Q and A on Data & Analytics

  1. Let’s define data and analytics and how specifically they are interpreted within the business context.

big data visualisationWithin a business context, many people consider data and information to be one and the same. While one can argue the definition of each, when talked of in conjunction with analytics, data becomes a resource to be interrogated for a better understanding of it – and the insights it can deliver into the business – to assist with decision making.

  1. Can you talk around how these two tools have the potential to transform African business?

Data analysis enables businesses to make informed decisions on statistics and patterns rather than relying on pure seat-of-the-pants, gut-driven decisions. While a gut-based decision still has its place, where a decision carries greater risk or has large potential consequences, having it backed by empirical evidence can minimise the risk to the business.

African business can leverage analytics to find new ways to do business, that uniquely target African audiences, rather than sticking blindly to solutions engineered for the US or Europe

  1. What can data do? What can analysing the data do?

Analysis brings the value of data into play. It allows decisions to be made based on historical trends while enabling the building of predictive business, sales and marketing models.

From a sales perspective, data analytics can give insight into a business’s target market, equipping them with the knowledge to design products and services that cater specifically to that market. Internally, it also gives insight into employee behaviour so businesses can create favourable working environments as well as prevent internal crimes like fraud. Data garnered from IoT and smart devices can be analysed to deliver information on machine and equipment performance and maintenance status, helping to streamline operations and save costs.

  1. What are the essential steps that need to be taken to unleash the power of data in the African context?

One of the biggest challenges many businesses face is the curatorship of their data, particularly in environments where data is so diverse and complex. It becomes hard to define quality data in these instances. To know what quality data is, it is absolutely critical that businesses find, understand and trust their data.

Businesses need proper curatorship and governance in place to ensure that they know where their data resides, of what quality it is and how it can be used. If one analyses data that is of little value or is not relevant to the exercise, the outcome will be pointless and untrustworthy. Trusted insights come only from trusted data.

  1. What are the challenges that have yet to be overcome?

The challenge around managing, curating and governing data needs to be addressed, regardless of the industry that a business operates in. This is especially critical in terms of complying to new and emerging regulations that impose strict data demands.

Another challenge is ensuring the quality of data is sufficient. The adage goes, “garbage in; garbage out,” and this holds true with data. The results of an analysis will only be as good as the data fed into it.

  1. How is South Africa faring when it comes to the implementation of data and analytics strategies that drive results?

I believe South Africa is on par with the rest of the world in terms of data analytics implementation. While many organisations are taking data driven decision making seriously, the underlying challenge of untrusted data means that not all organisations are getting analytics right, yet.

A successful data analytics program all goes back to understanding the business’s data, knowing where it is and what it is for.

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