At the recent Microsoft Inspire Conference, Microsoft predicted that the data warehouse will become redundant by the end of 2018.
While business wants to move away from data warehouses, South African businesses are just not adopting the newer technologies at the pace at which they are being developed. What this creates is a natural gap between the usability of today and that of tomorrow.
The undying principle with data is to make sure you are using it effectively to answer key business questiomazonns. It is estimated that less than 1% of data is analysed and 20% of data is secured. This is the reality of how well we are capturing, transforming, and using our data.
In order to use data more effectively, companies need to make sure their data is well-structured, with access to historical as well as real-time data. The truth is that although the warehouse as we know it may die, companies will still need a data storage solution that can allow the business to analyse its data properly for improved data insights.
A data warehouse allows you to review points in time and understand what was happening in your business at that time. This could be critical for strategic decision-making, forensic audits, analysis, or legal issues.
The impact of Big Data decisions is very real; affecting people, finances, and operations. So, how do you ensure you are using it correctly?
The solution is to be smarter with the data, to make sure the insights are being used effectively.
There is a trend at the moment towards hyper-simplified BI visualisation tools, delivering data insights ‘on-the-go’. There will always be a pull between being able to be agile and making quick decisions on real-time data, versus being able to look back and make better, more informed business decisions. Simplification itself isn’t a problem, but the data needs to be validated.
Unfortunately, many visualisation tools are embedding the modelling functionality into the tool sets, meaning businesses can’t leverage the data and calculation for other purposes in other models. Unless the data is clean and structured correctly, the hyper-simplified data in the visualisation tool isn’t going to add broader value to the business; this in turn limits flexibility of the delivered dashboards and reports.
Ultimately, a dashboard is only as good as the data it uses. If a company is using outdated technologies, this will constrain the data value.

How Do Companies Get Smarter About Data?
Because South Africa doesn’t have a practice of sharing customer sentiment insights, companies need to get smarter about the data they extract and interpret. Businesses can’t only work with internal data sets. Executives need to have a view on the external data sets too for a truly integrated insights solution.
This means businesses have to ‘build’ their own intelligence. And to do this, they need to improve their adoption of latest technologies. One example of this is with the ability to correct and automate manual interventions required to re-frame data. Of course, the word ‘automation’ always rings fear into salaried employees: “will I lose my job to a bot?”, but the IT function is to get the data, while the Bl function is to analyse and answer the whys. It becomes the enabler of structured information.
Consequently, well-structured data that is automated allows for more time in analysis and less time in reporting, thereby future-proofing your organisation, as well as the value of your employees.
Although getting smarter about data is the end-goal, it’s going to take South African companies a while to get there. When the Microsoft Data Centre comes online in 2018, it will transform the local data landscape. But to take full advantage of these insights, data companies need to start using more of it, more effectively. Hyper-simplification has its place, but should not be the pivot-point on which key decisions are made.