This week, European Union lawmakers unveiled an ambitious proposal to transform how data is used across the continent.
A proposal for a new law, called the Data Governance Act, is the first step in the EU’s data strategy, through which it hopes to foster data-based innovation, easier and cheaper data access and the use of data for social good – all under the umbrella of the strict data protection and privacy laws that exist in the EU.
Why does this matter for the technology and digital industries in the UK? The answer is twofold. Firstly, it means that if the plan is successful, the European Union will be a much better place to do digital business and pursue innovation through the use of data.
However, it also matters for a second, more fundamental reason. It’s obvious, but worth noting. Not that many years ago, the idea of a Europe-wide data strategy would likely have been dismissed as a fantasy at best, or a waste of time and money at worst.
Now, however, it’s clear that it’s essential. Businesses, people and public bodies are generating an ever-increasing amount of data, and almost nobody disputes that there could be great value in this data. Whether it’s to develop new medicines, build innovative products, better understand customers or get ahead of competitors, the potential of our new data-rich world is massive.
But it’s not quite as simple as just “using” data. Without getting into the minefield of legal issues – ranging from data protection and privacy laws to intellectual property rules – it’s just technically not a very easy proposition.
For a start, data is generally only valuable (for businesses at least) in quite large quantities. And data is almost always messy. It requires preparation – in various forms – before it’s ready to be analysed to provide insight for the end-user.
In fact, according to a recent study by Matillion, a service provider to cloud data warehouses, nearly half the time spent on data analytics projects is spent preparing the data, rather than doing the important strategic work of actually analysing it.
The amount of time spent on data preparation, Matillion said, is a barrier to “insights-driven decision-making” – insights-driven decision-making being the holy grail that all organisations look for when pursuing data analysis projects.
Of the more than 200 IT, data science, and data engineering professionals at large US organisations polled by Matillion and IDG Research, 97% said they wanted to accelerate their data transformation.
According to the research, it takes about a week, on average, to aggregate and prepares data so that it can be used for analysis. 60% of respondents cited a lack of scalability and flexibility as challenges in this area.
Respondents said they wanted access to “scalable, reliable technology” to process large data sets; they also bemoaned a lack of visibility and control of data silos – the term used to refer to separated datasets that would be much better used if they could be combined and analysed together.
That’s where Matillion comes in. The company’s product is purpose-built for major cloud data warehouses like Amazon Redshift, Snowflake, Microsoft Azure Synapse, and Google BigQuery. It’s designed to help businesses to achieve “new levels of simplicity, speed, scale, and savings”. The company’s products are highly-rated in the marketplaces of Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s cloud offerings.
Companies now want to turn to cloud-first data services because they understand the value of being able to make the best use of their data quickly, easily, and at a reasonable price.
Matthew Scullion, Matillion’s CEO, said the research “highlights not only what holds [businesses] back, but more importantly, the capabilities and features needed from a solution to deliver business value through transformed data.”
“The power and the economics of cloud-native solutions help companies achieve faster time to value that can make a big impact in creating a data-driven culture for IT and business users.
As a service provider helping make that aim a reality, Matillion has done well. Since its formation in 2011, it has got clients on board including Amazon, Cisco and Accenture, and last year achieved sales of £13.8m.
It’s also witnessed massive growth. It has found itself on both the Sunday Times tech track 100, which measures the 100 fastest-growing UK tech companies, and Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50. Rankings in that list are based on percentage revenue growth over the last four years; Matillion grew 922% during this period.
Here’s Scullion, Matillion’s CEO again: “Matillion’s consistent success can be attributed to its enablement of enterprises across the globe to turn their data into analytics-ready insights to fuel business growth.” Data is clearly big business.