Analytics use targeted, not pervasive among companies

Analytics help pinpoint new business opportunities and better manage customer relationships, but companies only looking to utilize these tools tactically and not company-wide, say industry watchers.

SINGAPORE--Businesses are recognizing the benefits of utilizing analytics capabilities to mine company data for potential business opportunities and better engage customers to build up their brand image. However, such tools are currently only tactically utilized within departments and not throughout the company, industry players observe.

Jim Davis, chief marketing officer and senior vice president at SAS, said analytics and big data are the current industry buzzwords many people are talking about, but pointed out that big data is "not new" and enterprises have always had to contend with huge data loads. What is new is the compute power and tools available to mine the necessary information for real-time business-enhancing insights, Davis added.

The executive, who was in town Tuesday for the Premier Business Leadership Series organized by SAS, also pointed to mobility as another market trend driving the adoption of analytics. Citing research from Gartner, he noted that 33 percent of all business intelligence (BI) functionalities, by 2013, will be consumed by handheld devices.

DBS Group and DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta, who was a conference panelist, identified social media as another trend impacting the analytics landscape. He noted that the traditional method of branding a company and pitching it to consumers no longer worked and brand managers were "dead", giving way to customers who were shaping a company's branding and identity online through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

As such, there is a need for companies to focus on customer relationship management (CRM), with analytics a critical element to track and dissect what people are saying about the company and its products, Gupta pointed out.

Costs, complexity slow deployment
In a snap poll conducted during the conference, 32 percent of audience members indicated they were tactically deploying analytics within departments, while 27 percent noted that analytics were integrated in core projects but not across the whole company. Some 5 percent revealed they were not using analytics.

Elaborating on the findings, Gupta said banks traditionally are one of the early adopters of analytics. That said, while such capabilities are used to cluster user demographics and figure out their behavior as consumers, the technology has yet to be deployed across the company, he noted.

"It is a significant investment to pool all the siloed databases together for analysis, so while analytics has its benefits, it doesn't usually stack up at the top of the priority heap," he said.

Fellow panelist, Gavin Michael, agreed. The chief technology innovation officer at Accenture noted that among the companies he interacted with, those with a good enough datacenter setup to deploy analytics across the entire company were "not as many as we like".

Michael attributed this to the need for companies to not only have the technology in the backend, but also to develop the necessary business processes to optimize analytics.

Lack of talent
The lack of data practitioners who know how to make sense of all the data coming into the company is another obstacle hindering adoption, according to another snap poll held during the conference.

People or skilled IT professionals was cited by 39 percent of the audience as the main obstacle hindering companies from leveraging analytics for transformation, while politics and policies came in joint-second at 17 percent.

Irene Xu, director of decision management at Citibank Singapore, concurred with the findings, noting the lack of talent needed to utilize analytics to achieve business goals.

During a separate press briefing held in conjunction with the conference, Xu said it did not matter if potential candidates held Masters, PhDs or degrees. Rather, she underscored the importance of having the "numerical, analytical and critical thinking skills" to effectively use the information gleaned.

Rom Hendler, chief marketing officer and senior vice president at Las Vegas Sands, also noted that in the hospitality industry, employees--even those in senior management positions--tended to be less educated.

As a result, not only is there a dearth in skilled IT professionals, there is also an aversion to new technology such as analytics as it is perceived to replace the experience and gut-feel of the company veteran, he said.