Analytics on tap: leveraging the cloud for data intelligence


By Riaan Bekker, Force Solutions Manager, thryve

Knowledge is power, and today the leading way to derive knowledge is through data analytics. Now, you may say: but we’ve been getting along just fine without data analytics of this sort, so why start now? That’s true, yet think of it in another way. Companies also once got along just fine using horse carts and steam engines. Yet today those don’t exist anymore.

Successful innovation will always push the envelope and businesses that don’t adapt fast enough risk falling away completely. And data analytics is absolutely such an innovation. Here I can sense another counterpoint: companies have been using business intelligence, so why is this any different?

The major sea change has been how we use computing resources. For a long time, a computer did more or less singular tasks and left a lot of capacity on the table. Why? It was once necessary to buy systems with a lot of overhead, in case you needed those extra resources in the future.

Then at the start of the millennium, engineers developed virtualisation – this allows a computer to run multiple independent systems at once, or multiple systems to work in unison as if they were one computer. It’s why Google, Amazon, Facebook, Walmart and Microsoft can run colossal and complicated computing environments.

It also, as you can imagine, unleashed an enormous amount of spare capacity, driving down the cost of computing power. So whereas you’d have spent millions a few years back for a gigantic bespoke system that could analyse data – something frankly no one except governments and militaries could afford – today you can spend very little and access supercomputing power.

So it’s finally possible to crunch lots of data cheaply, hence why data analytics is now a must-have for future-minded companies. And the home of this capacity is the cloud. If you leverage an online analytics service such as Salesforce, Tableau (now part of the Salesforce family), or Microsoft Power BI, you get the cost and power advantages of analytics without the headache of building those services.

There are many benefits to this. You can run more scenarios and experiment with different data sets. Access is easy yet controlled – there can be a different dashboard for different people in your company, each aligned to what they want to explore. Reports can be generated on the fly, and reputable services will help meet compliance and security demands.

This last point is important because I’m also sure you might say: the cloud doesn’t seem safe and controllable-enough to ensure my data is safe and compliant. It may once have been the case, but certainly not anymore. The best analytics platforms go to great lengths around security and compliance, pooling resources to scale and serve multiple clients. Enhanced on-premise and hybrid options are also available, because different companies have different needs.

But what of control? Won’t you lose that over your data? No, not at all. If anything, such services make it easier to have visibility over your data. Most companies don’t even know what data they own. But a good analytics platform helps make sense of that and to understand the real value of different data sets. In the long run, this will save you money as you come to understand your data access and storage requirements better.

According to Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud, more than half of enterprise data will be in the cloud by the end of this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how hard it can be to access your data when you aren’t on your premises. In an age where you should be able to do business from anywhere, having analytics in the cloud means access to relevant information when and where you need it.

My favourite reason for using cloud analytics platforms: it’s easy to get started. Use a limited data set for a specific purpose and see what it can do, then scale out to other uses and areas of the business. If you are a Salesforce customer, you can already start generating some interesting insights from your CRM data.

Really, it’s all there waiting for you. There are some considerations, such as preparing data and setting data policies. That’s where a partner such as thryve helps you figure out the best fit.

But ignoring data analytics is tantamount to rejecting knowledge. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also the best route to failure. Ensure your business is a success and start using the cloud to get analytics on tap.