Predicting future trends in order to cultivate continued growth and success is not a new practice. Many organisations conduct extensive research, often for years, using the knowledge to make informed business decisions. However, technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, coupled with fast and available connectivity solutions, mean that we have access to a lot more information – and a lot more accurate information – than ever before.
Managing, storing and processing the vast quantity of incoming information is a costly exercise. However, weighed against the returns that proper analysis of that data can bring makes it a worthwhile investment. Through analytics, organisations can get to know and understand their customers. They can predict the next big thing and prepare for it. Businesses can therefore determine where inefficiencies are within the organisation or industry and set up counter measures to mitigate them. In a nutshell, the organisation can stay ahead and on top of the market, which is exactly where they want to be.
Data analytics makes business sense
South African businesses are in an era of data, with information being considered the new currency. Data is valuable and in demand. Any organisation who can effectively mine data should be able to gather sufficient insights to make the right decisions at the appropriate times. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on their processes, product or service offerings and, ultimately, on their profits. Proper data analytics is, therefore, quite critical for the success of South African business, especially in today’s volatile market.
While much of the telecommunications and technology industries are using data analytics to their advantage, and most retailers and marketers are leveraging the massive insights that data gives them into the mind of the customer, government and manufacturing industries have yet to discover the full potential of data analytics, and all the benefits it can bring. Not only can data be mined to give organisations a better understating of their customers and help to improve operations but also, on a government and parastatal layer, to better manage utility supplies, plan ahead for resource scarcity and predict many other behavioural and utilisation trends.
Understand and combat the challenges
Implementing a data analysis process requires both financial and resource investment, and the Return on Investment (ROI) is often long term. Analytics is based on the input of information, and currently only structured information is being fully analysed and utilised. However, IoT and Big Data are starting to change how analytics is being perceived, highlighting many previously unconsidered advantages.
Unstructured information like emails, documents, web pages and social media, is starting to be considered in South Africa, but the main challenge will be how to ask right questions to get the right analytics completed, for the right purpose. It is critical that organisations understand what they want to achieve from data analytics to ensure the right data is being taken from the correct sources and analysed in a manner suited to the requirement, or the endeavour is not likely to produce the desired results.
Implement a data analytics strategy
Organisations who are not yet taking advantage of proper data analytics, that is analytics which are effective and provide the desired answers to key questions, should start implementing a data analytics strategy to stay ahead of their competition. Here are a few things organisations should address to guarantee proper data analytics takes place:
1. Organisations should establish an information strategy and governance policy to give assurance that they focus on their information goals and that all personnel act in accordance with these.
2. Businesses need to start managing their information in order to maintain their processes. It helps to have an information management department in place to ensure this happens.
3. To enable organisations to link and categorise all of their critical data, they should implement Master Data Management (MDM), including data cleansing.
4. Organisations should select the right tool for analytics, preferably one which integrates with existing applications and can work with data coming in from multiple channels.
5. Organisations should plan for the future of data analytics at least for 3 to 5 year in advance, ensuring they have no lag.
6. Organisations should start small, growing their data analysis requirements organically. They can begin by running individual projects based on the organisation’s strategic information needs.
With these practices, processes and strategies in place, and working with an IT partner who understands a business’s specific requirements and mode of business, organisations can start to leverage the benefits of data analysis. It is imperative that they start now however, to reap the rewards sooner rather than later and reduce the risk of falling behind.
By Saurabh Kumar, CEO of In2IT Pty Ltd