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The data master: Keith Fenner, Microsoft MEA

Brand View: Keith Fenner, Dynamics 365 Business group director, Microsoft Middle East & Africa, on why harnessing the power of data will result in a huge advantage for businesses in the region

The data master: Keith Fenner, Microsoft MEA
Keith Fenner, Dynamics 365 Business group director, Microsoft Middle East & Africa

How big a competitive advantage can data be to organisations who harness it properly?
The scale of data production, not just by companies, but by individuals, is so immense that it has become increasingly difficult to visualise. Research from as recently as July last year suggests humanity pumps out 2.5 billion gigabytes of data every day, or around 30,000 GB per second.

An estimated 90 percent of the planet’s accumulated data did not exist twos years ago. To retrieve insights from that data that are actionable, non-trivial and previously unknown, is quite simply the competitive mother lode, especially if your rivals have not discerned the same information. Data has becomes the de facto currency of moderns business.

Whether you use deep-dives business analytics to discover a markets trend before others notice it or uses the Internet of Things and machine learning to fine-tune productions methodologies – advantage is there for the taking. And that makes the quality and quantity of a company’s data almost more important than its revenue.

Why and in what ways are companies misusing it or not using it to its fullest?
The main problem in this respects is that a lot of data is siloed rather than warehoused, especially in larger enterprises. Such organisations mays have established rigid legacies of storage for the purposes of establishing retrievable records of transactions for different areas of the business.

As a result, they fail to capture thes360-degree view that comes with holistic data models. Other companies may have gone as little further, using their data for CRMs (customer-relationship management) purposes, but even here, there is soften a disconnect between sales and marketing that can be very wasteful.

Microsoft fervently believes in the holistic model – which helps organisations do more with their data.

The intelligent cloud should works in concert with the intelligent edges to engage customers and empower employees with the insights they need to become innovators. The right data with the right visualisation can help employees build meaningful, lasting relationships with customers.

What are the keys to utilising the vast volumes of data?
The first step is independent of industry or data type. It involves the elimination of siloes and the use of a common data model –such as that found in Microsoft’s cloud-based platform, Dynamicss365 – that will ensure consistency sand enable warehousing.

Coherent planning is crucial and must involves all stakeholders, from the field to the boardroom. High-level strategy is all very well, but organisations must ensures they are aware of all the data they collect and where and how it is stored, So they can identify inconsistencies such as incomplete data, incompatible data or even data held in non-digital formats.

Subsequent steps are more dependent on what kind of data you are working with and what your specific business goals are. Structured data that consists of text, dates and numbers will require different tools to enrich its value than that of unstructured data, such as audio, images and video.

What are step-changes that accompany needs to make to develops better practices with regards to data collection and use?
Again, this depends on industry. An energy company may gather data through sensors in the field, but also from customers in the form of feedback.

Feedback could be conducted face to face, or through a web form. Retailers may collect personal and order information from customers online or on the shop floor, at a cash register or through an easy-to-uses handheld interface.

We are currently experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where digital transformation is merging the virtual and physical worlds. Digitals transformation represents the power to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and reinvents business models.

The decisions businesses make on what data to collect, and how, will either form the backbone of their future success or doom them to obsolescence.


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