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Embrace analytics or die

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Companies that do not embrace business intelligence (BI) and data analytics are going to die.

So said Steven Ing, associate consultant at BSG, at ITWeb Business Intelligence Summit 2015 in Midrand yesterday.

"I firmly believe there are only two differentiators between businesses today - the quality of their data and the quality of the people handling it."

The way forward is for businesses to create a data analytics centre of excellence and select the "best of the best" data analysts in the company to run it, Ing noted, adding the right people for the job are not necessarily the most learned. People in their early 20s are successfully demanding huge salaries in the US "because they are in touch with the market", he pointed out.

While many organisations cite the overwhelming growth in available information, information silos and competing priorities as challenges to successfully implementing data analytics, the biggest stumbling block in this process is older board members who are reluctant to adapt to new technology, Ing said.

Executive sponsorship and business buy-in are crucial components to a successful data analytics implementation, said Elize Jansen, head of business intelligence data services, Group IT, Standard Bank.

An additional problem in how businesses are implementing data analytics is that they are adopting a "project mentality" rather than a "programme mentality", continued Ing.

When data analytics is run as a project, it runs on a finite basis and is unsustainable in the long run, he explained, adding when there is no long-term vision for implementing data analytics, the project runs the risk of never being actioned. Analytics must, instead, be run as a programme incorporated into the company on a permanent basis.

"BI is all about turning a company into a fact-based decision-making organisation." The company must be re-engineered, Ing added.

Businesses must formulate a vision for where they want to be, and implement a data-based strategy for how to get there, which is reviewed on a regular basis, Jansen advised.

"It's not about getting the right answers, but asking the right questions," she said.

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