Successful businesses have strong leaders. These leaders can get the best out of their people by inspiring a culture of rapid and continuous innovation and collaboration. They are also able to translate critical insights into business value because they are able to make decisions that drive the business forward.
These decisions are increasingly data led, but raw data on its own cannot enable the analytical and predictive power that leaders need to drive impact and growth. The pure volume of data that is generated by businesses every day means that it needs to be collected, classified, handled, stored and processed accurately and securely to extract its value.
Good leaders realise this. “These business leaders have a deep understanding of technology and data and are crafting road maps that place data at the core of business strategy,” says Johannes Kanis, Cloud and Enterprise Business Group lead at Microsoft South Africa.
This allows them to adapt and respond to industry and economic pressures that force them to innovate, which has proven to be especially critical in a year defined by ongoing disruption.
For industries like hospitality and tourism, which have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, this has required imagining new ways of doing business and generating value, and there are examples of businesses in South Africa that reassessed their critical services and moved to the cloud to cut costs, optimise operations and derive value from the insights gathered through big data analytics using AI and machine learning.
Harnessing data-driven agility
“Key learnings from these organisations show that quality data has played a critical part in their ability to accelerate their digital transformation journeys. But this kind of data-driven agility requires 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,” says Kanis.
And marrying strategy with capability to yield value requires investing in the right combination of people, process and technology. Data scientists and engineers that are enabled by streamlined processes and equipped with the latest solutions underpinned by trust and security can access and collect the right data at the right time and gather the insights that business leaders need.
As part of this, leaders need to advocate and implement the right governance framework and processes to ensure that the business can use and gain these insights – without putting the business and its customers at risk. This means investing in solutions that ensure that data is usable, accessible and protected. Good data governance leads to better data analytics, which improves the decision-making capabilities of business leaders. This is because data governance balances the financial benefits of data and the potential risks of data to ensure that it is fit for purpose.
These capabilities are increasingly supported by solutions that are powered by the cloud and big data analytics, and underpinned by AI and machine learning. Cloud solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, which Microsoft has now made generally available, bring together data integration, enterprise data warehousing and big data into a single service – with sound data governance at its core.
Azure Synapse Analytics provides the robust machine learning operations needed to create a data lake across products and data sources, as well as data pipelines to support analytics and advanced AI – combining and centralising data to unleash its analytical and predictive power through insights.
“The beauty of the power of the cloud and big data analytics 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 propel the business forward.
Effective leaders know success is a team effort – and taking the time to establish underlying business and data needs, create a clear data strategy and culture prioritising data and data governance, as well as invest in the people, processes and technology that help achieve these goals, means setting a solid foundation to build upon.
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