Unlike the US or Europe, South Africa doesn’t have a culture or industry practice of sharing consumer sentiment. For instance, how do retailers know why a customer left their client account scheme? Where did they go? Why did they go there instead? In the US and Europe, access to this level of consumer sentiment is common.

This presents South African companies with different challenges. Companies need to generate their own improved Bl and analytics. Ultimately, business decisions are only as good as the data upon which they’re based. So, this means adopting new technologies to enable integration of internal and external data for integrated insights solutions.

Will data warehouses die?

Microsoft believe that warehouses will die by the end of 2018. This may well be the case, but in South Africa – due to low level adoption of the latest tech practices – a data storage solution that can allow historical data to be analysed for improved data insights is still needed. This is where the Microsoft Data Centre, announced to launch in 2018, will make a difference and present businesses with smarter data storage solutions.

What is driving the business trend for quick decision-making tools?

There is a trend at the moment that valuable data can be distilled into your hand, a hyper-simplified version of your business for ‘execs on-the-go’. However, the self-service Bl environment is relatively limited and this practice can be high-risk.

Data represented on dashboards in this way is often built from the visualiser point of view. While this is great for quick decision-making, it means there is little structure placed on the data at the back-end. In other words, the visualisation tools are dictating the data sets and in many cases calculations are repeated multiple times across multiple dashboards.

That’s not to say that self-service BI isn’t the answer. Rather, that the information and visualisation should be operationalised correctly so that businesses will be able to leverage these calculations for other purposes. Consequently, businesses have to get smarter about the depth of insights they need and use as a business.

While it’s not necessary to use all the data we have all the time, a well-structured hybrid solution can be the answer. This will help businesses ensure that they have access to real-time data as well as historical data to help make smarter, more strategic decisions – or answer the call of the auditors.

Visualisations serve a purpose, but they are short-term solutions that don’t help future-proof your organisation if the data that is leveraged for these visualisations is of poor quality.

Future-proofing your organisation

South African companies need to start adopting the latest technologies. Although this is not as easy as it sounds – the concept of agile needs to be a company-wide philosophy. This starts with updating governance policies and procedures. Governance can be an inhibiting or enabling environment. As can the use of IT and technology.

By implementing a hybrid solution – on premise and cloud services – companies can start moving their technologies across to more modern solutions.

This might seem like a big shift to companies running archaic systems, but the reality is that the cloud is the future and will allow companies to store, run and structure their real-time and historical data smoothly. For instance, if you’re running CRM or ERP environments on premises, the servers will not be able to scale effectively to add reporting functionality however in the cloud these can auto scale to accommodate the additional load for reporting purposes.

Accelerating technology adoption is critical

Data is central to just about every business decision. But if the business decision is not based on accurate, clean data then the decision may not only be wrong, but catastrophic, and the impact could be felt by the people, financial, and operational aspects of your business.

Companies need to start adopting the latest technologies. This will unlock many of the data issues businesses currently face which risk stifling their growth.

The adoption of new technologies will help structure data correctly, scale data, separate reporting and operational services, innovate more agile solutions for customers, present hyper-simplified data that has weight, and generate integrated insights based on historical as well as internal and external data sets. All of this will help future proof organisations and keep them in the game when it comes to growth and innovation in the marketplace.