Presentation: Big Data and the Future of Business Analytics

Last week our Managing Director, John-Paul Della-Putta, presented to the Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand organisation in Adelaide, on the topic of Big Data and the Future of Business Analytics as part of their popular Building Knowledge series. 
With just over 70 people in attendance, the vast majority were chartered accountants working in commercial businesses, where big data and how to apply analytics in a business is a fast growing hot topic.
Many businesses have access to a multitude of data, many are collecting it, but most still don't know what to do with it, or where to start.
John-Paul's presentation provided a helpful overview of Big Data:

  • defining what Big Data is
  • the evolution of Analytics 1.0 to 3.0
  • the different types of analytics
  • the 3 Vs of Big Data
  • becoming analytics driven, and
  • a number of Analytics, Big Data examples and predictions for the future

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Following the presentation, there was a panel discussion between John-Paul, Managing Director from Advance, Randall South, Commercial Manager from Henschke Wines, and Susan McDonald, Group Business Improvement Manager from Detmold Group.

Advance are currently working with Henschke Wines to develop a custom analytics dashboard to improve their operations and strategic decision making.

Traditionally we’ve had a myriad of spreadsheets and we’ve used fairly typical wine industry software.

We’ve decided to try and improve the way we report on things through a BI dashboard tool.

Our goal is to speed up our reporting and provide consistency, [to] improve how we report and how we react to things. To get away from spreadsheets and enable us to make decisions very quickly.
— Randall South

This tool will not only speed up reporting, allowing Henschke Wines to begin reviewing monthly reports on the first day of the new month, rather than waiting first to assemble it, but also allow Henschke Wines to make data driven decisions regarding where to stock different wines. This will not only improve sales, but stock inventory, management and delivery.

Our industry changes so quickly and we need to stay on top of performance and  whether we are heading in the right direction or whether we need to change.

[We are] tackling sales first, and then we plan to roll this out to our financial reporting.
— Randall South

Susan also provided some valuable insight to the process she took when implementing a new analytics system.

When I started, the business had an objective to speed up end of month reporting and to move away from Excel.

I also had an agenda to move away from 80 percent data capture, 20 percent analysis to 20 percent data capture and 80 percent analysis.

I became instantly 4 times more productive [from this approach] and an incidental benefit was the data integrity has improved out of sight.
— Susan McDonald

Susan recommends thinking broadly about the features you and your organisation require, for example, ease of use.

When a tool needs to be rolled out to a large number of users – and you want them to use it – it should be intuitive, encouraging self learning, beyond the initial training.

She also recommends having patience, allowing time for delivery, saying that it is better to overestimate how long it will take, to help manage expectations. It is also essential to consider carefully reporting dates, for example whether data needs to be managed across different calendar periods and time and date zones. This can all be managed by business analytics software, but should be a known factor from the start.

John-Paul shared his experience that for an organisation implementing analytics software for the first time, it is better to not do too much too soon.

Rather, focus on smaller priorities, that can quickly show potential and deliver results, then build from there. For example, start with financials and daily sales, these are useful and effective reports to begin with and we have something to compare our dashboard to.

The panel wound up with an interesting discussion initiated from an audience question about the drivers towards implementing Business Intelligence software.

In many cases, the decision is forced by a problem in the business, for example loss of a major client, or an internal error that has dramatic financial or business implications.

While this is true for some, there are a growing number of businesses who are implementing business analytics tools proactively, allowing them to remain competitive, and following an internal continual improvement culture.

Why did we want to do it? [Use a BI platform]. Just stopping the static reporting, we all have examples of reports prepared in our business that someone asked for 3 years ago and we’ve never stopped doing them. 

What BI platforms [do is] enable you to answer a question, a different question every single day and you can’t do that from static reporting.
— Susan McDonald

Thank you very much to Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand for having us, and to everyone who attended.

If you would like more information about the presentation, or would like to discuss Big Data and Business Analytics options for business, please contact us.