With more business transactions going digital, vast amounts of precise data can be analysed to glean valuable insights.
Until recently, big data analytics (BDA) was something that only geeky number crunchers would be excited about. But a tipping point has happened. Like the “Internet of Things”, it’s a buzzword that’s on everyone’s lips now, and yet few can articulate what it’s all about.
Actually, the term is intuitive enough.
“Big data” refers to large amounts of data and “analytics” refers to the analysis that can be applied to such data. The purpose of this is to discern patterns and other relevant information that can be used to make strategic decisions.
Clever use of BDA can help enhance productivity, improve quality and result in cost savings. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, BDA insights have become economically relevant to businesses, government and consumers alike.
The benefits of BDA are manifold, but it will be most obvious to companies. As more and more business transactions are captured digitally, vast amounts of very precise data can be analysed to glean valuable insights that would otherwise have remained hidden. To get a sense of BDA in action, you just need to think about the last time you logged onto LinkedIn.
Notice how LinkedIn’s suggestions for “People you may know” or “Companies you may want to follow” are amazingly astute? It’s able to do that because of BDA.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve bought something from Amazon.com before. Do you notice how Amazon is able to recommend products that are remarkably in tune with your tastes in books, music, fashion or whatever it is you were looking for? Thanks again to BDA.
But personalised customer service powered by BDA is not restricted to online businesses. You could easily imagine banks leveraging on BDA to offer walk-in customers highly relevant financial products and services based on their profiles and banking patterns.
I would love to see Maybank, CIMB or any of the other local banks offer me such accurate recommendations. They would certainly have my business.
If you find yourself stuck in busy Kuala Lumpur traffic, you’ll probably whipped out your phone and turn on Waze because it’s able to give you recommended routes that will get you to your destination in the shortest amount of time. Its algorithm analyses all the inputs from everyone on the road at the time and calculates the optimal route for you, in real time. As traffic conditions change, so does its recommendations.
That’s BDA for you.
BDA can also be used by the government to better serve the people. This is particularly true in Malaysia where people are social media-crazy. I understand that there’s something like 15 million Facebook members in this country. If you remove the very young from that total, you’ll realize that the majority of Malaysia’s adult population is on social media.
In olden days, coffee-shop talk happened in, well, coffee shops. Today, such chatter happens online, and it can go viral very rapidly, spreading far and wide. Some people see unfettered online chatter as a threat. That is one way to look at it. Another way is to see it as an opportunity to understand the pulse of the nation and to formulate policies that reflect the desires of the populace.
To do that requires not just a way to collect all that data but to filter it and to analyse it. Again BDA is the answer.
With the theme of this year’s Big Data Week (April 21 and 22) being “Unleashing the Power of Big Data, Malaysia’s Journey to Become a Hub for Big Data in Asean”, it is worth asking: Is Malaysia ready?
MDeC CEO Datuk Yasmin Mahmood recently revealed that the National Big Data Framework has been endorsed by the prime minister. “However, how much of it is going to be made public has yet to be decided,” she said.
There are those who are concerned that the government’s Big Data Framework may be off the mark. It might be. It might not be. At the moment, we can’t tell since very little has been revealed. But I’m not worried. BDA will become a part of the culture in Malaysia.
Why do I say that?
Just look at how social media has permeated our lives. People use it. Companies use it. The government uses it. But it wasn’t because of some government policy or initiative. It was adopted because it was useful. And now it has become necessary. No company, organisation or politician can thrive without a social media presence.
And so it will be with BDA. Companies will lead the way as it will soon be apparent that its effective use is a form of competitive advantage to outperform peers. In time, it will be seen as a necessity.
As companies and the government of the day adopt BDA, they will be able to unlock efficiencies and productivity to offer better and more personalised offerings to the people. And all of us will be better off for it.
Faris Yahaya ismanaging director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the tech hub enabler that empowers the tech community through investor relation services, industry development initiatives and technology hub development & management services.