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SAS survey shows big data needs big commitments

Businesses know that there are organisational benefits to analysing big data, but there is a need for cohesion in the way that this is budgeted for, monitored and stored, a SAS survey in South Africa has revealed.

SAS, a provider of business analytics software, conducted a survey at the SAS Executive Forum to get a broad view of the South African business analytics landscape. Crucial to the marketplace's understanding of big data and what to do with it, a definition for the concept was needed.

Of the executive forum attendees who participated in the survey, 67% selected the definition as “data with high volume, variety and velocity”, which is in line with SAS's definition of big data. “We even take this a step further, stating that big data also exceeds an organisation's storage or compute capacity for timely decision making,” says Andoret Venter, senior solutions manager,  Information Management at SAS.

The solution, then, is to use business analytics solutions that can provide answers fast. The SAS Forum delegates agree, with 76% agreeing that that big data analysis allows an organisation to incur less losses, prevent excessive risk taking and assess risk in real time.

In addition, 86% stated that analysing big data fast will allow them to achieve benefits like deciding to discontinue or launch a product sooner, helping more clients faster and enabling risk management to demonstrate the effects of big decisions to senior managers.

“There's very little disagreement about the benefits that the effective analysis of big data can bring to any organisation,” says Venter. “However, it's also clear that despite being aware of these benefits, South African companies haven't yet created an overall strategy or budget for making sure that business analytics solutions are properly utilised across the organisation.”

While 56% of participants said that they were using business intelligence (BI) extensively, 17% to a limited extent, 19% moderately and only 8% not at all, 68% said that they were unable to monitor the performance of the entire enterprise.

Echoing this, 47% said that their BI funding came from the enterprise budget, while 25% said departmental budgets, and 22% said their BI budget came from special projects.

Also 33% of respondents said that different departments in their organisation manage their own development for business analytics and analytic models, while 27% said everything is managed centrally. Another 25% said that while the departments manage their own development, the productisation was handled centrally.

In response to the question on whether business information is stored in one central repository or by separate departments, 41% said that it is managed centrally in an enterprise data warehouse (EDW), but that the business units have their own stores as well. Twenty-nine percent said that it is stored in an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) with departmental data marts. A further 18% said that it is managed in disparate data stores across the organisation, and the remaining 12% said that there were no centralised repositories at any level in their company.

“The findings of our survey show that while South African organisations certainly see the benefits of business intelligence solutions, many have yet to form a cohesive strategy for recording, storing and analysing big data,” says Venter. “Future-thinking organisations will embrace business analytics solutions that span the entire organisation so that the true benefits of analytics that take into account every variable in every aspect of the business can be realised.”

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