The business use and values of data analytics

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David Gonzalez discusses how Vodafone is applying AI to generate real business value, such as how AI is impacting the workforce and society, and how emerging technologies like 5G will play a crucial role in the ability to process even more data which will allow AI to tackle more tasks in the future.

What can businesses do to drive the use and value of data analytics in their organisations?

The explosion of Big Data in recent years has paved the way for the widespread use of data analytics across a range of industries. However, for some data remains a “black box” – untapped and unused. Even for those who have started to explore, many have focused on internal data management to address compliance concerns, rather than using data to support business goals.

Organisations recognize the benefits of introducing analytics across departments and aspire to be more insights-driven. Rather than confine its use to the IT department, there are many advantages to putting insights in the hands of the end user. However, democratizing data and implementing the right tools presents another challenge; especially while preserving privacy and security. Additionally, organisations may have to tackle a lack of confidence from staff in their own data skills and increasing customer expectations.

The first step that businesses can do would be to designate an individual at C-suite level to lead on all data analytics functions. A Chief Data Officer (CDO) is crucial to choosing the correct tools to ensure that insights are collected and deployed where they are most useful and needed. The CDO also acts as a champion to translate the benefits of data analytics across departments and that the right tools are being used at the right time to inform decisions and drive results.

This does not mean that all responsibility lies solely with the CDO. Succeeding in today’s economy means making the most of data. While the CDO can lead the charge, ultimately data must be everyone’s job. The rest of the C-suite must provide leadership support where needed and ensure that the right business units use secure data and implement insights from it. Whether sales and marketing or commercial and pricing, every function has a potential upside, provided they embrace the behavioral shift that big data requires.

Businesses’ ambitions to be insights-driven correlates highly with revenue growth. Yet only with that holistic support from the whole organisation will companies truly benefit from the potential of data and analytics.

Can you provide examples of how Vodafone is applying big data to generate real business value?

Almost every individual carries a phone with them and millions of objects now have mobile connectivity built in. That means Vodafone’s network metadata provides a comprehensive picture of devices’ location, movement and usage. This data is aggregated and anonymized. Telco data as a service is a booming market due to grow 27% a year until 2020, by which time it’s predicted to be worth $79bn annually.

The data is just the beginning. The real value will be drawn from the intelligence it offers, which we can use to empower customers from a local to a global scale. The insights can be quickly identified and compared internationally, all within a secure environment that customers can trust.

In many European markets, Vodafone is working with multiple public administrations and local authorities to help understand tourism behavior as well as macro-population mobility patterns. We also work with private organizations from various industries including retail, media, real estate, energy/utilities, transport planning and construction. Being a partner with global reach offers these organizations the ability to have access to strong insights from different countries under the same location intelligence service.

In order to drive significant business value for customers, we ensure that the strategic focus remains on scalability and automation. Many adopters in the market can demonstrate success with bespoke projects, but at Vodafone the main priority is to ensure an end-to-end solution with a future road map which can match their own business ambitions.

Beyond business, how do you expect data analytics to shape the way that we live and work in future?

It would be short-sighted to assume that data analytics would only be relevant within the enterprise. With improved connectivity and advances in IoT, a vast volume of data is being generated in every industry. This will enable to us to gain a better understanding of how processes work across a myriad of areas of modern life and more importantly, how we can use these insights to address existing and future problems.

For example, the arrival of 5G is set to transform the transport sector, making autonomous vehicles a reality. The success of these vehicles relies heavily on the ability to analyse and process incoming data and make decisions based on this. In the healthcare industry, IoT is improving record-keeping and monitoring, allowing medical professionals to gain insights into the conditions of patients and utilize data to predict and inform future treatment. Some of this monitoring can be done remotely, ultimately improving the quality of life of patients who struggle to see professionals face to face.

At the heart of all of these possibilities is data. The key here is for organisations to understand the gold mine that they possess and proactively take steps to utilize this resource to improve standards of living.

David Gonzalez is the Head of Big Data for Vodafone Group Enterprise. In this role, he heads the strategy and implementation to drive Big Data Analytics value for Vodafone’s largest and most important clients around the world.

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