By Niral Patel, Managing Director and Technology Leader, Oracle South Africa
Data, as a raw material with a recognised value, is often likened to gold. Just as prospectors once crossed continents in search of gold, many companies today spare no expense in collecting as much data as possible to inform their decision-making. Like gold, data also has a market value even in an uncertain economy and just as gold must be mined and processed in order to be crafted into items of even greater value, so data must be collected, collated and analysed in order to present businesses with valuable insights from their ‘digital gold’.
At every stage of that process, people are crucial. Much is made of the volumes of data being created and churned by machines with huge processing power, but without people the value of data cannot be unlocked. As a goldsmith can double or treble the value of gold by turning it into a ring, so skilled people can turn data into insights, applications or whole business models with incredible value. To succeed in a data-driven economy, businesses need the visionaries who can imagine and explore the value that exists within their data. They need the inspirational thinkers who can plan a path to unlocking that value and they need the technical minds and problem solvers who can harness the full power of technology such as cloud to connect data and mine it for insights.
Any business planning to unlock the value of its data must not underestimate the role people play alongside data and machines. Every business needs to find the right balance of each; a ‘golden ratio’ where the right people are working with the right data, with the right tools at their disposal to deliver maximum value.
Consider the many businesses sitting on huge stockpiles of information from a growing number of sources. There have been a stream of predictions around how the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way companies work, for example. But apart from a few major players, most industrial organizations use a fraction of their IoT data. Most are still only scratching the surface of what’s possible when it comes to analysing that information.
So what is holding companies back? They certainly have enough data and the technology exists to collect and analyse it. It is often the right people who are missing. People are at the centre of planning and decision-making and for all the advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, only people can ensure the business is working with the right data, asking the right questions of its analytics, and most crucially applying those learnings in the right way to address human needs and problems. In many instances, there are not enough people asking the right questions of their data, or using it in the right ways. Some businesses may think more machines and more data are the answer, but it is about striking a balance and that means having the right people.
There is undoubtedly a digital gold rush happening right now and it will favour those businesses with the right people in place; people who know where to look, how to mine their data and how to turn it into something far more valuable than the sum of its parts. People will be the gold miners and goldsmiths of the data-driven businesses of tomorrow.