In 2010 The Economist published a report called Data, data everywhere. In this report they examined how unprecedented amounts of digital information might not only be a game-changer for business and government, but would have huge implications for the way the world would evolve. The report termed this information ‘big data’.
And the report was right — big data exploded. In fact, the rate of growth now is so massive and unprecedented it’s classed as exponential.
In 2010, businesses around the world knew that there was potential in harnessing data for insights about their processes and their customers. In their fervour to gain a competitive edge, businesses rushed to invest in technology without considering it strategically and were surprised when the ROI was less than hoped for. Big data was dismissed as ‘overhyped.'
However, as the Gartner Technology Hype Cycle has proven, after ‘the trough of disillusionment’ comes ‘the slope of enlightenment.’ And this is what we are starting to see with big data and data analytics. Mohammad Elteibi, Head of Data Science at Ticketek, and a presenter at Big Data & Analytics 2017 Conference @ CeBIT projects that the market is now maturing to the point where businesses are feeling more confident navigating their data and are more considered in how they use technology to excavate insights from it. We caught up with him to discover the current analytics trends and how businesses can apply these insights to achieve growth.
Better capabilities with analytics technology
Machinery has been producing reams of data for decades. What is quickly changing is our ability to interpret it. ‘When I first started out, team members would ask for relational spreadsheets that would take weeks to compile,’ says Mohammad. Now, if you want a report, it’s available in real-time and on mobile. Spreadsheets are becoming a thing of the past, giving way to clean, intuitive and graphic-heavy reports. He establishes: ‘We don’t just want information dumped in a spreadsheet, we want the data to tell us a story in a beautiful and interesting way. If you’re not telling the story, and you’re not telling that story visually, you’re not doing the job properly.’
Data will be the common language of business
The evolution of data analytics doesn’t just change how we see our customers, it’s also changing the structures of organisations. ‘The questions we’re asking of the data are starting to change.’ Elteibi notes, ‘but more importantly, the people who are asking those questions are changing.’ Back in the early 2000s, data analytics was solely the province of specialist analysts, ‘the geeks in the corner.’
Now though, the perception has really changed. Stakeholders across businesses are fast realising that if they want to unpack insights about their companies, they need to understand:
- what the data is telling them
- how to communicate the capabilities they need to their IT departments.
This is where the analytics team can provide real value. Mohammad asserts that, ‘technology investment questions are no longer just in the sphere of the IT department. We are seeing a move towards data-centric roles, particularly in larger organisations.’ The reason for this is that data specialists speak both languages.‘They can navigate what the business might want, understand user requirements and how to relay that to IT. Their job is to be the translator between IT and the larger business, establishing what the business truly needs and what will provide the best ROI.’
He gives an example of a laptop: ‘There’s no point in setting someone up with a new beaut’ laptop if they’re not going to use its full potential, (like if they’re just going to surf the net)’. Nevertheless, if the lines of communication in your business aren’t there, ‘that’s what IT will deliver you’ Mohammed says. ‘You’re just not using the technology’s full potential — you’ve wasted a lot of money on something that you don’t need.’
As we rely more on data and as we unearth more sophisticated relationships across it, Elteibi expects roles across business to become more agile: ‘Marketing, for example, will intuitively know what to ask IT for and IT will be able to anticipate user requirements.’
More reflective investment and innovation
In the past, businesses could get swept up in the hype surrounding the latest and greatest new tech without stopping to consider its compatibility with their legacy technology, or the steps the organisation needed to take make sure the technology was properly adopted.
However, organisations are becoming more reflective and stopping to consider how newer technology will fit in with their broader business strategies. They also realise they need to undergo cultural change if they want to continue to reap technology’s full potential.
This means trying new things and treating innovation as a work in progress rather than a definitive means to an end. Mohammad sees innovation as a process: ‘Innovation doesn’t mean that you’ll get it right all the time. I don’t look at a setback as a failure; you need to be prepared to make mistakes. Not everything is going to work, or work like you thought it might.’
At Ticketek, there are ‘innovation days’ where mixed teams of three, comprising staff from various departments across the company come together and pitch ideas (almost like small hackathon). At the end of the day the best ideas get prioritised. It’s an enormously valuable day for the Ticketek team. In addition to producing some great ideas, the staff get to mix with parts of the business that they might not usually come across, get unique insights into what other people do, and create interdepartmental relationships. People also come away from the day energised with a much better understanding of how the company operates on a whole, and with a new appreciation for the challenges other departments face.
The future of data analytics
To say that data analytics have come a long way in six years is like saying the universe is kind of large. If companies want to truly leverage the potential of their data, it’s not enough just to think about making a technology investment. Businesses need to go one step further and make sure their culture promotes innovation, nurtures changes and advocates for curiosity and agility. And one of the best ways to learn is through tapping into experience of others. In this context, we’re pleased to announce that Mohammad Elteibi, Head of Data Science, Ticketek will be part of the distinguished speaking panel at the Big Data & Analytics 2017 Conference @ CeBIT. Download the program to find out more.