The numerous cost and skills challenges associated with implementing an effective data analytics approach can be overcome by simply buying it as a service, according to PBT Group.

With the exponential growth of information that is currently occurring, the importance of data analytics to a modern organisation’s functioning has never been greater. Yet, despite the value placed on analysing and using this data for the benefit of its operations, actually getting the process and function of data analytics right remains one of the biggest challenges for most organisations today.

Says Yolanda Smit, regional director (Gauteng) at PBT Group; “In our experience, very few organisations have a clear vision for their data analytics. Moreover, even those that do have a clear sense in this regard often find they have to re-focus and adapt this vision to the realities of their organisation’s maturity level.

“This is further compounded by global shortages in data analytics skills, not to mention the capital cost to purchase the analytics infrastructure and develop the sophisticated software required to generate value adding insights. Collectively, such challenges can make undertaking effective data analytics procedures complex and expensive.

“One way to tackle these challenges is to look at adopting an on-demand outsourcing approach to having an analytics programme in place. The concept of outsourcing business functions is a clear trend that has been around for decades. So, it’s not surprising that a growing number of businesses are doing this with the analytics function – whether they ultimately choose to outsource the entire analytics process or just part of the function along the data and insights value chain.

“This enables businesses to quickly scale up or down, based on fluctuations in peak periods or growing demand within the business,” adds Smit.

The outsourced insights-as-a-service model can be defined as one where the service provider takes the organisation’s information and does all the work to prepare the data, build and tweak machine learning models, and push back the generated valuable – albeit ‘raw’ – insights to the business. The insights are then used to tell a story through visualisation and, based on this, provide some direction towards creating actions. These actions then need to be measured to calculate the overall return-on-investment (ROI).

Generating insights from data is not a simple affair and it requires special skills. Without the expert knowledge of how an algorithm works, or how to convert the predictive algorithm to something that is actionable, an organisation remains at risk of producing poor insights. This is also where there is a definite disconnect between vendors who sell automated solutions implying that no expert knowledge is required, and the reality of the organisation where they still need the human factor and expert interventions.

“An outsourced insights-as-a-service offering, on the other hand, encompasses an end-to-end solution. This provides the organisation with a sleek and cost-effective way that addresses the complete value chain – everything from planning and engineering, to provisioning, development and deployment. The business also gains the advantage of access to quality services, special skills and the competence of the service provider’s experts,” says Smit.

When deciding whether to adopt an in-house approach or take the outsourced insights-as a-service route, organisations would be well advised to consider both the related costs and the ‘know-how’ available when making the decision.

“Organisations that adopt the insights-as-a-service model have the leisure to progressively move to an in-house model, because the nature of the as-a-service option enables this. As the business matures, a solution and skill transfer can take place, and can even be orchestrated and coordinated by the provider of the insights-as-a-service solution” Smit suggests.

“In the long run, insights-as-a-service has the potential to significantly change the business landscape, by giving organisations of all sizes the opportunity to access the skills and technologies required to utilise data analytics. The ability to extract meaningful insights from both structured and unstructured data will undoubtedly provide the kind of competitive advantage that will make this service an essential business tool in the near future,” concludes Smit.