Smart companies need analytics to compete globally

The volume of digital data, variety of information and velocity required for decision-making is growing at an unprecedented rate. Consider that every day, 15 petabytes of new information is being generated. This is eight times more than the information in all United States libraries. By 2010, the amount of digital information will grow to 988 Exabytes – equivalent to a stack of books from the sun to Pluto and back. An average company with 1,000 employees spends $5.3 million (Dh19.4m) a year to find information stored on its servers.

This extraordinary data explosion is straining applications, processes, systems and employees across organisations worldwide. A turbulent economy further pressures businesses, organisations and governments to re-examine every process.

To fuel 21st century growth, we need to better connect the interactions of every person and department across every organisation and government, natural and man-made systems, to glean new insight to help their business, the economy, and ultimately our world, work "smarter". Business as usual doesn't cut it. Today, consumer products and retail industries lose about $40 billion annually, or 3.5 per cent of their sales, due to supply chain inefficiencies. 59 per cent of businesses do not have access to information across the value chain that would be most useful to them for decision-making.

Economic adversity presents an opportunity for organisations to be more effective in how they transform disparate pieces of data into relevant business information.

The rising use of modern analytics and the recent commercialisation of stream computing to rapidly analyse multiple streams of diverse, unstructured and incompatible data sources in real time enable very fast, accurate and insightful decisions based on relevant and timely information.

These new technologies are all about delivering insight and foresight, not hindsight, to speed decision-making.

This is a true competitive advantage for global companies that compete across a diverse number of industries.

As a result, businesses can execute consistent decision-making as market conditions change – emerging from an economic challenge in a more competitive position.

Many leading organisations are already exploiting this opportunity by using analytics to better compete and help make the world smarter.

They are gaining new intelligence into how best to defer or curtail spending that is for the benefit of periods beyond short-term horizons, how to improve profits by understanding which customers are most profitable and retaining them and how to reduce risk by limiting exposure to chronically late suppliers or the impact of fluctuating market prices for supplies. They are quickly able to capture insights from time-sensitive events, such as the health of critically-ill premature babies, weather patterns or financial trading.

For example, Uppsala University in Sweden is using analytics to continuously gather data on "space weather." By next year, it expects to perform analytics on at least six Gigabytes per second or 21,600 Gigabytes per hour – the equivalent of all the web pages on the internet.

The Marine Institute of Ireland is also using analytics to better understand fragile marine ecosystems.

Acting on large volumes of acoustic signal data from hydrophones mounted on buoys in the ocean, the platform is analysing echolocation sounds of sea life, which are used for location, range and object identification.

Meanwhile, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is using analytics to help doctors detect subtle changes in the condition of critically ill premature babies.

This institute is even using analytics to detect life-threatening conditions up to 24 hours in advance by observing changes in physiological data streams.

These organisations illustrate how modern analytics software is helping them use information in entirely new ways to improve performance and gain new insight about their business and the world around them.

The volume of digital data, variety of information and velocity required for decision-making has created a world that requires this kind of "new intelligence". By making a conscious decision to invest in the future and leap forward with advanced 21st century technology, smart companies can quickly gain the insight required to boost productivity and create comparative advantages.

 

The writer is the Software Group Executive, IBM, Middle East. The views expressed are his own

 

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