SAS Advanced Analytics

Why you should take a

three-pronged approach

to the digital transformation

10 /10 /2016

Why you should take a three-pronged approach to the digital transformation

Over recent years, digital transformation has been omnipresent in the news. That organizations have to embrace the digital changes is beyond dispute, but how should they make the switch from an analogue to a digital system? 

According to Andy Bitterer, Senior Director of the Business Intelligence (BI) Product Line at SAS, they should take a three-pronged approach when upgrading to digitally oriented decision-making. “To succeed in a digital world you need proper processes, proper technology and proper skills. The only organizations that will be able to differentiate themselves sufficiently will be the ones who can innovatively streamline those three different facets of the organization.”

Anchoring BI in a process

Most organizations have BI tools in place but, even though BI has been around for decades, many of them still have no coherent BI strategy or BI process, believes Andy Bitterer: “Year after year, BI is ranked as a top-three priority in the Gartner technology survey among CIOs. But when you scratch the surface, there’s a big gap between what organizations regard as important and what they actually do. Today, there are just a few organizations who are really pushing BI and analytics to the limits, by reducing risk, identifying fraud, predicting behavior, or increasing market share, for example. Most organizations still view BI as a synonym for reporting on transactional data, while new data types, such as sensor data, social data, seismic data, streaming data, and many others, opens up endless opportunities. It’s just that organizations first need to see what they can achieve with data analysis, and this requires a little creative thinking. To illustrate my point more clearly: for an oil refinery, the digital revolution isn’t about using sensor data to report how many barrels of oil have been produced, but rather about using it to optimize production activities, or avoid outages through preventive maintenance.”

Today, there are just a few organizations who are really pushing BI and analytics to the limits.

A key takeaway in any digital transformation exercise is to give employees time to think for themselves. “What type of data do we need and what kind of forecast will we have to make in order to do things that differentiate our company from the rest? These are discussions that rarely happen within organizations. They are also debates that can’t take place in just one division. I’m a big proponent of having a cross-functional team that really drives the BI agenda within the organization, comprising representatives from virtually all lines of business,” says Andy Bitterer.

Lack of analytical skills

“The amount of data that companies have access to is mind-blowing, but in terms of having the skills that are required to make sense of all that data the majority are still lagging far behind. Most people are unable to analyse the gathered data to generate a level of insight that benefits the organization. Currently, companies are fervently looking to recruit data scientists but they are hard to find and harder to keep. Moreover, it’s very important to first get the BI basics right before investing in data scientists. Data scientists should be the cherry on top,” continues Andy Bitterer.

SAS® ViyaTM: next-generation technology

The organizations that are thriving and well-prepared for the digital era are the ones that have the right processes in place, are hiring the right people and…are using the right tools. “Organizations which consider BI as an add-on to their ERP systems are not yet digitally transformed. Successful organizations acknowledge that their BI system and analytical tools are critical systems which bring real business value,” states Andy Bitterer.

To fulfil this critical role, industry-leading analytical software vendors also have to reinvent themselves. And that is exactly what SAS has done with the launch of its ViyaTM platform. SAS Viya is the next-generation cloud architecture which introduces microservices, the CAS Cloud Analytic Server, a HTML5 front end and the option to use open languages including Python, Lua and Java. “SAS Viya will help to minimize the time between early-stage analytical exploration and the end result of business value. It’s designed for all skill levels, scalable to any size and built for big data challenges like machine learning,” explains Andy Bitterer.

This September, SAS is also launching two completely new analytics products coming to Viya: SAS® Visual InvestigatorTM and SAS® Visual Data Mining and Machine LearningTM. SAS Visual Investigator provides graphical and interactive management and investigation capabilities, while SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning is aimed at data scientists who want to easily apply machine learning and data mining techniques to structured and unstructured data alike. Developers can build a model once and deploy it anywhere. But SAS® Visual AnalyticsTM, for which Andy Bitterer is responsible for, will also have a new release especially for the Viya platform. “Visual Analytics 8.1 is planned to be released in the first quarter of 2017. It’s a completely new application stack. Of course, we don’t want to pull the rug out from underneath our SAS® 9 and Visual Analytics 7.3 customers, so the SAS 9 platform will be maintained and further developed for a number of releases. Obviously, however, we want to make it as attractive as possible to move over to SAS Viya, because it’s too expensive for our organization to maintain two separate platforms in the long term. Therefore, the most interesting innovations will likely be on Viya first,” adds Andy Bitterer.

At the SAS Forum 2016 there will be numerous interesting presentations about the new capabilities of the Viya platform, the roadmap for Viya and value that the new architecture can add for your business. Organizations that want to set new standards in the analytical area and are keen to digitally transform themselves will certainly find plenty to their liking at the SAS Forum 2016!

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