Why Malaysia Companies Need to Become Data-Driven

| 24th September, 2014

Why Malaysia Companies Need to Become Data Driven

Malaysia's government has ranked big data analytics (BDA) as a key strategy towards its vision to grow into an innovative, high-income nation, even setting up a National Big Data Analytics Task Force.

But what is BDA and why is it so important, even being described by some as being just as important to the world's society and enterprises as the internet itself.

Analytics software developer SAS, describes BDA this way: "Big data analytics is the process of examining big data to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations and other useful information that can be used to make better decisions.

"With big data analytics, data scientists and others can analyze huge volumes of data that conventional analytics and business intelligence solutions can't touch."

Malaysia's BDA vision

Malaysia's Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, told a recent Digital Malaysia media briefing that Malaysia’s aspirations to become a developed nation and fully developed digital economy, will depend heavily on how well it adopts BDA.

The Minister said the explosion of data does not mean much, however, if businesses are not capturing, integrating and analyzing the wealth of data to uncover new insights about their customers, products, markets, and operations.

"It is thus imperative for key public and private players in Malaysia's digital economy to unlock the value driven by data to create spillover multiplier benefits such as game-changing innovations, productivity gains and competitiveness enhancements," he said.

"With the implementation of the big data analytics solutions, governments, businesses and the rakyat [the people] can gain much-needed feedback and precious insights that can tremendously improve the decision-making process. The (Malaysian Government's) Digital Malaysia 354 Roadmap has identified big data as a major catalytic area to drive these results."

More BDA awareness needed

Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) Chief Operating Officer, Ng Wan Peng, told the third meeting of Malaysia's National Big Data Analytics Taskforce that "many people out there are not harnessing the power of Big Data because of a lack of awareness or opportunity".

"The taskforce’s responsibility is to ensure that people know how to do it. Obviously, we need the corporation and support from both the public and private sectors in Malaysia, as well as global players, to help us to realize our Digital Economy vision where data analytics plays a key role here," Ng said.

The importance of Big Data seems to be growing as fast as its volume, with many big global enterprises, and governments, now having to manage and analyse petabytes (a thousand terabytes) of information. Then there's exabytes and yottabytes (a billion petabytes) of data, needed in research into mapping of the human brain, to the ultimate zettabyte (that’s 10 to the twenty-first power) of data; the equivalent of all of the grains of sand on all of Earth’s beaches.

Abundant BDA opportunity

A 2012 report by the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) - "Big Data, Big Challenges, Big Opportunities' - said that: "As more data becomes available from an abundance of sources both within and outside, organizations are seeking to use those abundant resources to increase innovation, retain customers, and increase operational efficiency. At the same time, organizations are challenged by their end users, who are demanding greater capability and integration to mine and analyze burgeoning new sources of information."

The IOUG report said that Big Data Analytics "provides opportunities to ask questions they never were able to ask before". Questions like:"How can a financial organization find better ways to detect fraud? How can an insurance company gain a deeper insight into its customers to see who may be the least economical to insure? How does a software company find its most at-risk customers—those who are about to deploy a competitive product? They need to integrate Big Data techniques with their current enterprise data to gain that competitive advantage," the IOUG report stated.

And IDC research has found that, from now through to 2018, the Big Data technology and services market will increase about six times the growth rate of the overall information technology market representing a multibillion-dollar worldwide opportunity.

Transforming business

IDC's Dan Vesset, Program VP, Business Analytics & Big Data said that: "Big Data will continue to transform businesses everywhere, making them 'Big Data driven' in the process. In the context of the broader ICT market, and even the overall business analytics market, the Big Data market is quickly moving from a state of nascence to a state of maturity."

IDC has found that the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) commanded nearly 45% market share in the infrastructure, software, and services segments of the Big Data market.

But there seems to be much work to be done for South East Asian nations, like Malaysia, to properly capitalise on the BDA wave. Research in 2013, by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) canvassed more than 500 executives across Asia-Pacific - 69% from companies with more than US$500 million in annual revenues - from a range of industries and functions.

Limited BDA success in Asia

The EIU report, 'The hype and the hope: The road to big data adoption in Asia Pacific' - found that Asia-Pacific firms have had limited success so far in implementing big data practices.

It said that: "While a third say they are well advanced, more than half say they have made only limited progress. Some 91% cite internal issues as barriers to big data adoption".

Key internal roadblocks cited by companies as preventing or slowing them from adopting big data strategies include, a lack of suitable software, insufficient in-house skills, a lack of willingness to share data and a lack of communication between departments. Other factors include overly complicated reports, a lack of analysis yielding usable insights, departmental divisions and no buy-in from management.

The EIU also finds, however, that there are high expectations for the implementation of big data strategies.

"Despite the lack of progress, respondents believe in the ability of big data to improve their business: almost half think it can improve revenue by 25% or more," the report states. "This confidence is shared even by those yet to adopt big data, where more than 70% believe it can deliver gains in productivity, profitability and innovation.

"Big data may not yet be widely deployed in Asia-Pacific, but this survey makes clear that it is highly anticipated," the EIU report concludes.