Most Brazilian organizations already have some sort of ability in data analytics - but existing solutions may not be sufficient. In that scenario, how can businesses integrate a new set of technologies to what already exists, without wasting time and money? How to avoid the trap of investing in technologies that will be obsolete in a matter of months?
To answer these questions , we talked to the director of business analytics at IBM Latin America, Sergio Loza, about how organizations can tackle these areas of concern. Building on its many years of experience in IT, Loza has more recently been helping Brazilian organizations in sectors such as telecommunications, insurance, healthcare, government, specifically around the creation of Big Data strategies.
Picking the low-hanging fruit
According to Loza, the first thing to focus on is the areas where benefits can be obtained more rapidly, such as customer relationships, contact and service, as well as operations and finance.
"This is an area where more than half of our customers have invested in. The core operational essence of the organization is also paramount - looking, understanding and measuring processes with the data and making decisions to drive improvements. The area of risk and finance is also crucial: if it's an insurance or financial services business for example, analytics can greatly improve profitability or the planning and financial performance management financial and can use Analytics to improve such management and therefore, increase business profitability," says Loza.
According to the consultant, chances of success are bigger if the project was built around the areas where the business has had positive experiences.
"If the organization chooses a vendor platform that covers everything from the warehouse to the analysis, it will achieve progress in a sustainable manner. That's the recommendation I would give first: start with the best-known areas, with a vendor that has a proven platform with continuity," says Loza.
Invest in scalable options
Once the analytics toolset is already in place, how it is possible to monitor the results and at the same time continue to progress in this area, even with the continuing advances in Big Data? A major concern of organizations is precisely this - especially those who are developing their own analytics resources.
"The way to avoid wasting these investments is to focus on a platform that exists today and that we know it will exist tomorrow. Do not buy small, niche solutions that can solve a problem today but may not be appropriate tomorrow, considering the growing volume of information of most organizations," says Loza.
"The 'platform' as we are describing it here is a set of software and servers that will allow the company to draw up the whole chain of analysis from the system where the customer data is stored and made available for analysis - all the way to the systems that allow analysts to understand this information, discover facts and relationships among the data that is there," says the consultant.
"For example, a telecoms firm that operates in a certain area of the city and not in others, can make decisions about which investments to make in its network based on the level of the conclusions of this analysis that is then communicated to the business lines."
According to Loza, the success of these projects will be noticed according to the extent in which that the quality level of the decision-making across the business is improved.
"The decision to make an investment in one area or another, will then be made by the business manager and not the IT department. So there is a process of alignment with the various lines of business around ownership of processes, " says Loza.
The situation in Brazil
Although the situation in terms of adoption of Big Data technologies appears to be relatively incipient, Loza says the vast majority of local clients he works with have the ability to master these new tools and use them in their business - and almost all of them have plans to built on their tools to extract insight out of information.
"All they come from the understanding that it is not enough or appropriate to simply dive into a scenario to analyze the data being collected - but a scenario where they already have a lot of information about their customers within the company and seek to increase their analysis capacity by bringing their data and the information that is publicly available together, thus the capacity to make better decisions, " says Loza.
"We have worked with several Brazilian clients in the sectors of financial services, insurance, telecommunications and others, around the creation of those plans and strategies, as well as identifying areas and business processes within those businesses that can benefit from a Big Data strategy - and avoid a situation where each department has their own disparate analytics method," he adds.
Examples of important projects in Brazil include clients in insurance where customers seek to identify potential cases of fraud and carry out risk analysis - and not only credit risk. In this scenario, client information that was provided at the time of contracting the service and the data that is publicly available are cross-checked and matched to influence how businesses should interact with their customers.
"For example, a telecommunications company that has a very large amount of information can analyze data on aspects such as what time a customer was making a phone call when the signal dropped, if there was an attempt to establish the connection again or not - all this information is generated within the company but as the volume is too high, not all of them are looking at what all this information means," says Loza.
"In mobile telephony, for example, if your connection drops frequently over several weeks the company would have that information but may not have the ability to filter this information to do a proper analysis. Better analytics capability means they could know that a customer is unhappy, offer something to them or apologize or see if there is any investment that should be made to increase the signal in that area," he adds.
According to the consultant, the key question is what organizations do with the information they collect and whether the business is capable of carrying out the analysis necessary to make important decisions such as investing, modifying their offerings, creating products or actions to retain high-value customers. And Brazil is no exception when it comes to the intention of using advanced data analysis to achieve these goals.
"There is not a lot of differences in Brazil around the level of knowledge and intent to take advantage of analytics in comparison to the rest of the world. Yes, there is some difference - but not a considerable lag as is customary in technology adoption, considering that this focus on taking advantage of information is also new in the developed countries," Loza concludes.
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