The Strategic Value of Business Analytics


Over the past year, big data has been at the center of several technological discussions. Most Indian organizations are concerned about the amassed data and are looking at ways to store and manage this data. While it is important to store and manage data, it is also critical to derive insights from it. Big Data Analytics can act as a major enabler in helping organizations derive forward-looking insights from their data. Industries such as banking, telecom, insurance, manufacturing, etc. have been amongst the early adopters of analytics. However, the world around us is changing.

Today, with the increase in number of interaction channels such as kiosk, branch, social media, mobile, call center, etc., the amount of transactional and unstructured data is increasing exponentially. Most of this data is either generated or influenced by consumers and hence, cannot be ignored. It is important that organizations leverage big data to its full potential and take fact-based decisions.

Business side of big data

Big Data Analytics can help drive objectives in several business functions - Marketing, Customer Service, Finance, Risk & Fraud, Sales, SCM, Manufacturing, etc. Analytics is moving from backroom to boardroom. Analytics is no longer an IT project, it’s an enterprise-wide strategic imperative. The role of IT and Data Scientists, are also transforming, from being the consumer of analytics to now being a facilitator. IT teams are now looking at empowering business users with the power of analytics. Encouraging self-service analytics tools such as data visualization, helps business users in exploring their data and deriving meaningful insights from it. It is important for any organisation to work on a three-staged model: Identify, Demonstrate and Communicate. IT teams need to identify a business unit and their business challenges and implement BI and analytics solutions based on the over business strategy. Once the business value of such solutions have been demonstrated, the IT and business teams need to communicate the same across various departments in the organisation. 

Volume, Variety, Velocity

This is what big data brings with it. To harness this, analytical solutions must be capable of dealing with billions of rows of data and be able to analyze in near real-time. On the contrary, most analytical solutions available today analyse a subset of data and hence there is a high probability of inaccurate insights being derived. In-memory analytics can help overcome this. Using in-memory analytics, users can quicklyanalyse their data in entirety rather than just subsets. This makes the results accurate, fast and easy to interpret. The trend of using such high-performance solutions for analysing data will continue to gain currency, going forward. Another vital element in the fact-based decision making framework, is the ability to view reports or dashboards on-the-go. Mobile BI is gaining a lot of traction and enterprises are embracing tools that can be used to view and access reports via mobile devices and can be shared with peers across departments.

Size does not matter

Most people believe that analytics is only meant for large enterprises and it might not be a great idea to implement analytics in a small or medium sized organization. On the contrary, small and medium enterprises in India are very well-poised to implement forward-looking analytical tools. Growing organisations need to maintain their growth, save on costs, increase customer engagement, keep a check on financial health, etc. Analytics can help add value in each of these areas and at the same time, it helps enhance outcomes and scale based on organization’s growth.

For instance, consider a small e-commerce organization that’s into selling apparels online. With the help of analytics, the organisation can analyse the cart, analyse a consumer’s preference, run targeted campaigns, communicate offer via a consumer’s preferred channel, identify opportunities to cross-sell and at the same time analyse the financial performance of the organization, predict the departments in which more workforce would be needed in future, optimise supply chain, etc.Indian organizations across small and medium enterprises to large MNCs can utilise analytics to attain break-through business outcomes. 

Analytics has its applications in almost all industries and across business functions. Technological advancements in analytics is helping IT leaders to take complete advantage of big data. However, a major shift that is driving, and will continue to drive, the adoption of analytics is the cultural shift.Business users such as customer service executives, branch managers, logistic representatives, finance managers, etc. must be empowered with easy-to-use, approachable analytical tools. This will help drive a culture of data-driven decision making across multiple departments. Data is emerging as an asset class and big data analytics holds the key to transform businesses, which compete on a local and global scale.

(The author is Regional Director - South East Asia, Vice Chairman and Member of Board, SAS Institute, India)