newness of the CDO role it was surprising to see firm performance so closely linked to the role.

Of course, you can't infer cause and effect from correlation – the data could mean that execs in high-performing companies think having a CDO role is a good idea as much as it could mean CDOs are materially contributing to high performance. Either way that single statistic should make one take a serious look at the role in organizations without clear data leadership. 

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Coming Of Age, Not Mid-Life Crisis: Cities Are Ready...

Jennifer Belissent

Smart cities are a myth.  But cities are now finally ready to invest in new technology.  No, I don’t find those two sentences contradictory. Yes, I do finally feel like the hype of smart cities is fading.  And, yes, I do think the promise still holds much potential for cities. But boy have I tired of hearing smart, smart, smart, smart, smart (somehow 5 times sounded right to me, or should I say sounded “smart”). 

Back in 2010 I wrote a lengthy report on the smart city opportunity for vendors. At the time my research was focused on vendors, and as the vendors were all worked up about smart cities it made sense to put some structure around the opportunity.  What were the primary market drivers?  What issues were cities currently facing or expecting to face in the future?  Anyone who has attended a talk on smart cities knows the drill ad naseam:  population explosion, urbanization, startling impact on city services (transportation, waste and water management, public safety, health, education etc.)  And, I’m just as guilty.  The slide at the right was from my first webinar on smart cities in 2010.

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