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The Data Business: Hop onboard now

According to Hortonworks VP and GM in APAC and Middle East, Kamal Brar, understanding the customer journey is a critical differentiating factor for businesses today.

“Being able to harness data and extract value though analytics allows businesses to make smarter, better business decisions.”

This applies to a range of sectors like retail, insurance, retail, manufacturing, and yes, even government.

Enterprise IT News talks with Kamal about big data and analytics (BDA) trends in the region, and why every business has become a data business.

EITN: Big data and analytics – Why is it important for businesses and the public sector in Malaysia right now?

Kamal: Every business is a data business. Looking at specific industries like retail, big data and analytics offers them the opportunity to capture all of the customer interactions to create a 360-degree view of their customer. This allows businesses to identify and tailor specific offers and programs for each customer.

The same can be seen in manufacturing, insurance and government as well as all industries we are working with. All these different areas can benefit from using big data technologies to create new applications. They have the ability to transform a business and build new business application and create new opportunities.

From an ASEAN perspective, the region is rapidly moving towards a digitally-enabled economy, with the ASEAN ICE Masterplan 2020 (AIM2020). The plan encompasses eight strategic thrusts that focus on enabling an innovative, inclusive and integrated ASEAN community.

On this front, big data plays a central role in enabling innovation for ASEAN governments – starting with supporting open and big data application development.

Malaysia has already taken steps to establish forums or platforms for the private sector to share big data developments. For example just last year, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) stepped up plans to make Malaysia the ASEAN hub for Big Data Analytics by 2020. This initiative coupled with the national push for a digital economy by 2020.

EITN: What are the main challenges of big data and analytics? Are the challenges from one industry to another, the same? Would these same challenges impede artificial intelligence?

Kamal: From a government and public sector perspective, the primary challenge is balancing the demands of citizens and enterprises in unlocking the potential for data, while putting in place the necessary regulations and contingencies to mitigate risk for citizens and businesses.

Simply put, the pace of technology innovation has continued at a furious rate putting pressure on regulatory measures and with the ever-increasing threat landscape, it is imperative that governments have implemented security measures to protect the data for their citizens and economy at large.

Another key challenge is the acute skills shortage particularly in Malaysia, which is preventing enterprises from rapidly adopting data initiatives.

For both these challenges, partnerships between the public and private sector can play a huge role – not only in outlining and implementing data regulations and identifying security risks, but tapping on the private sectors’ expertise in training and skills development for future generations of data scientists.

EITN: What are the BDA trends in Asia?

Kamal: In Asia, we are seeing explosive growth across the region. The patterns mirror the early trends we saw in the US and Europe for industries like telco, financial services, retail, manufacturing and governments. All of these industries are undergoing massive transformation with data and are both renovating their existing architectures and innovating their business with the help of our technologies.

We see the following top three trends that is driving a revolution and change in Asia:

  1. Cloud – the rise of cloud in Asia and vast amounts of data that is sprawled will get businesses thinking about scalability
  2. Artificial Intelligence – While Artificial Intelligence has already led to greater efficiencies in sectors such as customer service, thanks to the creation of chat bots, these types of efficiencies will soon be applied to business services that stretch across the entire breadth of the business. We will see these patterns in Asia.
  3. Internet of Things (IoT) – We will see this move beyond the industrial and manufacturing sector and into the mainstream industries. The infrastructure for industrial IoT already exists but this will transform into a bigger IoT ecosystem over the next year which touches many parts of our day-to-day lives. We will see a rapid proliferation of connected devices and related data generation. Organizations in Asia will need to plan for these waves of data, building out their data architecture and even creating new lines of business in advance.

EITN: What are the best practices for starting a BDA initiative, and then utilising it in an organisation, or in an industry? Can AI start without BDA? What have you seen in the industry?

Kamal: The journey to business transformation is complex. It begins with understanding the opportunities unique to your business and how the maturity of your organization enables or inhibits your ability to strategically pursue Big Data programs aligned with your business goals.

For this reason, it’s helpful to create a working definition of what big data means to you. Many companies talk about big data in terms of volume, but it’s also useful to conceive of it in terms of velocity and variety. You should consider how important it is to have real-time data—that is, big data operating at a certain velocity—as well as what types of data will be most valuable for achieving your goals. The answer to this question often drives a lot of the attitudes surrounding big data initiatives and shapes the vision for what the company can achieve with big data.

We consistently advise companies that are initiating their first Big Data project to start out with as much data as they are capable of absorbing to perform exploratory analysis and extract value from it. This serves as a platform that companies can then use to add more data to meet subsequent demands from business to expand the scope of the analysis.

If you are looking to make a positive impact on your company’s revenues, profitability or competitive leverage through Big Data then you must to come up with concrete use cases that outline the key business metrics and identify the data sources and processing steps required to achieve the desired business results. Even if building a prototype keep an eye on rolling it out to production. Succeed or fail quickly and communicate success to the broader organization.

The biggest challenge most businesses face with their big data initiatives is the ability to scale and drive transformation internally. No matter the scenario or use case, most staff lack the big data skills to master these tasks on their own, and it’s difficult to focus on core business strategy while also preparing your staff to master an entirely new skill set. If your goal is to become a data-driven organization, you’ll need to expand your team’s capabilities through intensive education or even outsourcing larger projects to an advanced analytics team with deep expertise in big data.

Eventually, data core competency must move beyond a tool-based or IT-based focus, because the greatest obstacle to realizing big data success is a cultural issue. Businesses cannot simply give lip service to being a data-driven company; this type of commitment must be backed by strategic and operational goals. In order to ensure follow-through, C-suite and business leaders must take an active role to champion big data initiatives and remain committed to their success.

Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

AI enables the prediction, planning and automation of a variety of tasks, and for enterprises, there are four trends in artificial intelligence that stand out: large-scale machine learning, deep learning, human-enhanced AI and autonomous systems. Contributing to these trends are less expensive and more powerful hardware, and end-to-end data platforms that maximize the value of data-in-motion and securely store, manage and perform complex processing of data-at-rest.

Industry trends

Malaysia have already taken steps to establish forums or platforms for the private sector to share big data developments for example just last year, the government-owned institution national body, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDec) has already been stepping up plans and are already working towards their vision to make Malaysia the ASEAN hub for Big Data Analytics within the next five years.

We see enterprises and businesses understanding the need to be competitive and realising the value proposition Big Data and analytics bring to their organisations. They understand that data is a goldmine that can be analysed efficiently which can help in better decision making processes as well as understanding their customers more intimately.



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