Big Data

Australian businesses resisting self-service data analytics may not survive: forum

Australian businesses that don’t embrace and effectively use self-service-analytics and foster cultures where data-driven decision-making is the norm will struggle to compete by 2022, experts say.

Organised by Tableau, experts from Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia, Domain Group, Deloitte Consulting Australia, Macquarie University and Tableau outlined some key benefits data can deliver along with some major challenges Australia faces in capitalising on its potential.

IDC predicts that spending in Australia on big data and business analytics services will make up around 18.2 per cent of the $5.5 billion spent on such solutions in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) in 2018. (1)
 
“If your business isn’t data driven in five years, you’re not going to have a business,” says Annette Slunjski, Managing Director of the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia. “We’re not going to be in the fourth industrial revolution unless we can start harnessing the data we have and start making better decisions.” 
 
“One of the biggest issues for the country is that there is a cohort of workers who aren’t data literate who are about to have their jobs disrupted by automation,” Slunjski said. “They won’t be able to find new ones, unless they have data skills because those are going to be mandatory. Data understanding and data literacy education is an organisational imperative to be part of the emerging data economy”
 
Embarking on the transformation journey
“Change needs to begin at the top, with senior executives advocating a culture of data driven decision making throughout the enterprise,” says Nigel Mendonca, ANZ Country Manager,  for business analytics software company Tableau. 
 
“Australian companies have historically been early adopters of business intelligence solutions but the problem is, they’re often used by a small, centralised group in a ‘report factory’ fashion and not by the workforce at large. To truly change the game and take advantage of the immense opportunity at hand, organisations need to move away from this siloed approach and give all employees the ability to ask and answer their own questions of data. Data analytics is most powerful when carried out by the people that know the data the best,” Mendonca said.
 
Adopt a start-up approach to data
“Businesses which have historically treated data analytics as a discrete business function need to adopt a start-up approach,” said Jason Catania, Principal, Data Modernisation, Deloitte Consulting Australia. “Data analysis is an embedded discipline, in everyday roles, and something everyone in the organisation knows how to access. 
 
“Australian companies are behind their Asian counterparts and risk becoming uncompetitive if they do not embrace data analytics more quickly,” Catania said. Rather than waiting until an enterprise-wide data analytics strategy is developed, organisations should ‘just get on with it’, he said. “Start, go forward and adjust.”
 
Catania also highlighted that finding ‘data champions’ who can model the use of data analytics to their peers and forging partnerships with other organisations on similar transformation journeys can help enterprises become data-centric more quickly.
 
Tools and training
“The availability of powerful, user-friendly tools has made data literacy an achievable proposition for individuals who lack specialist qualifications,” says Hume Winzar, Associate Professor in Business, Department of Actuarial Studies and Business Analytics at Macquarie University.
 
“What’s important isn’t so much having a team of boffins but having an educated team spread throughout the workforce who are insightful about the organisation or industry and who can ask sensible questions.”
 
“Big companies are addressing the skills gap in Australia with some amazing initiatives; medium and small businesses don’t yet see they have a problem and don’t want to use something they don’t understand.  Training, whether formal or informal, is needed to close the gap and companies need to step up and provide it,“ Winzar said.
 
The business case for data
“Implementing powerful, user-friendly tools across the enterprise and teaching employees how and when to use them can deliver an excellent return on investment, for businesses prepared to take the plunge,” said Pooyan Asgari, Chief Data Officer for one of the leading Australian property portals, Domain Group.
 
Following a data transformation initiative in 2015-16, 350 of Domain’s 800 staff now use Tableau data analytics tools.
 
“Under our old operating model, Domain would have required a team of 50 data analysts to generate the insights the company needed to stay competitive. Since we democratised data and analytics by implementing a robust, self-service model, a team of 10 can address all our data needs. Comprehensive training and a top-down approach are required to effect the cultural change necessary for a successful transformation,” Asgari noted.
 
Working together for results
Mendonca said government, academia and the high tech sector all have key roles to play in ensuring Australia was not left behind in the race to embrace data. Helping businesses understand how to manage their transformation journeys would remain a focus,” Mendonca added.
 
During the discussion, experts agreed that analytics needs to be democratised, skills need to be cultivated and that executive support and sponsorship is critical for businesses in Australia to flourish in the national economy and on the global stage.

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