Many African organisations are sitting on hundreds of millions of rands in potential income – but they’re battling to uncover the blueprint that will help them tap into this revenue. And yes, this particular blueprint is built on data. In fact, for the average Fortune 1000 company, just a 10% increase in data accessibility would result in more than $65 million in additional net income, according to Forrester.
It begs the question, why – when the incentive to access rich data insights is so high – are businesses still battling to come to grips with unlocking the value hidden in their data?
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear, this is one battle most businesses are losing. When it comes to structured data, the average organisation uses less than 50 percent of its structured data to make decisions. The situation with unstructured data is even worse, with companies using less than 1 percent of unstructured data in their decision-making processes.
So where does it all go wrong?
Making sense of unstructured data
It’s no secret South African companies are staring down increasing volumes of structured and unstructured data sources. For the time being, most of these businesses are focused on implementing digital transformation strategies that focus on cost reduction and quicker time to market, rather than investing in more advanced strategies, such as enterprise-wise multi-cloud and big-data driven decision support.
It means that organisations simply don’t have the sophisticated tools they need to mine more complex data, such as unstructured data extracted from sources like social media.
The sheer number of sources from which this data is derived is also increasing. While in the past companies would have focused purely on databases or e-mail, today they need to plug into a wide range of sources like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Once they conquer the challenge of capturing all this data, companies are still faced with the dilemma of which data should be deleted and which should be kept.
Metadata remains a challenge
And the data that is being stored needs to be enriched with metadata. Often referred to as a new currency, metadata is needed in order to connect and correlate data from a combination of structured and unstructured data sources.
Though metadata is not exactly a new concept, companies are still battling to process data at scale across hybrid cloud environments, while at the same time enriching this data with metadata. The result is that they end up with growing repositories of redundant data, increasing their security risks.
Skills are still lacking
To make matters worse, South African companies still lack the skills they need for digital transformation – capabilities that include data integration, web and mobile development and security. It means that businesses are forced to find external partners to supplement existing teams, and each of these partners must be aligned throughout the development process.
This is a major part of the reason why Hitachi Vantara partners clients from beginning to end of the four-step process of generating data-driven insights.
Step one – Data storage is key
The ‘data-stairway to value’ as we call it, begins with the storing of the data. A company-wide data governance and management strategy needs to be implemented to ensure data is stored and protected appropriately.
Typically, Hitachi Vantara likes to begin this conversation with clients by speaking about data centre modernisation. This is about creating lean and agile operations across the organisation by taking measures such as automation, which enables companies to optimise certain functions and reducing workloads elsewhere. This also frees up human resources – particularly helpful in situations where resources are lacking.
Step two – Enriching the data
Step two is about enriching the data that’s been stored. During the enrichment phase, a tag is added in the form of ‘metadata’, creating the opportunity to activate the data. The enrichment process allows businesses to take control of the data, managing it effective throughout its life cycle. This process, which we call intelligent data governance, is driven by the Hitachi Content Portfolio.
Step three – Activating the data
Once these two pillars are in place, the conversation around data-driven insights can begin. Essentially this involves integrating, blending and connecting data from multiple sources like business data, human-generated and sensor-generated data. This phase, is carried out using Hitachi Vantara’s Pentaho platform.
Step four – Monetising the data
Once these steps have been achieved, organisations can begin to monetise their data through the process of analytics reporting. Essentially this is about using data to create a view of the business through analytics reports and dashboards.
Hitachi Vantara is already helping clients achieve staggering savings by implementing this four-step process. One such client is the Marine Division of Caterpillar, which serves fleet operators of tug boats and shipping vessels. Through Pentaho’s data integration and analytics platform, Caterpillar has developed an asset intelligence platform that it uses to activate and monetise its data.
The platform makes use of machine learning and predictive analytics to deploy preventative maintenance based on data gathered from shipboard sensors that monitor everything from generators to engines, GPS, air conditioning systems and fuel meters.
The result has been a formidable average saving of $650 000 per year for every 50 ships.
At the end of the day, digital transformation is about helping companies uncover blueprints that can guide them towards this kind of growth.
Data can provide them with that blueprint, but only if they have the right infrastructure and processes in place.