By Steve Totman, Chief Strategy Officer at Privitar

Six months is a long time in the world of data, so I was really looking forward to Gartner’s Data and Analytics Summit, catching up with connections old and new, and hearing about the latest innovations in the industry.  Here’s what I took from the event.

Data mesh or data fabric: which is right?

The passionate debates around data mesh and data fabric were highlights for me. Essentially, the data mesh approach emphasizes data autonomy and decentralization, while the data fabric approach emphasizes data integration and consistency. It’s an interesting discussion because both approaches have their pros and cons.

There was a lot of discussion at the implementation level about what is and isn’t real as well as what is just a promise for the future. I don’t see there being a one-size-fits-all solution. There are a lot of strong opinions but it’s healthy that these debates take place in a form with the leading experts and practitioners.  

Why the negativity around data governance?

Another topic that grabbed my attention was data governance. It seems to have become something of a dirty word in these circles. Many data leaders associate it with restrictive commands and controls. 

Nobody thinks the need for governance is going away anytime soon. As an industry, we need to do a better job of explaining the benefits: with effective governance you can move faster, with less complexity and risk. It’s important to get everyone on board and understand the value of governance, then concentrate on implementing it automatically, as part of business-as-usual processes.

Will AI and ML cause more regulation headaches?

Everyone sees AI and machine learning driving change in the workplace, let alone the data space. Just check your LinkedIn feed and you’ll see it’s full of posts about ChatGPT. But the base for this and any other analytics is always data. When you use data, you have to consider what’s compliant, what’s ethical, and what risks you’re prepared to bear. There’s no way around it.

There was a lot of discussion at the summit around the sheer number of current and emerging regulations that will influence how businesses use their data, no matter where they are in the world. New use cases are already changing the landscape. The EU is even working on a bill purely for AI.

The key message was to plan for regulations early, not halfway through a project when you’ve already spent seven-figure sums. If you factor in governance early, you save a lot of pain, but it’s amazing how many companies are getting this wrong.

What are the best reasons for attending?

The Data and Analytics Summit is a unique opportunity to spend time with customers and analysts in one place. The greatest value came from conversations during coffee breaks, dinner, drinks, and the conference’s other networking sessions, comparing notes from the many presentations with the realities for practitioners implementing best practices. It’s great to hear both sides of a debate and even better to join the conversation, discussing how trends and technologies add value in the real world.

Overall, this is an excellent conference, and I’m already looking forward to next time. We know the data space is constantly evolving, and events like this are vital. They help you stay on top of the latest trends and innovations so you can drive your company’s momentum with data-driven decisions.