Putting analytics to work emerged as the most popular theme of 2013. Tesco, McLaren, and Telefonica Ireland figured strongly in the ranks of companies and organisations gaining real business value from the intelligent application of analytics.
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Figleaves.com founder Michael Ross, and Mark Madsen, president of consulting firm Third Nature, were among leading practitioner-thinkers whose ideas on how the data revolution is transforming business attracted strong reader interest.
Online gambling, as a sector, and HR, as a function, also figured markedly as arenas lit up by data analytics. But for financial services firms, the cold, hard discipline of data governance has to come first. And how can mainstream companies and organisations build or buy a data science capability?
In April, Tesco’s financial results made the headlines as the UK’s largest retailer declared its expensive excursion into the US market was coming to an end. But the documents also revealed a drop in returns from capital employed (ROCE), due to operational, regulatory and economic factors.
Capital employed may seem like accountancy jargon, but it is a term IT could tune into. Understanding its importance was one of the driving forces behind an analytics programme, which has saved Tesco £100m in annual supply chain costs.
The McLaren Group uses high-speed data analytics as it seeks a competitive edge. The company is known for its Formula 1 cars, but it also supplies medical monitoring to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
O2 Ireland, part of Telefonica, has been using Teradata’s data warehousing and Cognos BI to stop customers leaving, and entice them with new offers with location-based marketing.
Business professionals who combine an understanding of HR and information technology are helping to transform the way companies manage their workforce. HR departments have come relatively late to IT, but the development of sophisticated, cloud-based HR tools, social media and big data analytics is transforming the way HR departments work.
Online retailing requires a new type of action-oriented business intelligence, according to Michael Ross, eCommera chief scientist and founder of online lingerie retailer Figleaves. The former McKinsey consultant and Cambridge maths graduate contends that e-commerce will thrive to the extent that it industrialises the knowledge work performed by data scientists, or analysts.
A new breed of data visualisation tools can work with big data. But they need governance to avoid Excel on steroids, and require greater agility of IT, says Accenture.
Corporate IT’s new vocation will be data integration. Mark Madsen, president of consulting firm Third Nature, told delegates at the London TDWI Business Intelligence (BI) Symposium, in his keynote speech, that the business of big data will change the function of the IT department to be less about technology and more about information architecture. Madsen cast a few swipes in the direction of big data zealots who think their activities “unprecedented”. We need to put precedence back in again. “It is a pity they don’t teach the history of science in science programmes,” he said.
The online gambling and gaming industries crave a structured approach to business data. Volumes can be huge and business need to react quickly to changing customer behaviour.
European banks need to improve how they handle data if they are to recover from the financial crisis and comply with the demanding legislation resulting from it.
Business leaders confront thorny issues in the organisational design of data analytics. Buy or build vies with data science or data democracy as issues in play.