The modern business is under assault from all sides: connected consumers, disruptive ideas, global competitors, new technologies. How does the CIO step up and be the executive the business requires to get them where they need to be? Today’s analytics is not that of ve years ago. Modern solutions are increasingly providing real-time feedback on market trends as well as helping with error prediction. Kevin Govender, GM: IT strategy and enterprise architecture, Transnet, says analytics has helped Transnet improve its maintenance schedules. “Traditional analytics looks at historical data, but looking at that historical data is not necessarily how you look at trends. Part of what we’re doing on the maintenance side is to put in sensors to pick up whether components are in or out of tolerance.”
Desan Naidoo, regional director: Southern Africa, SAS, says access to data is changing many established markets. “What we have noticed is that the market has moved from asking why to asking how: how do companies adopt analytics? What are the use cases? So it’s no longer how to convince customers that they require analytics, but, rather, working with them to implement it. We’re also seeing it as disruptive to traditional business models. Organisations that have been running for decades are now being challenged because of access to data and analytics of data.”
John Karageorgiou, senior manager: technology, Deloitte Consulting, agrees. “A typical theme that comes out from the conversations we’ve had with CIOs is that they’re moving away from licensing applications and software towards licensing data. Businesses are starting to see information and data as a core asset, not in the sense of reporting and time lines, but as an asset per se. They’re asking what are the costs associated with delaying a specific decision. What are the costs of not having the right information to hand? And they’re looking to their technology folk to come up with the answers. This gets amplified whenthere’s a lot more information available, and that creates pressure.”
Kroshlen Moodley, head of public sector, SAS, says the speed of analytics itself is picking up as well.
Not just external
“It’s not just access to data, but also an increasing emphasis on real-time data. In the government space, I’ve seen the awareness of analytics pick up so much that people understand that there’s a tangible return on investment. If I’m a revenue authority with a R1 billion book, then analytics can help me reduce it by five percent.” Norbit Williams, CIO, Department of Small Business Development, agrees.
“Analytics in the public sector has become important, particularly from the point of view of prediction. Government is infamous for using historic reporting, but predictive analytics is starting to give us some vision on what our constituents want. We can prepare to deliver services that are more feature-oriented rather than just looking at the past. It’s paramount to understand what the public wants from the services we offer.” However, improving the use of analytics in an organisation is not a matter of simply dropping it in and reaping the benefits. Comments Aaron Kelly, business architect, FirstRand Group: “There’s still a lot of education to be done. The systems need to be taken away from the older reporting mindset. Someone would build a report, someone else would do a slightly different report and no one would trust them. It’s about communicating what’s possible and November 2016 brainstorm 83 then building something trustworthy that can be reused again and again. You have to get trust working.”
Doloitte’s Karageorgiou agrees. “For the IT department to get to be a strategic partner of the business takes time. It’s also about having the ability to answer difficult questions: how much more revenue can I get if I change this variable by three or four percent? If you can answer these questions with a reasonable level of accuracy, you will start earning that trust.”
Thabo Ndlela, group CIO at Tiger Brands, says that one of the most challenging aspects of analytics is that it’s still a secondary function to business process. “It’s hard to integrate it with core process. There must be tools available for people to make decisions as part of what they do on a day to day basis. Today, it’s still a secondary function. If you want to know something, then you can probably retrospectively make a decision. It’s not integrated. Some companies are far away from predictive and real-time – they will want to run a ‘what if’ scenario so they’ll talk to someone from IT.”
That also has implications for how IT and business coordinate. “Who owns the analytic process?” asks Mandla Mkhwanazi, chief process officer, Transnet. “Is it owned by IT? Is it owned by business? If the analytics or the strategy is owned by IT, but the data belongs to the business, then the implementation tends to be spread out across process owners. What I’ve seen recently is that a separate unit is emerging: either a digital business or unit that has created an analytic team and it starts helping the business drive every function: to make finance and procurement more efficient, to improve production and marketing.”
For Jamie Whitaker, chief digital officer, Discovery, confusion over ownership is less of a problem. “We’ve always been a very data-driven business,” he says. “Our data scientists sit within the business, they have the domain knowledge, they know what they want to extract to make right decisions. I think the current ways of using data – how do I optimise a product, how do I create the next product, how do I optimise current operations – are very traditional. The true power of big data and analytics in the future will be in democratising the data and freeing it up to get more value. Any digital business is going to be a collaboration between IT and business.” That means CIOs need to fix their perception problems, says Williams.
Co-owners of data
“One of our challenges as CIOs is how the business perceives us: are we still box droppers and cable pluggers, or do we enable the business? IT and CIOs, although not owners of the data, are custodians of it. That givesus a prime opportunity to become strategic partners of business with analytics behind it. The CIO needs to be able to guide and direct the business, which means we should be co-owners of our data, intelligently directing the organisation as a whole.”
Transnet’s Govender says CIOs need to make themselves part of the profit centres of business. “IT is part of the business, either a costcentre or a profit centre. You want to be a profit centre. The way you do that is by providingthe infrastructure and information for decision-making. We are never shy of data. IT has to take the variety and volume and velocity of data and analyse it so that the right decision can be made at the right time. The world is moving at such a fast pace that if you snooze, you lose.”
Mkhwanazi says that it comes down to culture and mindset. “You do need a different culture and mindset,” he says. “The traditional IT way of thinking is that if the backup is done and the server is up and running, then the job is done. Instead, IT should be saying that there is gold in the data that can be delivered to the business.”