Event Spotlight: MicroStrategy at Big Data LDN
Taking place today and tomorrow at the Olympia Conference Centre in London, Big Data LDN 2019 is bringing together the leading minds and companies in the data analytics space. From industry giants like the Microsoft Azure team and Google’s Chief Decisions Scientist, Cassie Kozyrkov, to dynamic and vibrant challengers like H2O.ai, the two day event is an unparalleled source of insight into the state of the data analytics landscape.
The event is home to 130 leading technology vendors, and is hosting talks by 150 thought leaders and industry experts across nine stages.
On a global level, data analytics are becoming the lifeblood of the modern enterprise. Good data can empower better decision making at every level of a company, creating efficiencies, managing relationships and generating the kind of insights that can be the difference between a company’s aggressive growth and a foreclosure sign.
However, the data analytics industry is facing an array of challenges to adoption. Tackling these challenges has been a recurring theme of today’s talks. We sat down to hear what Rob Davis, VP of Product Management at MicroStrategy has to say about these challenges, and how his company can help overcome them.
“There are three main challenges to a company turning itself into an intelligent enterprise,” says Davis. “First, data analytics to solve day to day business issues only has a 30% adoption rate. That means that 70% of employees - usually at lower levels in the business - aren’t using analytics. Everyone needs access to analytics to do his or her job better. Second, the data landscape is - and if you look around the conference hall, it’s pretty obvious - constantly changing and becoming more diverse. Lastly, enterprise analytics systems are complex.”
The average company has two different business intelligence tools. A few have a lot more than that, and much fewer only have one. Gathering that data together in a way that ensures that it’s trustworthy - something Davis calls “a single version of the truth” - is the problem MicroStrategy wants to solve using a simple, zero-click BI tool.
“Asking everyone to become a data scientist is like asking everyone - if we use the analogy of the English language - to become a poet. Some people just want to read a trashy romance novel or the newspaper,” he says. “We’re not trying to turn everyone into a data scientist. We’re trying to make everyone’s individual jobs easier. The intelligent enterprise should have the ability to manage yesterday’s data assets, today’s data assets and the data assets of tomorrow, and shortening the gap between business analytics and action is key to increasing adoption.”
The event continues tomorrow and includes a talk by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”