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The rise of the information activist

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Explosion of data, computing power and the rise of the information activists, are the top three distinctive and challenging trends in the business intelligence (BI) space in 2017, says Adam Barrie-Smith Cape Town branch manager and expert services llead at South Africa Qlik Master Reseller.
Barrie-Smith examines how the rising tide of data, the increase in computing power and the influence of the information activist will impact on business and BI. These three concepts are challenging traditional IT methodologies and attitudes, demanding shifts in perception and solution.
“The relentlessly rising cascade of data may be old news, as is the impact of the upcoming 50-billion connected devices and Internet of Things (IoT), but tie this into the corresponding rise in computing power and suddenly technology can change the potential of BI and business,” says Barrie-Smith.
In the past, the organisation needed significant processing power to do access the potential within data. Today, anyone with access to the cloud and a credit card can create their own server and get started.
“The days of having to go down to IT to get the computing power needed to do statistical analysis are almost over,” says Barrie-Smith. “Now, cloud computing and solutions such as Amazon and Microsoft Azure allow anyone access to the power they need. It has also led to the appearance of shadow IT as IT departments suddenly discover that some division has created its own cloud environment on the fly – because they needed it.”
The reality is that the business has access to power and insight which it has never had before, and this introduces a new challenge which comes hand-in-hand with the technology, the data and their combined capabilities – the information activist.
“The information activist is defined as a younger generation employee who is familiar with software and spreadsheets and technology, and can set up data to support their point of view,” he says. “They can be a significant benefit to the business as they can use the technology in ways that outstrip IT, but they are equally a threat as they are taking actions with and on data which IT have no control over, and which IT isn’t aware of. It opens up a threat vector which needs to be recognised and managed.”
Information activists have the know-how and the software needed to produce intelligent solutions and insights. To resolve the conflict between IT control and activist exploration, IT should create a BI ecosystem where business users can explore formal data sources alongside informal data sources while ensuring IT has measurable control and access. The potential for highly relevant and targeted insight and analysis is significant.
“A BI ecosystem is a key tool for IT to embrace the capabilities of the information activist, by attracting them into an environment where they can experiment and do what they need to do, without putting business and process at risk.”
Barrie-Smith goes on to add that these trends around data, computing power and information activist are global phenomena, not just limited to the South African marketplace. Every organisation needs to manipulate and understand data to eke out its value, and to be cognisant of the fact that IT doesn’t have time to re-invent and re-work the ecosystem in line with every discovery.
This is where solutions such as SA Qlik Master Reseller come in to play – they integrate into the BI ecosystem, embed the visualisations, print the reports and allow for the sharing of insight and analysis across platform and device.
“The business needs a foundational platform that allows it to support the influx of data while inspiring the activist to harness the data for richer insights,” concludes Barrie-Smith. “Some of South Africa’s leading banking institutions have worked at creating a BI self-service culture, and the results have been surprising. It clearly shows that these trends are rapidly moving from hype to measurable reality – a reality that few organisations can afford to ignore.”