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How to transition to a cloud-based analytics environment

Accenture Digital consultants say businesses can be more agile by way of cloud-based analytics

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In today’s fast-paced digital world, the ability to adapt quickly and effectively to the plethora of changing market and consumer trends offers a key competitive advantage to businesses.

To increase their speed and agility, organisations around the globe are pursuing cloud-based analytics solutions as a way to make swifter and more informed, data-driven decisions involving customer engagement or operational strategy.

The cloud model also allows users to reap the benefits of a pay-as-you-go commercial arrangement that eliminates the need for large upfront costs, which can stifle innovation.

According to a recent global report from Accenture and HfS Research on the as-a-service economy – Beware of the smoke: your platform is burning – 69% of buyers expect to make “some” or “significant” progress in analytics and automation over the next two years.

A cloud-first strategy – considering cloud services above other capabilities and before making any new IT investments – is imperative for the best business outcomes in today’s competitive marketplace. For businesses looking to transition to cloud-based analytics, the following four considerations are key:

1. Moving to the cloud

As with all IT solutions, determining whether to move to cloud-based analytics should be assessed on the basis of the value it could bring to the business. For example, organisations could choose to pursue cloud analytics for a variety of reasons such as greater speed, increased flexibility, reduced cost or better enterprise support.

Once an organisation decides to transition to the cloud, it then needs to determine the best way to move the data. We’re finding that enterprises are moving workloads to the cloud methodically, but it would be beneficial to focus the initial data workload migrations on high-value use cases that would have the biggest impact on innovation and yield increased efficiencies faster. Over time, the full breadth of services could be migrated if the company’s strategy calls for that.

2. Analysing data in the cloud

There is a growing range of cloud-based analytics solutions coming to market that cover customer relationship management (CRM), HR and enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions; they are also tailored to specific industries.

Business leaders are finding these off-the-shelf solutions appealing as they can be implemented quickly and drive actionable results in weeks. Crucially, the speed of deployment means the IT group can now provide analytics insights and outcomes at a much quicker pace.

3. The evolving role of the IT group

The emergence of cloud-based technologies and cloud-first agendas in the enterprise is driving a shift towards an as-a-service operating model, where technology and business services are delivered on-demand. As a result, the business is starting to make more technology buying decisions for the organisation.

While this purchasing shift is occurring, the IT group continues to have the important role of maintaining and upgrading the organisation’s technology backbone and governing all the systems deployed across it. IT also has the most in-depth view of the organisation’s data and knowledge of the operating environment. This places the team in a unique position to govern data management and act as a data broker between the organisation and all third parties.

The cloud also enables the IT function to have a more entrepreneurial mindset, empowering it to test out new ideas and become the engine room of innovation. This allows the organisation to leverage a cloud-first consumption-based model and have the flexibility to create a business advantage over the competition.

4. Managing risks

As with any type of technology or tool, the cloud should be used and managed carefully to stave off potential risks. One way for organisations to effectively manage their cloud environment is by establishing a strong information governance strategy, which should include the following:

  • making data a business asset
  • conducting widespread data and analytics training for all levels of management
  • establishing common definitions for the use of data throughout an organisation
  • understanding which departments and individuals have appropriate access to the enterprise’s data
  • approaching how data can be stored so the data infrastructure is fit for purpose

In addition, risk management can be enhanced by gaining an understanding of global regulation, such as how data should or shouldn’t be moved across national borders.

Cloud-based analytics generate results

Companies around the globe are using cloud-based analytics and reaping the benefits. For example, Accenture worked with an oil and gas company to implement cloud-based predictive analytics for maintaining and running one of its facilities.

The company wanted to capture large volumes of historical and real-time data to help drive predictive maintenance strategies, improve production and enhance safety and risk management capabilities. The fastest way to get the project up and running was through a short cloud-enabled pilot that could be delivered in a matter of weeks and without upfront capital spending.

Once the initial pilot was complete, the cloud environment could be immediately scaled out to deliver actionable insights across the whole plant and deliver value to engineers so they can run the plant more efficiently.  The cloud enabled a much faster roll-out and rapid scaling without a significant upfront expense or dependency on scarce IT resources.

Despite the obvious potential of cloud-based analytics solutions, every decision involving what technology should be implemented must be based on genuine business need, rather than a desire to simply try something new.

If an organisation implements a cloud-first strategy, identifies the right business need, and acts boldly to leverage cloud-based analytics, it can benefit substantially from the high speed and low cost that cloud services offer – and create a business-led insight-driven transformation.

Will Gatehouse and Nick Millman are managing directors in Accenture Digital

This was last published in March 2016

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