The study uncovered what prevented businesses from turning data into actionable insights to better prepare themselves for the data era. Photo: Profica.
The study uncovered what prevented businesses from turning data into actionable insights to better prepare themselves for the data era. Photo: Profica.

Businesses in the country viewed data as both an advantange and barrier: study

By Given Majola Time of article published Oct 22, 2021

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The data paradox study reveals that South African businesses viewed data as both an advantage and a barrier.

This Forrester Consulting study commissioned on behalf of Dell Technologies uncovered what prevented businesses from turning data into actionable insights to better prepare themselves for the data era.

It showed that as data continued to grow at an unprecedented pace, this exponential growth combined with increasing data value posing new and often unforeseen risks. Some 58 percent of South African businesses believed they were data-driven, but only 11 percent were prioritising data’s use across the organisation.

Some 69 percent stated that they have more data than they can handle right now. Some 70 percent intended to deploy machine learning to automate how they detect anomaly data.

Dell Technologies announced the findings of a globally commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting titled, ‘Unveiling Data Challenges Afflicting Businesses Around the World’ on Thursday. The study showed that for most businesses, data had become their most valuable business asset, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume, velocity and variety of data.

Based on a survey of 4 036 data decision-makers from 45 locations, including South Africa, the findings built upon the biennial Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index study, which assesses the digital maturity of businesses around the globe. The 2020 DT Index revealed that ‘data overload or being unable to extract insights from data’ was the prime barrier to transformation, up from 12th place in 2016.

Dell Technologies commissioned the study to understand why and how they could stop data from becoming one of the key barriers to transformation.

These findings were revealed at the Dell Technologies Forum South Africa 2021. The company’s flagship event brought together senior decision-makers and industry think tanks to discuss emerging trends, challenges and new growth opportunities in South Africa’s dynamic technology sector.

The study identifies several data paradoxes hindering businesses today, including the Perception Paradox, where 58 percent of South African respondents said their business is data-driven and state ‘data is the lifeblood of their organisation’. However, only 11 percent treat data as capital and prioritise its use across the business.

To provide some clarity, Forrester Consulting created an objective measure of businesses’ data readiness. The results showed that 89 percent of South African businesses were yet to progress their data technology and processes and/or their data culture and skills. Only 11 percent were defined as Data Champions, that is, companies that are actively engaged in both areas (technology/process and culture/skills).

According to the research, 68 percent of South African businesses said they were gathering data faster than they can analyse and use it, yet 77 percent said they constantly need more data than their current capabilities provide. This could be because 66 percent were guarding a significant amount of their data in data centres they owned or managed. This was despite the known benefits of processing data at the edge, where the data was generated.

Another was an IT strategy that did not scale as 41 percent were bolting on more data silos, rather than consolidating what they had.

Consequently, the explosion in data is making it challenging to meet business requirements, with 64 percent of respondents stating that their teams are already overwhelmed by the data they currently have.

Dell Technologies South Africa managing director Doug Woolley said in a digital economy, data was one of the most valuable business assets, yet today, it stands to be a significant barrier to growth.

“Navigating this modern-day paradox and turning vast amounts of data into actionable outcomes can seem daunting, especially when on a path to digital transformation. At Dell Technologies, we empower regional organisations to tackle these concerns by offering tailored end-to-end infrastructure solutions that not only support a data-driven work culture that is capable of predicting the future but is also equipped to harness data to achieve better business results, faster,” said Woolley.

According to the study, there was a ‘Seeing Without Doing’ Paradox because while economies had suffered during the pandemic, the on-demand sector had expanded, igniting a new wave of data-first, data-anywhere businesses. However, the number of South African businesses that have moved the majority of their applications and infrastructure to an as-a-service model was still small (11 percent).

The report also states that an on-demand model would help the 83 percent of South African businesses that are currently struggling with some or all of the following barriers to better capture, analyse and act on data on high storage costs.

Although businesses were struggling to adopt robust data management strategies, many had plans to create a better tomorrow as 70 percent of South African businesses intended to deploy machine learning to automate how they detect anomaly data. Some 52 percent were looking to move to a data-as-a-service model, and 58 percent were planning to look deeper into the performance stack to re-architect how they processed and used data.

To turn their data burden into a data advantage, the study said businesses could modernise their IT infrastructure, so it met data where it lives, at the edge. This incorporated bringing businesses’ infrastructure and applications closer to where data needed to be captured, analysed and acted on while avoiding data sprawl by maintaining a consistent multi-cloud operating model.

It said optimising data pipelines so data can flow freely and securely while being augmented by AI/MLDevelop software to deliver the personalised, integrated experiences customers crave.

Data management was said to also be central to an organisation and its growth. Therefore, a solution should provide the global scale that businesses need as their application workloads and data volumes increase exponentially in the coming years.

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