In a business environment characterised by significant disruption and rapid change, the organisations that are succeeding are the ones getting data right. This means turning raw data into real business value by knowing how to extract insights that equip business leaders with the knowledge they need to make critical decisions tied to their business strategy.
“Businesses that are getting data right typically fall into two categories: They are responding to industry pressures that are forcing them to innovate, and they have leadership that understands technology and data and are crafting roadmaps that place data at the core of business strategy,” says Johannes Kanis, cloud and enterprise business group lead at Microsoft South Africa.
A Harvard Business Review case study, for example, found that when integrated properly, data can accelerate most business strategies by improving the processes and empowering the people needed to execute them. Organisations across several industries in South Africa are proving this right: media, telecommunications and insurance, in particular, have responded to industry and economic pressures and have innovated and driven business growth by unlocking the power of insights through data.
The insurance industry, for instance, has had to adapt and find new ways of working rapidly because of the continued explosion of fintech solutions and disruptors. The launch of purely digital banks in the country – Discovery Bank, TymeBank and Bank Zero – has not only impacted the traditional banking sector, it has also had a ripple effect on financial services in general and fostered an innovation mindset.
“Key learnings from these organisations show that data has played a critical part in their ability to accelerate their digital transformation journeys. This requires the right combination of people, process and technology,” says Kanis.
Building a data culture through people, process and technology
This means organisations need to skill employees right across the organisation – not just IT. Business leaders need to actively build a company culture that makes data insights the golden thread running through business strategy and informing business decisions.
A culture that combines a clearly defined data strategy with an understanding of business and data needs, and capabilities that enable the seamless and secure collection, classification, handling, storage and processing of data, is the most likely to reap business success and growth.
These capabilities are increasingly driven by modernised processes and the underpinning technology that supports and enables the gathering of data-driven insights that business leaders can use to make critical business decisions that impact the bottom line.
Ever smarter technology solutions and tools are being introduced to help businesses unlock these insights by harnessing the power of the cloud and big data analytics. Tools like Azure Synapse Analytics, which Microsoft has now made generally available, help businesses collect, digest and gain real-time insights from vast amounts of data by bringing together capabilities such as data warehousing and big data into one centralised analytics solution.
“The beauty of the power of the cloud is that it offers agility and the ability to scale up or down according to business needs,” says Kanis. The ability to garner real-time insights and value through data also means that business leaders are equipped to make decisions that improve the customer and employee experience, optimise operations, products and services, and ultimately drive the business forward.
Implementing solutions that use the cloud and analytics facilitates decision making by leapfrogging legacy technology challenges that the traditional warehousing approach creates through data silos. This new generation of solutions unifies and integrates data across all of an organisation’s systems – making it easier to gather insights across every function of the business.
The trick for modern businesses to get their data right is to start now. “Many businesses have delayed implementation of clearly defined, centralised data management strategies because of legacy challenges, data silos that prevent integration, and inaccurate classification of data. The time to start is now: Take the time to establish underlying business and data needs, create a clear data strategy and culture prioritising data, and invest in solutions that help achieve these goals,” says Kanis.
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