Big Data is accelerating the democratization Of BI: Shridar Jayakumar, Oracle Business Analytics

The advent of big data and tons of unstructured data calls for proactive BI solutions that can usher in better insights and outcome. Shridar Jayakumar, Program Director, Oracle Business Analytics, Asia Pacific, shares his insights with Dataquest on the BI market and Oracle’s play in this space. Excerpts

 

If you look at business analytics, it’s been there for a long time. But now with the realization of big data, how has BI fundamentally changed?

Many organizations have the equipment and exper- tise to handle large quantities of structured data, but with the increasing volume and faster flows of data, ie, big data, they lack the ability to mine and derive action- able intelligence in a timely way. Not only is the volume of this data growing too fast for traditional analytics, but the speed at which it arrives and the variety of data types necessitates new types of data processing and analytics solutions. Big data analysis involves making ‘sense’ out of large volumes of varied data that in its raw form lacks a data model to define what each element means in the context of the others. For example, one may have no idea whether or not social data sheds light on sales trends.

Besides, new types of BI inquiry entail not only what happened, but why. For example, a key metric for many companies is customer churn. It’s fairly easy to quantify churn. But why does it happen? Studying call data records, customer support inquiries, social media commentary, and other customer feedback can all help ex- plain why customers defect. With advanced analytics, similar approaches are being used with other types of data and in other situations. Why did sales fall in a given store? Why do certain patients survive longer than oth- ers? The trick now is to find the right data, discover the hidden relationships, and analyze it correctly to draw actionable intelligence from a haystack of information. Big Data is actually accelerating the democratization of BI. 

If you look at Indian enterprises, where are they right now in terms of BI adoption and their solution maturity level?

Business and IT decision makers in Indian enterprises see an investment in BI and analytics solutions as critical for their growth. Gartner forecasts that the BI software rev- enue in India will reach $160 mn in 2015. From start-ups to eCommerce companies, and banks to large manufacturing companies, almost every organisation is beginning to invest in BI and analytics solutions to decode the changing consumer predicament and identify operational inefficiencies within the organisation. There is a greater understanding about the value of these insights to create better business strategies that can lead to enhanced productivity, a stronger competitive position, and greater innovation—all of which can have a significant impact on the bottom line and help find new avenues for top line growth. In fact, according to an industry research, organisations that use analytics get $10.66 for every $1 they spend on analytics.

We, at Oracle, have actually witnessed steady growth in all sectors—from local financial services firms to multinational world-beating conglomerates—for business analytics in India. This is no longer just in traditional data ware- house or application-based BI but in predictive analytics, data discovery, and CFO analytics as well. 

From a CIO standpoint, what are some of the major challenges they face in leveraging BI solution for precise insights and outcomes?

In spite of the widespread implementation of analytics, enterprises struggle to fully realize the promise of operational effectiveness from their BI solutions. For many, the BI tools available are difficult to use and slow to respond and the content they deliver is of little relevance. Besides, the sophistication of many of today’s analytics applications, combined with larger and more complex data sets, is making it challenging for casual business users to interpret all the information they can now access.

 

As a result, business users default to making decisions based on incomplete information or their ‘gut feeling’. IT and business managers also say that most analytics and BI solutions are typically disconnected from planning systems and transactional applications so metrics viewed in BI reports and dashboards often have little or no relation- ship to target metrics established in financial plans. In the same way, the annual targets established in financial plans and budgets often have little or no relationship to operating plans and dynamically changing business conditions.

So in creating a BI roadmap and selecting a solution, what are some of the best practices they must adopt? 

The best strategy is to integrate information across multiple functions and channels and use unified technology platforms like Oracle’s Business Intelligence Foundation to meet the full spectrum of enterprise requirements for business analytics, including reports, dashboards, scorecards, scenario planning, and forecasting models, as well as ad hoc queries and analysis.

Integration no longer means having a physical single source of data, but rather having a logical model, wherein there is a single stream for each analytics use case. This means that we can have the data ready for analysis in near real time without needing to have redundant cleansing/integration steps that delay getting it to the analyst/ user. We have a clear understanding of where the data comes from and how it relates to other analytics in the overall enterprise analytics architecture. So we balance getting the right answers to the right folks quickly, with- out worrying about where the data comes from and not overloading the enterprise data warehouse or adding bottlenecks. 

Can you briefly talk about your BI offering? How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?

As a market leader in business analytics software, we de- liver the most complete and integrated solutions that let customers act with confidence—anytime, anywhere, on any device. Available both on premise and in the cloud, Oracle Business Analytics solutions help organizations of all sizes thrive by enabling them to discover new ways to strategize, plan, optimize business operations, and capture new market opportunities. Oracle BI tools provide a broad set of capabilities for reporting, analysis, modelling, and forecasting, and it is the only solution that makes BI actionable by providing business users the ability to initiate actions directly from their dashboards. 

What is your India strategy?

India is a huge growth market for us and we have been building on our success every year. Our analytics strategy has been well-received by our Indian customers including in big data, Exalytics, and data discovery. We have also seen very encouraging uptake and early references in cloud anaytics in India. This is not just in our traditional base of the enterprise customers but in smaller-sized businesses as well.

The focus and prominence of the Indian analytics market is further illustrated by the first ever Indian Customer Advisory Board that we are holding in the middle of February for our Indian business analytics customers—an exciting forum we hold globally in several locations. The forum is aimed at listening to our customers’ feedback on current products, wish lists, and critically validating our roadmap and direction with a priority on the Indian market. With the huge push for smart cities in India and the growing urbanization and affluence, we only see the analytics market and our momentum here continuing to go from strength to strength.