Adam Barrie-Smith, expert services manager at South Africa Qlik Master Reseller.

Adam Barrie-Smith, expert services manager at South Africa Qlik Master Reseller.

Explosion of data and raw computing power, along with the rise of information activists, are the top three trends that are influencing work business intelligence in 2017.

This is according to Adam Barrie-Smith, expert services manager at South Africa Qlik Master Reseller who was speaking at the ITWeb Business Intelligence Summit 2017 this morning at The Forum in Bryanston. "2017 is the year of data literacy… competence in finding, manipulating, managing, and interpreting data, including text and images," he declared.

He says the explosion of data throughout enterprises has led to large databases with the possibility of expansions to data lakes. "Clients are now experimenting with data devices and data platforms. There's no doubt the data is exploding. We also have to consider that there is internal and external data within the organisation. We have social media data which raises questions like what do we do with that social media data and is it pertinent to our organisation?"

He says the interest is not in laying a billion rows of data but rather practicality and context. Barrie-Smith highlights that companies need to assess if the data is useful to analyse and whether it fits the context. "For instance, an insurance company wanting to cross-sell can go to an internal data base to find customer purchases, secondly do an inter-function analysis on the customers, pull data from the financial systems to pick out the good debtors and… to get perspective on the target audience, the company can then do social media data analytics. This will definitely have influence to the campaign context."

The second trend, says Barrie-Smith, is the increasing deployment to cloud and the management thereof. He says there are customers who have already moved to the cloud and there is a possibility of 2017 seeing a tipping point of more than 50% doing new deployments to cloud. "As much as it is a fact that the move to cloud, the real question we should be asking is how we, as IT people, are going to manage the impact of cloud?" he asks. He urged IT professionals to educate business users on server safety and such so as to avoid disasters.

The rise of information activists, according to Barrie-Smith, is the third but major trend that is influencing work business intelligence. Information activists, according to him, are individuals who are "all heart, not interested in destroying IT but rather is interested in using data to bring unique insights to business".  His advice for IT professionals is to include these activists into existing ecosystems.

"These guys are able to produce very professional and compelling arguments for their businesses using the informal databases and data visualisation tools that are available. The best way is to create a BI ecosystem where one attracts people from silos into the ecosystem. The activists should be able to work freely, albeit guided by IT governance. A BI ecosystem is a key tool for IT to embrace the capabilities of the information activist, by attracting them into an environment where they can experiment and do what they need to do, without putting business and process at risk."

Barrie-Smith goes on to add that these trends around data, computing power and information activism are global phenomena, and not just limited to the South African marketplace. Every organisation needs to manipulate and understand data to eke out its value, and to be cognisant of the fact that IT doesn't have time to re-invent and re-work the ecosystem in line with every discovery.