Data culture not yet within the reach of Asian businesses

Asia Data Culture Study 2016

Though more than 88 per cent of business leaders in Asia agreed it is important for their organisations to have an agile business that is data-driven, only 43 per cent believe they have a full digital strategy in place, according to Microsoft’s Asia Data Culture Study 2016.

The study surveyed 940 business leaders from medium to large companies in 13 markets in Asia about their digital and data strategy, and readiness for the digital economy.

“As data is the electricity of the new economy, businesses need to turn data into actionable insights and predict the future as a way to get ahead of the trends and develop new revenue streams. Faced with economic uncertainties and disruptive competitors, analytics and predictive data is what organisations need to survive. With the right tools, insights can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. When that happens, organisations develop what we describe as a ‘data culture’,” said Andreas Hartl, general manager, cloud and enterprise division, Microsoft Asia Pacific.

Qualities of the new data culture

According to the study, the new data culture involves three organisational traits:

1. Infrastructure for data agility: Data platforms need to be interoperable with multiple data sources to collect information from any device, share it and present it in a meaningful way. There is a left to right view of the business, enabling better decision making real time. Intelligence is built in to develop predictions from data.

2. Data governance for collaboration: There is C-level ownership of the data strategy where access to data is democratized and governed by policies to protect information while empowering employees to collaborate seamlessly.

3. An analytical workforce: The ability to access and analyse data is held by a select few, for example, data scientists or statisticians. For a new data culture to happen, talents across the board need to have the ability to ask the right questions, analyse data and drive actionable insights.

Business leaders in Asia see the benefits of driving such a data culture as:

  1. Ability to make real-time decisions (86 per cent)
  2. Efficiency in operations (85 per cent)
  3. Improved processes (82 per cent)
  4. Better business continuity (81 per cent)
  5. Improved customer satisfaction and retention (77 per cent)

However the most common barriers in Asia to a data culture are:

  1. Perceived high costs (49 per cent)
  2. Data security concerns (43 per cent)
  3. Lack of digital skills in the workforce (36 per cent)
  4. Fear of change (33 per cent)
  5. Securing funding (31 per cent)

How to bridge the gap

In order to reach their full potential as data-driven organisations, Asia’s businesses need to address the following areas, according to the study.

1. Building infrastructure for data agility.

Building infrastructure capability is a crucial step. Only 43 per cent of business leaders said their data is accessible across mobile devices, which is seen as a definite barrier in democratising data access in the region – where 2 billion smartphone users are expected by 2019.
Slightly less than half (49 per cent) of business leaders in Asia felt confident that their existing data infrastructure scales with business growth, and 47 per cent of business leaders are using data to predict future trends.

2. Data governance for collaboration.

Eighty-seven per cent of the survey respondents felt strongly that data-driven collaboration across the organisation needs to be enabled.
Data security was ranked second as a barrier by business leaders in Asia in their data culture (43 per cent), while only 48 per cent polled claimed that they have a clear data governance plan to guide ownership, storage and use of data.

3. Creating an analytical workforce.

Only 42 per cent of business leaders in Asia polled felt that they have employees who have relevant skills to combine data to help identify business outcomes. Lack of digital skills was ranked third as a barrier which hinders the journey in embracing a data culture within the organisation today. Only 45 per cent of business leaders polled have invested in training to increase the skill sets of their employees in data capabilities.

Data culture leadership

Most business leaders in Asia (87 per cent) felt that the data culture should be driven top down, and there should be a formalised role in the leadership team to drive a successful adoption of their data strategy – ideally led by the CEO or the CIO, with emerging roles like the chief data officer and chief digital officer also increasing in importance.

“The Asia Data Culture Study showed that business leaders feel that the CEO should champion the new data culture. However, speaking from our own experience at Microsoft, in order for this to stick, it is important that the values of a new data culture are driven and accepted across all levels of the organization. This starts with democratizing of data through technology so that more can access and are empowered to make decisions in ways which create value for the organization,” said Hartl.

Top priorities over the next 12-18 months

The study showed that business leaders rated real-time analytics, cloud data storage, Internet of Things (IoT), data visualisation and predictive data analytics as the top five data capabilities that are important in the short-term.

“Starting with a pilot and learning from that is key to a successful, longer term journey. Customers need to think about new scenarios which will provide new insights and new opportunities. They need to ask different questions about their business, not just based on hindsight but about the future. Technology has evolved so much that this is no longer science fiction, but is being done by some of our progressive customers today,” said Hartl.

Customer successes

In Asia, Microsoft customers such as Laing O’Rouke (Australia), PTT (Thailand), and Citilink Indonesia, are transforming their business using the vendor’s Intelligent Cloud platform to drive digital transformation and a data culture.

  • Lagging to leading indicators: For global engineering firm, Laing O’Rouke’s operations in Australia developed a smart hat with multiple data sensors which monitors the health of its workers on-site, as its workers are exposed to external environmental risks. With the implementation hosted on Azure, as well as a deployment on Azure IoT suite for real-time data analytics, the organization has been able to expand their toolbox by tenfold.
  • Empowering employees with insights: Citilink, Indonesia’s largest budget airline carrier, is equipping selected ground staff with capabilities to observe customers’ preferences and note trends to deliver a more customer-centric experience via data visualization tools with Power BI.
  • Enabling customer loyalty: Thailand’s PTT is driving transformation through advanced analytics and CRM to gain greater customer insights on their usage of energy, interactions with the company to increase customer loyalty.