Philippine firms embrace biz intelligence, but big data looms

Outsourcing vendor and mobile operator in country enjoy benefits of deploying business intelligence tools, but one market player warns of challenges unstructured data can present and underscores need to involve business users.

MANILA--While some local enterprises are still wary of its capabilities or are staying away completely because of its relatively high cost, companies here have by and large embraced business intelligence (BI).

BPO services provider Telus International Philippines, for instance, uses BI extensively in its sprawling onshore IT system to support its outsourcing operations.

Warren Tait, head of IT management at the Canada-headquartered company, said it implemented BI software more than two years ago and has so far, enjoyed significant benefits.

The tool helps translate voice data into text information which Telus then uses to drive its growth strategy, Tait said in an interview.

Mobile operator Globe Telecom, which is owned by Ayala Group and a regional player SingTel, also has deployed BI in its extensive IT network with no major hiccups or glitches thus far.

Greg Romero, head of solutions delivery for the local operator's information systems group, said its uses information extracted by the BI to tailor-fit various campaigns for its subscribers.

Globe did not face any major problems during implementation, but the rollout took a while to complete as the company's IT system was widespread and the deployment covered various areas, said Romero in a phone interview.

Onslaught of the unstructured
While the BI adopters did not appear to have encountered major challenges throughout the implementation, this could change in the near future.

Charles Manuel, business unit executive for business analytics and optimization at IBM Asean's software group, noted that less than 20 percent of the data organizations need to analyze is "structured" data.

"The rest is in the form of 'unstructured data' residing in different formats generated from multiple sources, ranging from devices to social media. This presents potential challenges for an organization to cope," Manuel said.

He also noted that most BI projects today still are driven by IT departments without considering the business users.

"Even though this has changed considerably, in Asia, there is still a tendency for IT to make crucial decisions around analytics--just like legacy decisions around ERP and CRM--unilaterally, or with minimal input from the business user. This leads to an ongoing scenario of finger-pointing as to why many BI projects do not deliver on their potential," the IBMer said.

Manuel stressed that a "flashy dashboard" does not equal to a robust BI tool, noting this can pose a major challenge for organizations that make decision based on short-term views.

"User-interface and upfront cost, when taken in isolation, conceal the dangers of scalability, interoperability, and mid- to long-term ROI (returns on investment) when the organization needs to cope with enterprise-wide rollout," he said. "That is when the amount and complexity of data to be analyzed change dramatically and the lack of an appropriate solution fails to make a mark."

He also warned that BI software does not present a magic switch that can be turned on to suddenly create insights out of data. "Lack of sufficient knowledge and empowerment across the organization on how the system should be leveraged can result in significant challenges and failed projects," he said.

To avoid these pitfalls, Manuel recommends companies gather inputs across the entire organization and align these feedback before embarking on a BI project.

"Choose a trusted advisor and partner who will still be around five years later. There's a lot of consolidation happening [in the market] and many vendors [may] not be around," he pointed out, adding that local capabilities to implement the project is also a crucial factor in the success of the implementation.

Lastly, he said companies should study the BI vendor's openness and commitment to open standards. "Simple trend-analysis provides sufficient evidence on the vendor's commitment to industry standards. This is critical in ensuring interoperability with legacy systems," Manuel stressed.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance writer based in the Philippines.


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