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Insight everywhere: Analytics mature

Predictive analytics can help your organisation forecast future outcomes based on historical data and analytics techniques such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. What is driving the surge in predictive analytics tools in the Middle East? Industry pundits share insights with Intelligent CIO Middle East on what’s driving analytics everywhere.

Analytics or predictive analytics is a category of data analytics aimed at making predictions about future outcomes based on historical data and analytics techniques such as statistical modelling and Machine Learning. The science of predictive analytics can generate future insights with a significant degree of precision. With the help of sophisticated predictive analytics tools and models, any organisation in the Middle East can now use past and current data to reliably forecast trends and behaviours milliseconds, days or years into the future.

According to MarketReasearch.com, the Middle East Big Data, business intelligence and analytics market is projected to grow from US$5.09 billion in 2015 to US$12.38 billion by 2020 growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.4%.

The regional trend proves that both the government and the private sector are currently depending on numerous emerging IT technologies and solutions, such as Big Data, business intelligence and analytics to support infrastructural developments, improve healthcare services, efficiently manage available natural resources, and mitigate risks and disasters.

Ahmad Dorra, Customer Engagement Solutions Sales Leader – Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Avaya, said analytics plays an essential role in everything that organisations, of any kind, do.

“It enables them to measure how their business is doing today, identify areas of enhancement related to their products, services and employees, as well as forecast what their customers will demand in the future. For example, when launching a new strategy or vision for the future, analytics helps businesses to understand their market and what their customers are looking for through social media or by analysing the feedback customers leave during their interactions with call centres,” he said.

Feras Juma, IoT and Integration Solutions Manager, Software AG, said analytics across the whole spectrum (visual, streaming and predictive) has become a core requirement that the market is seeing many customer requests in 2020.

“Unified visibility, industrial real time monitoring and visualisation, predictive maintenance, anomaly detection are all few examples of use cases we have received which reflect the increasing demand and level of customer maturity looking for advanced analytical capabilities in order to stay competitive in a very difficult and highly saturated market,” he said.

Use cases

Dr Mohammad Mahmoud Hamdan, Associate Professor of Computer Sciences, School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said from a regional perspective, the GCC governments have already established bold plans to position themselves at the forefront of the digital revolution.

“Most GCC countries have acknowledged the importance of Big Data to unlock the possibilities. To date, some of these countries remain in the strategizing phase and are working on developing concrete applications,” he said.

Hamdan added that the Middle East banking sector is using predictive data analytics to strengthen their risk assessment, generate revenue and build fresh ventures by understanding the market conditions.

“Other sectors such as oil and gas, tourism and pharma are also following suit and joining forces with Big Data investments. Be it, the UAE’s Ministry of Energy launching oil and gas Big Data project or leveraging technology to boost insulin production (a proven case study of Julphar – a UAE based Pharma Company), data has become indispensable,” he explained.

He pointed out that in retail, Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East, Africa and Asia has already deployed advanced analytics capabilities, which will allow the company to gather deeper consumer insights and in turn, champion the personalised experiences it offers to customers.

According to Avaya’s Dorra, the Middle East market is seeing enterprises use analytics to provide enhanced personalisation.

“Let’s take an example in the telemarketing outreach sphere. In the past, when organisations had new services to offer existing customers, they would call anyone and everyone to get the message out. Now, through analytics it is much easier for organisations to run more targeted campaigns that result in higher rates of success – as well as better utilisation of resources,” he said.

Dorra added that this is because analytics helps with the identification of specific potential prospects by understanding the behaviour of customers’ behaviour and interests through social media and websites. “This means that, when running outbound campaigns, organisations can target the specific customers who might be interested in the offer and is willing to receive information about it,” he said.

Anas A. Abdul-Haiy, Director and Deputy CEO at Proven Consult, said one of the truly great use case of government analytics is Citizen Account Programme in Saudi Arabia launched by the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development.

Abdul-Haiy explained that it is a national initiative established by the Saudi Arabia to protect Saudi families from the direct, indirect and expected impact of various economic reforms through the provision of cash transfers deposited directly in the accounts of the beneficiary citizens on a monthly basis. The programme analyses the data of the registered citizens (3.7 million in 2017) to determine the citizen monthly payment.

CIO and IT teams challenges

Given the fast pace of change happening in organisations, CIOs and IT teams are always challenged when deploying analytics in their IT environment.

Assaad El Saadi, Regional Director – Middle East, Pure Storage, said tapping into the power of analytics can seem daunting at first and there are three main challenges facing organisations and these include: an overwhelming amount of data to analyse, a proliferation of powerful, yet complex tools and technologies and data silos and low performance.

“The more data there is, the more complex harnessing it becomes. Organisations face the difficulty of conquering the five ‘Vs’ of data – volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value. Particularly, with regards to variety, organisations need to make sure they can collect and get value from both structured and unstructured data. Structured data is well-organised and easy to analyse with traditional business tools. By contrast, unstructured data is harder. Social media posts are an example. Tweets or Facebook posts can have huge business intelligence value, but are particularly difficult to analyse,” he said.

El Saadi sad given that unstructured data makes up 80% of the world’s data, any company serious about Big Data insights must find ways to harness it.

“The number of data analytics tools and technologies available is as overwhelming as the amount of data available to be analysed. It can be difficult for organisations to implement and integrate this complex myriad of tools alongside existing, older systems,” he said. “That and legacy storage platforms are just not suited to support modern analytics. Common issues include everything from low performance for search, index and complex queries from white box solutions that are not optimised for speed or efficiency to costly, inefficient data pipelines that limit data access and create redundant data silos.”

Thierry Nicault, Executive Vice President, Middle East, Africa and Central Europe, Salesforce, said when Middle East organisations are deploying analytics, they should not do it as a one off project but rather integrated into a wider Digital Transformation roadmap.

Nicault said while CEOs are highly knowledgeable about the potential for analytics, they should also work with vendors and channel partners to understand how analytics can meet business goals, identify the right software solutions and develop the KPIs that can be reviewed consistently.

“Re-skilling and up-skilling workers for new and different roles during and post-pandemic is a priority for many UAE and Middle East organisations and employees,” he said.

Benefits of analytics

With enterprises in the Middle East deploying analytics in their IT environments, what are some of the benefits of analytics and how can organisations deploy the technology to ensure success?

Rakesh Jayaprakash, Product Manager, ManageEngine, saidbesides the obvious benefit of bringing organisation-wide visibility, an important function of analytics is to aid with informed decision-making.

Jayaprakash explained that traditionally, analytics was thought to be a glorified version of reports that people are all used to, but options such as running what-if scenarios, predictive analytics and ability to display role-based metrics sets analytics apart.

“Before making decisions that involve process level changes that are aimed at increasing productivity, decision makers can feed parameters into analytics applications, visualise outcomes and compare the outcomes with desired results. This helps in addressing minor pitfalls early on, before decisions are made and can potentially save a lot of man-hours and rework,” he said.

Gathering data from applications used by various departments also involves a human aspect: convincing department heads to allow access to applications they use to run their day-to-day activities.

Jayaprakash added that: “CIOs should play a lead role in getting individual departments onboard and make them realise the vision of bringing organisation-wide visibility using analytics platforms.

Heriot-Watt University Dubai’s Hamdan agreed with Jayaprakash and said in today’s complex business environment, the field of data analytics is growing in acceptance and importance, and it is playing a critical role as a decision-making resource for executives, especially those managing large companies.

“Corporations are moving to use Big Data and analytics to track consumer sentiment, build customer loyalty, gain competitive advantages and make more effective business decisions. A business can use data to create a customised shopping experience for customers, prompting a website to suggest products that customers are likely to purchase,” he said.

For decades, those armed with the business intelligence class of analytics tools in the Middle East have plumbed financial and logistical databases to identify new business opportunities, flag weaknesses and gain competitive advantage. More recently, with the addition of Machine Learning to identify patterns in data, analytics is proving scarily accurate at predicting future outcomes.

In the age of analytics everywhere, that should be welcome news for organisations in the region, especially when augmented by Machine Learning, the insights derived from analytics will play an increasingly strategic role in steering enterprises going forward.

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