If data is the raw material every business craves, then data analysis is the task that puts it to work, says Fraser Nicol, Partner, Scott-Moncrieff.
Data has been described as the ‘new oil’ given the fact that we are generating more now than ever before. Apps on our phones capture the minutiae of our daily lives, fitness data tracks our movements and social media data captures our downtime.
Further to this, sites such as Google and Amazon log our browsing history, allowing tailored suggestions on products and services to be made.
This willingness to share and propensity to generate vast pools of data is what makes the ‘oil’ analogy so appropriate. Like oil, data is not valuable in itself. What makes it valuable is its potential. And if data is the new oil, then data analytics is the ability to refine and exploit that oil. The process of analysis yields insights that enable less risky, more profitable, decision making and allows the use of such data to make a business processes run faster.
Businesses, large and small, are using the huge amounts of data they control to drive their businesses, customer strategies, decision making and accurate planning.
Data is revolutionising how companies make investment decisions, operate financial controls and conduct their back-office processes.
It’s not all positive though. The amount of power companies gain from holding this data has led to increased concerns about individual privacy and fair access to services across society. In many cases, the current regulatory and legal frameworks were designed in a completely different era – before the internet was a factor of daily life.
As a result, a significant tightening of data privacy law is currently underway and it pays to stay up to date. In some cases, breaching the rules could lead to financial penalties that could easily put a small or medium-sized business out of operation.
Generating and holding large quantities of this valuable commodity also enhances the threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches, with incidences of ransom-ware on the increase. Any organisation working with third parties will need to consider not only their own measures to manage these risks but also those of their partners.
When it comes to data, there are a few questions businesses should ask in order to challenge themselves and adapt to this new world. What does the business exist to do and is there a clear strategy? What data does the business generate through its operation that is used to support this strategy, and how could this be put to good use?
Could your service offering be carried out better by a competitor if they had access to different or more data? Additionally, if data could be used to automate key business processes, would accelerating these current processes be enough, or could this power be used to do things completely new or differently?
Scottish businesses have the potential to be at the forefront of data revolution, if they are not already. We are producing businesses and graduates to work within them who understand not just the questions, but also how to answer them.
Pair this knowledge with the benefits derived from data analytics, AI and big data, and we have the potential to unlock something truly great.