Data analytics is becoming more important than ever to assist companies in understanding and growing their businesses. Analytics does this by providing insight into the environments they operate in, what their customers are thinking and experiencing, as well as the driving issues of the day.
“Unlike business intelligence over the past 20 years, which was a rear-view mirror activity, the world has moved into an era of big data where real-time analytics is being used for complex event processing mixed with fuzzy logic algorithms that deliver actionable, predictive analysis,” says Barry de Waal, chief executive: strategy and sales at 9th BIT Consulting. “The key word here is ‘actionable’. Information for its own sake is worthless and this is why the goal of all data analytics is to drive change.
“It may involve changing business models, sales tactics, target markets or even the products you sell. The point is data analytics drives change in your operations, and if done correctly, will be matched by change in your bottom line.”
When using the right tools and processes, analytics provides businesses with more insight into their customers, which will lead to up- and cross-selling opportunities, and improved revenues. Effective analytics also strengthens companies’ abilities to retain customers as they understand what makes them walk away and how to serve them better to prevent that loss.
For example, loyalty programmes in the retail market are not new, but their effectiveness is questionable. De Waal says better insight into the data collected via these programmes will empower retailers to know their customers better, provide irresistible offers they can’t refuse, and make both the retailer and its customers happier.
Mobile operators face the same challenges. They want customers to use more data services, but seem to be stuck selling megabytes. Real-time insights could help them offer additional value-adds to increase their revenue per customer, while making customers happy and therefore more loyal.
De Waal gives the example of location-based services: if a customer is at a cricket match, the operator can easily send them special offers from partners in the vicinity – discounts on meals or drinks, for example, or perhaps information on the players on the field and their teams. But they first need the information in real time, what’s the point of making an offer two days after the match?
Similar scenarios can be applied to the commercial world, in the way, for example, pharmaceutical companies distribute their products. An efficient supply chain that gets the right product to the right place at the right time is invaluable in keeping costs down and improving income.
“The continual analysis of data from internal and external sources empowers you to find additional information improve the performance of various areas of your business,” he adds.
This information does not simply appear, nor is it relevant for a long time and business leaders need to understand that data is not static. Data is continually changing and the amount we have to deal with is growing faster than ever. The traditional tools used to manage and analyse data, the old Business Intelligence platforms, are simply not able to keep up with this reality.
To successfully manage and make use of data, today’s CIO must look for tools that are designed to smoothly handle large amounts of continually changing data and still deliver reliable, pertinent, actionable information in real time. Running processes overnight or over the weekend when the servers are available is something that belongs in the previous century.
“Real-time analytics allows you to offer real solutions as soon as the customer realises there is a problem, and often before they know there is a better way to run their business,” says De Waal. “Not only will you be a supplier that adds value to their business, you will find yourself elevated to the status of an indispensable partner, engaging in a win-win relationship.”