Make your data work for you
By Felix Foong October 20, 2014
- Data and information are part of the language of today’s business
- New opportunities to get data insights by using ‘analytics – but what is it?
THERE’S a lot of data out there to manage today. Strong data capabilities are needed to gain the greatest value from data, which is silo-ed and disparate in the organisation, and continues to grow at an exponential rate.
According to IDC, the amount of data is expected to reach a staggering 5,247 gigabytes per person by 2020.
Put in physical terms, there are twice as many bytes of data in the world than litres of water in our oceans.
Further fuelling the proliferation of data are the increases in new devices and sensors as well as declining hardware costs.
We live in a transformational time particularly in relation to data and how that impacts business. We’re at a tipping point where things are going to be fundamentally different.
And it comes together as a result of a few factors:
1) Data explosion
You can’t read a business publication or browse a news site today without seeing a story about ‘big data.’
According to IDC, organisations can take advantage of opportunities presented by big data by improving on four key data factors: Combining diverse data streams within organisations; using new data analytics tools; delivering data insights to more people; and 4) doing all of this quickly.
This is known as the data dividend.
The growing data volumes – coming from new types of data and new sources of data – represent opportunities to create new business value.
Your team can ask questions they’ve never been able to before – and get answers. For example, in the retail world, you can now track and predict customer purchases based on how they move through your website – so you can figure out what price moves a particular customer type to purchase, for example.
This is all based on data.
2) Technological innovation and economics
From the tech industry as a whole, you have the perfect storm of:
- Great hardware and software innovation – advancements that are speeding processing exponentially, and support businesses with high availability and scalability demands;
- Falling storage costs (for data) making it cheap to store vast amounts of data; and
- Cloud – giving your IT teams elastic scale as a subscription service – a great economic model to dial up and down as your business needs it. So instead of being a blocker, IT can say yes with an amazing amount of memory and computational power at its disposal.
3) Readiness and expectations
The current and new workforce generations are ready and accustomed to the data-driven world. They create and consume more data than ever – simply by using their smartphones.
Data and information are part of the language of today’s business – and those companies that use analytics best are five times more likely to make decisions faster than their competitors.
Organisations have more data from which to inform their decisions; IT has the ability to store more of it, use new technologies and services to harvest unique value from it; and people are ready and eager to tap into it.
This all creates new opportunities for you to get data insights by using analytics.
So what exactly is ‘analytics’?
Analytics extracts knowledge from data, validates the data, simplifies the data and visualises the data. This empowers people to make common-sense decisions based on proven facts.
As a business leader, you measure the health and success of your business using many factors, but worldwide, the accepted practice really hones in on the four areas of the standard business scorecard: Internal business processes; customer; financial; and learning and growth.
- Business processes: Enable fact-based decisions to improve performance across a number of areas – operations, sales, product development, customer targeting, etc.;
- Customer: Better understand your customers using customer analytics – for example for your marketing campaigns, social media/ website, and customer service experiences;
- Financial: Impacting your company’s bottom line through more informed financial decision making and controls; and
- Learning and growth: The People scorecard – using analytics to help improve many aspects of your workforce such as performance, succession, recruiting, quality of hire, etc.
You can turn data into a business advantage in all of these areas.
Analytics = Insights = Impact
Most business leaders are only thinking about front-end tools, and in many cases doing so without involving IT.
In the past, without the right tools in place, any IT team would admit that data projects have been difficult, long and costly. However, it’s important to note that things have radically changed, with the coming together of big data, technology and user readiness driving us to a tipping point.
To take advantage of this, you want a smooth running and connected data strategy and platform – from the front-end to the back-end.
You also want to factor in the power of the cloud – using the cloud to complement your company’s systems or using both (hybrid).
It’s not enough to just think about the front-end tools if you want to be one of those companies using analytics best – which are five times more likely to make faster decisions than their competitors.
You now have an opportunity to turn data into your advantage unlike any other time in the history of business.
As leaders, you can seize new business opportunities and advantages faster. IT can say yes with low-cost storage, innovative new data handling advancements and analytics tools; and your employees are ready and willing to work with data.
This all provides new opportunities to accelerate courageous and accurate – yet less risky – decision-making.
Felix Foong is Lead of the Cloud & Enterprise Business Group at Microsoft Malaysia.
Previous Instalment: What’s your data story?
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