Over the past few months, we met with top-level, C-suite executives around the world to learn more about the challenges, opportunities, and behavioural and social impacts of running a business in a digital world. When the conversations turned to data and analytics, we started to uncover some trends that go way beyond the “usual suspects” of trends related to the volume, speed, and variety of data, and what to do with it. Here are some trends we believe will – and deserve to - capture more attention over the next year:

A shift to “the human element of analytics”

In other words, analytics is not just a technology and data issue. Businesses are realizing their focus needs to expand to what we call “the human element of analytics.” At the heart of the issue is this: while many companies have increased their capacity to ‘”produce” analytics-driven insights – such as customer preferences, operational improvements, and risk identification – many are still not seeing ROI on their analytics investments. Why? Because ultimately, value is realized when people make different decisions and change business processes. A company’s culture, organizational processes, skills of the business “users” and incentives all must be considered, and are part of the equation to “consume” analytics throughout the organization. Unfortunately, despite massive spending on technology and tools not nearly enough focus has been put on end users, or “consumers” of the analytics – such as doctors, marketing professionals, factory workers, customer service representatives or financial professionals. In fact, a recent EY/Forbes Insight study, “Analytics: Don’t Forget the Human Element,” highlights ways to overcome the obstacles to making analytics more actionable, and examines what leaders are doing most effectively to achieve analytics excellence. Clearly, there is work to be done here; 89% of all organizations participating in the study said that change management is a barrier to realizing analytics value. Looking ahead, 2016 will be the year that many organizations shift the emphasis from analytics “production” to analytics “consumption.”

Rising demand from consumers who want something in return for sharing their data

Millions of people worldwide use mobile devices and data-driven services to research, shop, bank, socialize, and more. Companies collect information and deliver personalized services, based on the data they amass. But there’s a risk of dramatic change in consumer behavior, based on their trust in how their data is being used. For example, one EY survey of 2,000 customers and almost 750 senior business executives in the U.K. indicates that consumers are becoming less willing to share their personal information. Almost half said they would restrict access by 2018. And regulatory changes have already arrived. For example, the European Parliament recently cemented the strong support previously given at the committee level to the European Commission's data protection reform ensuring that people have more effective control over their personal data. In fact, under the new law, companies must get customers’ consent to collect and process their personal data – or face fines of up to four percent of annual revenue if they neglect to do so. As the regulatory environment shifts, and consumers become more sensitive about the use of their data, business we’re talking with are increasingly moving beyond what that can do (within a legal framework) to what they should do (within a “value exchange” framework) with consumer data. Some companies are piloting or considering giving customers discounted pricing on products and services or other incentives based on the information consumers are willing to share and permit companies to use. We believe we’re on the cusp of a new state of sophistication in how companies share value with consumers based on various data sharing and permission frameworks. As the year unfolds, we’ll see this discussion accelerate. Some companies will get it right, while others will unintentionally stub their toes.

More companies will press the ‘reset button’ on analytics

Most businesses agree that analytics has become crucial to success. But for many companies, analytics programs have not succeeded as planned. Those programs failed to deliver on ROI. Evidence of this can be found in the EY/Forbes Insight study mentioned previously: