Across most facets of our lives, we now expect instant responses. From instant communication, thanks to instant messenger apps and real-time social networks, to instant answers to our queries, thanks to the algorithms and powerful search engines of Google and Bing, it has become almost unbearable to wait for a reply. While waiting for a bus, do you enjoy that unknown time before one appears, or do you whip out your smart device to look up when the next one is due via a travel app or track its progress via geo-location tagging?
Regardless of your preference, options exist to cater to this need for instantaneous gratification, driven partly by a generation with high expectations in an always-on, always-connected world. However, this does not always translate into the business environment. Imagine starting your first job today and being asked to get some answers to a specific problem by 3pm. You sit down with the company’s business analysts, lay out the problem…and you are then informed they can give you the response you need in three months’ time. Not what most people would feel is speedy enough, whatever the circumstances. What is needed is a way to access the relevant information in as effortless a way as possible.
This highlights the chasm between instant gratification in our everyday lives versus in the business world. In the physical, analogue world, data may sit neatly and tidily in hierarchical or relational databases under every software application, making it almost impossible to harvest data easily from these core systems, normalise it, bring it together in one data warehouse with one single version of the truth to answer the most straightforward of business-critical questions.
With the proliferation of data, content and information now reside in multiple formats, locations, hierarchies and types. There is an opportunity to bridge this gap and achieve effortless information in a business environment, similar to the way we already do in our everyday lives. This means there is a clear requirement for real-time analytics-as-a-service (AaaS).
There are three major steps businesses need to address in order to deliver this instant gratification mode in the organisation. First of all, organisations need to tune in to everything they need to hear. This ranges from customers and how satisfied they are, their complaints and recommendations, through to suppliers, employees, partners and regulators, using social media, instant messaging apps, phone calls, sensors and devices (the “internet of things”). IoT, in particular, is now offering businesses unrealised levels of insight knowledge and value as the devices and machines can alert service providers to issues that can be tackled before they become a problem.
Secondly, companies need to ensure that the data they already own is of the highest quality possible. Data quality assurance is vital in delivering an instant gratification experience to the business environment and in achieving effortless information. Imagine the bus app you have consulted is tracking a bus going in the opposite direction due to a mix up in geo-tagging data? And then apply that to the data that businesses have to contend with and multiply it by a million. In every analytic exercise, a large amount of time is spent on data preparation processes, including removing duplicates, fixing partial entries, eliminating nil/blank entries. From experience, data preparation takes up to 80 per cent of the complete analytical process and over a quarter of people are not sure how much of their data is really reliable. Now we can see why those data analysts claimed it would take three months to give an adequate answer.
Achieving a flow of effortless information to deliver instant gratification and answers to queries is not just a “nice to have“ anymore. In our digital world, data and information quality needs to be addressed as putting old inaccurate analogue data into the new digital environment will result in a clash of systems and further barriers to delivering precise answers instantly. Those businesses that do audit their data and then tune their listening will be well-placed to capitalise on the data opportunity to broker insights and even monetise the information gathered.
Lastly, the final step on the journey is then to place all this valuable high-quality information into a scalable platform to deliver real-time analytics-as-a-service. This can be achieved using an analytics resources centre that can answer any question at any time and, ultimately, with the clever use of data visualisation technologies, enable the executive to self-serve its own answers instantly.
With all the technology at people’s fingertips these days, both in our personal but also professional lives, it should not take anyone in the business weeks or even months to get the accurate data with which to make strategic decisions. It is time the need for instant gratification was satisfied, not only at the bus stop, but also effortlessly in the workplace.