Complex Made Simple

From gut to data: Business future “exciting, but also scary”

The overall spending on business intelligence and data analytics software in the UAE is expected to reach $42.24 million in 2019, but is its use optimal?

85 percent of business leaders will be moving to data science platforms within the next two years Without successful digital transformation, 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies won't be around in 10 years Ford Motor Co. has driven $250 million savings in nine months using Alteryx data science and analytics

"Digital transformation" has become the new go-to phrase for GCC businesses looking to push the envelope and drive higher return on investments through innovative strategies. A major part of this digital transformation is built around increased investment into data analytics and predictive analytics in the region. From omnichannel analytics revolutionizing the retail experience to machine learning redefining care delivery in healthcare and much more, data analytics is becoming "the new oil" in a hydrocarbon-rich region that is looking to diversify away from its dependence on oil revenues.

Recent studies by Forrester Consulting show that 85 percent of business leaders will be moving to data science platforms within the next two years and 22 percent of companies will be embedding data science models. On the other hand, 78 percent of shoppers believe that the use of data science to change prices is fair as long as they are presented with prices that they willing to pay. 

"We've seen Ford Motor Co. drive $250 million savings in 9 months using Alteryx. We've seen Southwest Airlines have an $80 million balance sheet improvement by predicting which airline passengers would claim their airline frequent flyer miles and those that wouldn't. We have similar use-cases here in the Middle East. At a minimum, our plans are seeing improvements in operational efficiencies; topline and bottom-line improvements; and we're putting the thrill back into problem-solving," said Dean Stoecker, chairman and CEO of Alteryx, which recently announced a new office in Dubai Internet City as part of its expansion into the Middle East and Africa region.

Data-driven decisions  

The overall spending on business intelligence and analytics software in the UAE is expected to grow and will reach $42.24 million in 2019, according to IDC reports. The push toward a digital economy has led a number of industries including banking, utilities, retail, healthcare as well as individual investment firms focus more on data analytics. This trend to move away from the "gut instinct" decision toward analyzing large volumes of data has also helped companies align with UAE's Vision 2021 that calls for a smart, innovative and knowledge-based economy.

Alteryx, which seeks to revolutionize businesses through data science and analytics, recently reported 96 percent year-over-year (YoY) growth in international markets for the full year 2018, which accounted for 29 percent of overall revenue as of Dec. 31, 2018 – all of which indicate the surge of interest in advanced data analytics in the region. The company already has a proven track record of working with MEA brands, including the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Al Futtaim Private Company and Dubai Electricity, and Water Authority in the UAE (DEWA). These organizations are already gaining knowledge from data by enabling data producers to analyze for insights and make data-driven decisions.

“Our ongoing use of data analytics through the self-service Alteryx Platform is helping to revolutionize decision making and portfolio analysis," said Hussein Alasmari, PPA Governor’s Advisor for information technology at the Public Pension Agency, the Saudi Arabian agency that disburses pensions to the country’s retired civil employees and military personnel or their beneficiaries. "Separating the wheat from the chaff in financial data with Alteryx takes moments, not weeks, as traditionally has been the case with manual operations. Alteryx helps us quickly and efficiently analyze vast amounts of fiscal data associated with investment funds and unearth valuable insights, which can help add value for our customers.”

Overcoming challenges

While a number of companies and businesses struggle with translating data collected into actionable intelligence, solutions are quickly cropping up in the form of Tableau, Microsoft, Qlik, IBM, Oracle SAP, AWS, and ClearStory Data, which was recently acquired by Alteryx.

According to an IDC report, $120 billion are wasted per year on analysts doing repetitive manual work in spreadsheets. This means that more than 8 percent of workers are still using day-to-day brittle spreadsheets; 26 hours per week are wasted working on these spreadsheets; and 51 percent of the work per week is repeated on replicating the same data tasks, the report indicates. 

Companies such as Alteryx, which offer end-to-end analytics, empower data analysts, statisticians and scientists within organizations to break data barriers and deliver actionable insights that clearly reflect on revenues. They address the main challenges in enterprise data analysis such as disparate data sources, complicated workflow models, deployment challenges raised by cloud technology, and above all, sustaining a culture of analytics within an organization.

"This is not going to be an easy journey. The fact of the matter is that most of the people who comb the data are not necessarily the ones who have the data science skills, and vice versa. You're going to have to liberate the analytic platforms in the right people's hands so that you can create that $10-15 trillion in value … what we do know is that all the top performing organizations around the world who leverage data science and analytics – who have gone through digital transformation successfully – they are outperforming everyone else in almost every metric in business. The future is exciting, but also scary. They're predicting that without successful digital transformation, 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies won't be around in 10 years. If you don't use data analytics, then half-life is going to get you," Dean Stoecker said.