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How your greatest resource could be sat under your staff’s fingertips

How your greatest resource could be sat under your staff’s fingertips

For most companies their data is their single biggest resource but it's important their staff know how to get the most out of it

Chances are data is the most useful resource a business’s staff can lay their hands on. There is no doubt that an ever-increasing amount of data is being processed but how should employees use it to drive their companies forward? We spoke to Samina Rizwan, Senior Director Business Analytics and Big Data, Middle East and Africa, Oracle, to find out more.

How can businesses use data to ensure it becomes a vital resource for enterprise employees?

For most companies, their data is their single biggest asset, even though they may not know this – yet. Computing hardware used to be a capital asset, while data wasn’t thought of as an asset in the same way. Now, hardware is becoming a service people buy in real time, and the lasting asset is the data.

Data is now a form of capital, on the same level as financial capital in terms of generating new digital products and services. This development has implications for every company’s competitive strategy, as well as for the computing architecture that supports it.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, data is not an abundant resource. Instead, it is composed of a huge variety of scarce, often unique, pieces of captured information. Just as retailers can’t enter new markets without the necessary financing, they can’t create new pricing algorithms without the data to feed them.

In nearly all industries, companies are in a race to create unique stocks of data capital – and ways of using it – before their rivals outmanoeuvre them. Firms that have yet to see data as a raw material are at risk. The vast diversity of data captured and the decisions and actions that use that data require a new computing architecture that includes three key characteristics: data equality, liquidity, and security. The pursuit of these characteristics drives the reinvention of enterprise computing into a set of services that are easier to buy and use. Some will be delivered over the Internet as public cloud services. Some corporate data centres will be reconfigured as private clouds. Both must work together.

New capabilities based on this new architecture, such as data-driven tailoring of products and services, will yield not only radical improvements in operational effectiveness, but also new sources of competitive advantage.

In the future will data become one of the most important resources for staff working for an enterprise? If so, why?

Data is as necessary to the marketplace as the people who manage the business, and the money that pays for it all. This simple idea has big implications. It means that data is now a kind of capital, at par with financial and human capital in creating new digital products and services. Enterprises need to pay special attention to data capital, because it’s the source of much of the added value in the world economy.

“More and more important assets in the economy are composed of bits instead of atoms,” notes Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. In fact, many companies that are light on physical assets but heavy on data assets -for instance, Airbnb, Facebook, and Netflix-have changed the terms of competition in their respective industries. While many incumbent companies possess comparably large troves of data, they don’t exploit it nearly as well. These companies must adopt a new mindset, Brynjolfsson says: “They should start thinking of data as an asset.”

A 2011 study conducted by Brynjolfsson and colleagues at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania supports the concept of data as a capital asset. Brynjolfsson acknowledges that the concept of an intangible asset can be challenging to grasp. “You can’t see data the way you can see buildings, and people are inevitably biased against things that they can’t see,” he says. “It’s a blind spot. But this is something that is more and more important to the world economy. It’s not visible, but it’s still something that smart managers have to keep an eye on.” Generating return from data capital is not simply a matter of adding new technology to the enterprise. It’s a question of integrating that technology with the existing enterprise architecture to create sustainable competitive advantage.  Oracle’s comprehensive portfolio of big-data solutions, built on a hybrid cloud architecture, can help drive the competitive strategy and business value described in this paper.  One of the simplest ways to begin experimenting with new value from data is through cloud services.

Bottom line: If you demand to know the full value of your data capital before investing in it, you’ll find some of that value fading away.  So whether you’re just beginning to bring these technologies into the business or looking to make them business as usual, don’t hesitate to take the next step.

Are there any ways in which the use of data will make employees more effective in their jobs?

To answer this question, you need to combine data about what happened with information that helps explain why it happened…and to do this, you need a platform that is easy to use, one that supports the whole process – from loading data to creating and sharing dashboards and reports-on any device. Then, you can dig into the details that drive your business and see the story unfold.

Let’s create a scenario: To find out what caused a dip in sales, start by loading data into a powerful database – the foundation for a fast, flexible platform for analysis. You may see that your revenue data doesn’t tell the whole story. To dig deeper, you need to combine revenue and fulfillment details, and you need to enhance both data sets by using prebuilt, advanced functions that extend your analysis.  Review your data to see if the headers and data types match up across sources, and then correct the issues inline if they don’t. Connect different data sets and extend your analysis by enhancing your data with intelligent, derived metrics. Do this by using a best-in-class analytics platform, one that offers a library of prebuilt analytic modules and functions.

Now it’s time to see what’s going on. Illustrating the story should be as simple as selecting from a gallery of dynamic visualisations or getting automatic recommendations if you aren’t sure.

I’ve read that there is a ‘digital goldrush’ going on at the moment. What does this mean and how can employees make the most of it?

The explosively fast growth in digital services raises the spectre of disruption before an incumbent even knows it’s in trouble. With the increase of digitisation in every industry, every company has exposure to data-capital disruption.  The question is what to do about it.

According to the World Economic Forum “To survive disruption and thrive in the digital era, incumbent business will need to rethink every element of their business; and they need to act now”.

Companies that are doing good business find it very difficult to suddenly reinvent themselves in order to ensure sales and profit tomorrow; early indicators of change are often overlooked or seen as unimportant. So, regardless of how well positioned a company is, if the management underestimates the potential for change that digitisation poses to its business model, they run the ultimate risk. Those who see the change, but delay their response so as not to jeopardise their current revenues are taking a highly risky stance.

Some actions that employees, management and team alike, can take are:

  1. Creating a sense of urgency is the key challenge;
  2. Determining the nature of the change requirements;
  3. Identifying barriers to change early, and;
  4. Identifying relevant assets and setting the expectation level.

It is the company’s top leadership team that needs to initiate these actions.

Is it true to say many enterprise employees have a treasure trove of data at their fingertips but they are failing to make the most of this resource?

This is indeed true however and they may fail to make the most of it if the right strategy, solution and tools are not applied.

According to an IDC report, phenomenal volume of data is due to hit right around 2020.  Some would argue it already has. This applies to anyone across all lines of business. Let’s start with trusting the data. Employees list difficulties in assessing whether data is truly useful and they cite low quality, accuracy, or completeness of data as a barrier to data-driven decision making.

What about analytics solutions? Nearly 86% of organisations are still focused only on reporting. Only 14% of companies have any integrated talent analytics today.  That inevitably leads to poor use of data and analytics in decision-making. So how do you fix both those problems? How do you identify a solution where you can access any and all of the data you need, no matter where it comes from, what type it is, or how much of it there is? How do you then apply the right analytics tools and techniques to answer any question?

Your vision and plan has to be simple: to allow anyone in the world, to be able to analyse any type of data from any data source. Replicate data into the cloud, process it, summarise it and visualise it. Employees in an enterprise do indeed have much data and more will continue to hit them, but unless they develop a sound data management and analytics strategy, they may find themselves doubting, mistrusting and misusing this asset in the future as well.

How can IoT become a valuable resource for those working for an enterprise?

Experts predict that data’s importance will only continue to grow. The Internet of Things (IoT) will connect 6.4 billion devices worldwide in 2016 and exceed 20 billion intelligent, connected things by 2020, according to Gartner Inc. These devices are generating more and more data. Software is being embedded in more and more products, from automobiles to televisions to prescription medications, and they’re all generating data.

This scenario creates opportunities to analyse data and that data analysis creates value.