Data has permeated every facet of an organisation. Without it, no business can succeed in a real-time digital environment. Of course, data itself is just one piece of the puzzle. Perhaps more critically important is how to effectively adopt it inside the business.
Just consider how much data is available to decision-makers. In 2015, 12 zetabytes (1ZB is the equivalent of approximately one trillion gigabytes) of data was created worldwide. And by 2025, it is forecast to increase to a staggering 163 zetabytes. Clearly, companies need a carefully constructed adoption strategy to capture, manage, and understand the information they have at their disposal.
Adding to the complexity of this challenge is the fact that many existing business intelligence (BI) tools are not being used to their full capacity. There is a willingness to adopt them, but there is a lack of understanding how to integrate BI across the organisation for all employees to benefit from it.
One of our insurance clients initially approached us as they were frustrated with the poor adoption of their existing BI tools. However, after we investigated the problem, we discovered that there is no drive to use it across all divisions inside the organisation. Another one of our clients, specialising in home and car pricing products wanted to increase their BI usage. There is a deep need to expand how BI is used to service its clients in different and more efficient ways.
Even though the financial sector has received a lot of attention when it comes to data analysis and information strategy adoption, the reality is that any sector can benefit from this. In the current difficult economic environment, businesses are trying to keep costs low while still being competitive and maximising the technological solutions they have at their disposal.
To truly achieve business value from BI and other analytics tools, companies must extract value out of the information they have at hand. This is not only a South African challenge. Local companies are on par with their international counterparts when it comes to adoption rates. Some statistics show that insurance and technology lead all other sectors in terms of BI adoption with 40 percent of organisations having 41 percent or greater penetration of BI. It all boils down to making solutions accessible and customisable to the specific needs of the business.
Moving beyond the willingness to change and having the capabilities to analyse data more effectively, another component that needs to be considered is change management. It has become too easy to migrate BI and data analytics solutions without taking into account the people who need to use it.
Granted, costing is always a consideration as organisations want to run as optimally as possible. Even though it might be too expensive to convert the entire organisation to a comprehensive BI platform, there are options to embrace a more modular approach. This is not only cost-effective but enables the organisation to train sections of people with the solution and gauge its impact on the organisation.
Looking at the rest of Africa, there are significant opportunities for businesses to extract additional value from insights across the continent. Data structures differ in each country and these are not always in the most accessible formats. By getting the data into a usable format, businesses can gain a greater understanding of the needs of their target markets.
Even though companies (both locally and abroad) are overwhelmed with information, it is a case of managing it properly and adopting solutions for their business value. It is all about extracting relevant business insights. People need to make sense of the data they have at their disposal to counteract the age of information overload.
Data needs to be accessible in its simplest form for decision-makers to gain actionable insights. Currently, it is about transforming innovative technologies like machine-learning and artificial intelligence into relevant solutions that can deliver BI value for the organisation.
The opportunities are there as is the willingness. Now it is a matter of combining data with tools and ensuring employees can unlock the insights inside it.