Australian tech chiefs continue to embrace digital transformation strategies at accelerated rates. They recognise they need to transform data into actionable intelligence to succeed.
Now more than ever, CIOs need to enable smart decision-making, strengthen customer relationships and drive growth and are turning to the power of business intelligence, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to achieve real-world, tangible results.
A group of tech chiefs gathered in Sydney recently to discuss how they are deploying business intelligence and data analytics solutions across their organisations. The luncheon was sponsored by Information Builders.
Alan Abraham, country manager ANZ at Information Builders, says business intelligence and analytics are not new concepts; they’ve been around for a long time. But the opportunity these days is that data is far more readily available and sophisticated in its nature and the value it can represent to an organisation and its customers is rapidly increasing, he says.
“The way organisations use data and analytics to drive business outcomes has changed dramatically in recent times – we are seeing data drive behavioural transformation within businesses and their customer bases by removing guesswork from the equation,” Abraham says.
“Front line roles can be empowered with real-time information that helps them increase sales and revenue, reduce cost and improve on service delivery and customer experience. Data is no longer confined to management dashboards nor is it seen as a dark hidden art within the data science lab or only relevant within an organisation. Operational analytics is driving real value at every level of the enterprise.”
Gareth Rossiter, chief information officer at VetPartners Australia, says his organisation started with a blank canvas for business intelligence just over two years ago. VetPartners was formed through acquisition and there was previously no central reporting function available.
The company is using business intelligence to bring together data from 130 geographical locations. It combines this data with other payroll information, monthly procurement statements and the general ledger.
“Availability of this data is structured and while we are gathering as much data as we can, there is a definite ‘less is more’ approach to the distribution of that data. Finance, operations and procurement are the heaviest users of our BI dashboard and they are also driving the direction and definition of our future endeavours,” he says.
“The process for us has been relatively painless as we had a clear picture of where we wanted to go. When we began the project, we knew the sources of data to look at and created a data collection system first. Once the data collection system was in place, we went back to the various departments and started getting into detail of what they wanted to see.”
Having business intelligence solutions in place means that VetPartners’ staff worldwide are looking at the same information and having the same conversations, says Rossiter.
“Even though we maintain 10 different practice management systems, we can use BI to standardise the definition of things like visitor numbers and be looking at the same thing no matter what software you use,” he says.
Rossiter adds that BI adds value to the business through the speed by which data can be collected and presented. It also gives the organisation the capability to quickly compare data from many different sources, which was previously a very labour-intensive process.
“Being able to look at live revenue from a practice management system, quickly compare that from the general ledger and then view the relationship between that and vet or admin staff hours worked or visitor numbers provides a powerful set of tools that allow our team to make better decisions,” says Rossiter.
“Once we get our business analysis team involved in creating the relationships between the data, we then get senior members of the operations team to filter that into relevant dashboards that enable the decision makers in the field.”
Meanwhile, Tod O’Dell, group director, information technology at Knight Frank Australia, says the real estate firm is using business intelligence solutions in the traditional areas of finance and customer relationship management.
“The process overall has been good, however it is important to set the business expectations early across the speed at which the BI and analytics data can be surfaced,” he says.
A particular challenge is managing business leaders’ perceptions that there is a ‘nirvana of data’ that can be discovered with the installation of a BI or analytics platform. Still, the organisation has realised the benefits of data-driven decisions and cross-departmental common data points, he says.
Information Builders’ Abraham adds that another challenge that many CIOs struggle with is answering the questions, ‘why are we doing this, why now, and why are we committed to going down a certain path based on an emotional attachment and no long term objectives?’
Choosing a solution or platform is often the result of objectives that are loosely defined, difficult to measure and there is no consensus or appetite for the business to partner with IT, he says.
“Many business units either dictate the whole strategy for IT to deliver against without communicating the why or in a way that IT can understand clearly, and in some cases even source a solution independently of IT,” says Abraham.
“Leaders struggle to manage the increasing variety of by BYO [bring your own] tools and departmental investments when dealing with a depleted skills base due to a steady decline in the availability of market resources needed to maintain analytics investments.”
Abraham adds that data challenges are the number one impedance to analytic success. Users possess varying technical skills and require very different data needs, he says.
‘Management care about summarised data within their dashboards but they need to see a broader view of what is happening across data from different systems – data tells a story but for many it’s incomplete,” Abraham says.
“Operational employees, partners and customers need a more real-time view of data to answer critical questions. More importantly, understand that analytics tools are only adopted by approximately 17 per cent of the users in an organisation. To address the needs of everyone, enterprise analytic platforms need to deploy applications, voice commands and interactive documents, not just tools.”
AI on the rise
Artificial intelligence technologies are being deployed across many organisations within small projects to achieve uplifts in customer acquisition and retention, predictive asset maintenance and fraud detection, says Abraham.
“Many dabble in AI without really understanding what they are trying to achieve or whether they have the data to support their analytics objectives,” he says.
“What we also see in the market is roughly half of all advanced analytics and AI projects failing because the quality of the data is not sufficient to deploy production-ready AI models. Organisations need to be mindful of the downstream results of AI and ask themselves, ‘what are we going to do with this information?’
AI adoption in production use cases is fairly low but it is driving a great deal of interest. Organisations are interesting in embedding advanced analytics into production applications to larger user communities, says Abraham.
“This is the key area where poor data quality is holding back adoption and deployment. How can you build predictive outcomes on data you don’t trust?” he asks.
For more information, visit https://www.informationbuilders.com/en-au/home
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