How Australia Rates In The Data/Analytics Revolution

Cognizant’s US-based head of Business Insights and Analytics practice and business sponsor of our Chief Data & Analytics Officer Advisory Council, Poornima Ramaswamy, met with multiple executives from the industry during her recent visit to Australia. In this article, she shares her views on the Australian enterprises leading the data and analytics challenge, and Cognizant’s outlook for the industry.

In recent years we’ve been experiencing some broad shifts towards the importance of data within businesses of all kinds. Much has been written about the era of Big Data, the emerging impact of data from the Internet of Things (IoT) and the potential of advanced data analytics in defining business strategies as well as enhancing day-to-day decision-making and planning.

In terms of skill-sets, the roles of data experts, data analysts and data scientists have become critical beyond the IT department. More and more organisations are recognising this intrinsic shift in their businesses by appointing a Chief Data Office (CDO) to work, both with the CIO and non-IT leaders to maximise the value of their data assets.

So how exactly is data/analytics changing the game by becoming a competitive business asset, and how advanced are Australian organisations compared to their global counterparts?

Data/Analytics power Digital Transformation

Advanced businesses are beginning to leverage data and analytics technology to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Intelligence and Machine Learning, starting with algorithmic business models. These technologies are also fundamental to the development of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) applications.

Such developments are powering competitive advantage – not only by reducing operational costs, delivering new products and services to market faster, but enabling the exploitation of new markets. Long-standing businesses are under threat from the ‘born digitals’ usurping their traditional markets, but digital transformation can help existing market leaders retain ascendancy, as long as they stay agile and realise their data assets.

Traditional businesses are sitting on a huge gold mine of data – but they must be uncovered. Click To Tweet

Traditional businesses are sitting on a huge gold mine of data – historical trends, deep customer insights – but they must be uncovered, analysed and acted upon in order to deliver competitive value.

Think of data as air

At Cognizant, we see data as the ‘new air’. (Not the ‘new oil’, because not every business process calls for oil!) Essentially, data is the basis for business existence, and it is ubiquitous. So the big question facing every CDO is: How can we make the best use of data for fuelling business growth?

There are multiple ways. A top-down approach involves becoming more data driven – for example, rejecting instinct-based executive decisions in favour of actual insights from data.

Embracing data as ‘air’ in a bottom-up approach calls for considerable cultural change – which I have expanded on in my previous article, How to Create a Data Culture. Essentially, data plus analytics equals power. If you have learnt something about your business, you typically want to make use of it and not let go.

The ability of a business to truly exploit its data assets and resultant analytic insights depends on the ability of this knowledge to be shared. The essential culture change is realised when your people feel that, once they’ve learnt something from your data about your customers or business, they want to share it and are able to!

Another essential step in making data like air is cleaning up your corporate data and placing the right controls over it. Only then can you feel confident in sharing access across your organisation and reaping the rewards of that sharing.

Go beyond Big Data to Thick Data

Data and analytics are essential for accurate analysis of customer behaviour – informing marketing intelligence to help design new products, increase revenues and enter new markets.

However, just as quantitative and qualitative data offer different insights, Big Data and Thick Data can change your perceptions of the truth. The vast amounts of data now available from your ICT systems and internet transactions can distort the ‘actual reality’ and lead to erroneous conclusions – which in turn can result in bad strategy and decision making.

To increase the value of the insights we offer to our clients, Cognizant recently invested in ReD Associates, an innovative company that addresses data from a human science perspective. The interesting aspect of this approach is that valuable insights don’t always require massive data samples in order to have value in guiding strategies. In fact, small but deep analysis of behaviour can be much more powerful in setting the right course to increased revenues, loyalty and new product or service development.

For example, one of our APAC clients is using the power of Thick Data to gain a deeper and more actionable understanding of its customers’ desires and needs. As an operator of theme parks, its burning questions revolved around how it could increase revenues:

1. How can we increase spend per visitor?
2. How do we increase the number of times they visit?

Working with this client, we reframed the questions from a more humanistic approach:

1. Why do they visit in the first place?
2. What memories do they take away?

Through questioning visitor experiences and motives, and then carefully analysing their feelings and behaviour, we are working to zero in on some key findings. This Thick Data will give our client new ideas for improving the experiences of the park visitors – and thus increase their brand value and revenue.

Transactional data (Big Data) combined with human insights (Thick Data) is almost ‘actual reality’. Click To Tweet

Thus, combining transactional data (Big Data) with human insights (Thick Data) brings you very close to the ‘actual reality’ which will then accurately inform your marketing, product development and overall business strategies.

How does Australia stack up in the data/analytics stakes?

I’ve had the privilege of working with several Australian clients over recent years and keep a watching brief on local trends. A few Australian businesses are relatively mature, in global terms, in recognising the imperative to have a data strategy and make its analysis integral to their business.

Most of the Australian businesses I’m aware of have invested in technologies to manage their internal and external data – both structured and unstructured. In other words, they are overcoming the challenge of Big Data. A number of them have also started the journey towards AI and cognitive intelligence.

In terms of creating solid roadmaps that incorporate advanced data and analytics, the Australian clients I’ve recently met with are at least six months in and even beginning to implement their strategies. Taking advantage of the impelling trend towards better informed decision making and global competitive advantage definitely bodes well for them.

About the Author

Poornima Ramaswamy VP, AIM-Business Analytics & Insights

Poornima heads Cognizant’s Business Analytics and Insights practice globally. For more than two decades, her clientele includes top tier banks, insurers, retailers and telcos to name but a few.

Poornima is a strong advocate of data transformation delivering tangible business value to her clients. She has provided thought leadership and led large transformational engagements with leading financial institutions across geographies.

She brings insights in artificial intelligence and human approaches to data science. She is the business sponsor of Cognizant’s Chief Data & Analytics Officer Advisory council which is a community of executives that focuses on defining data strategies to reinvent data as a strategic asset.