1. Why has Hitachi Solutions launched its Data Science & Analytics practice now?
The term Business intelligence (BI) really came to prominence in the 1990s, but the release of new products from Microsoft has been significant in creating a huge, mainstream opportunity for organisations to make the most of predictive analytics.
Traditionally, our focus has been Microsoft Dynamics 365, but Power BI and specifically the Cortana Intelligence Suite, have repositioned analytics as central to the Dynamics 365 platform.
If we look at the market, I’d say that there are lots of organisations who describe what they do as ‘business intelligence’, but it’s mainly reporting or what I term ‘traditional BI’. Our approach is different. We have the skills to allow the organisations that we work with to take advantage of advanced analytics.
Our team takes a foresight view, rather than hindsight view. We’re aiming to answer questions such as what could happen, using science and statistics, and therefore allow organisations to predict outcomes and automate decisions. In practical terms, an organisation might use predictive analytics to enhance an ERP implementation or to recommend what to take as the ‘next best action.’ Retail organisations for example, are already using this approach to improve conversions and add value to the customer journey.
AI, Big Data, BI… it’s a very exciting area to be in and we’ll be helping the workforce of tomorrow to adapt to and use these tools.
2. Everyone’s talking about ‘Big Data’. What does it deliver for customer organisations?
It’s a real buzz-word and if you ask five people what it means you’ll get five different answers.
Behind the phrase is a complex landscape and a huge variety of data. There’s unstructured data like social media, research reports, images and video, mixed with other new pieces of information generated by a wide variety of sources connected to ‘Internet of Things’ like smart home devices for controlling heating for example and new technologies in the automotive industry. Data science and analytics is about making better use of the huge volumes of data that are now available to businesses.
The last element is the speed and velocity at which this data is being generated and captured. It’s amazing to think that something like 90 per cent of the world’s data that has ever existed has been generated in the last two years. We’re talking about billions of data points a second.
The value of Big Data to organisations is only unlocked by the analytics technology that can inspect this information at speed. Intelligent application of these technologies allows organisations to commercialise the data, and automate their businesses by predicting outcomes.
3. How does the practice fit with Hitachi Solutions’ existing Microsoft Dynamics 365 capabilities?
From a technology standpoint, Microsoft has been moving its applications into the cloud, and now has a ‘Mobile-first, Cloud-first’ strategy.
The move to the cloud has implications for how analytics is also delivered. If cloud-based applications are now mainstream, the intelligence is now also online and analytics systems need to be in the cloud to follow these applications and allow organisations to access their analytics from anywhere.
Following suit, Microsoft has made major investments into its cloud-based BI and Big Data solutions. Real-time stream processing tools like Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics and big data stores like Microsoft Azure Data Lake will define the future of predictive analytics, and are why we are now providing data science and analytics in an online environment to help our customers to affect business change.
4. What type of organisations work with the Data Science & Analytics practice?
There is not a single industry sector that won’t benefit from making more of their data. It’s very much a horizontal service across different industry verticals. The types of analytics that we deliver are very much focused on answering industry-specific problems, to drive value in industry-specific context.
We help organisations with information management and traditional business intelligence, right through to applying the advanced business analytics that really changes an organisation. Right now, customers are at different places in that journey. Whether that’s building the data warehouse or doing some strategic business analytics.
Our conversations always start with an understanding of where we might add business value rather than technology conversation. We establish whether there’s an information management strategy so that there’s a framework in place for organisations to let their data add value. So, unlike some other so-called Big Data organisations, we focus on the outcomes rather than the technology.
5. Tell me about the specialist skills in the Hitachi Solutions team.
The whole team are inquisitive, skilled data experts who are good with data and adaptable. You’ve got to be. As cloud solutions are now firmly mainstream, we are moving more and more customer solutions to Dynamics 365 and the analytics solutions into the cloud.
We come from a range of industries. I was previously a head of IT systems and a business intelligence manager in the finance sector. I’ve designed and built data warehouse solutions for the insurance and finance sectors, and have worked with Dynamics CRM building analytics solutions in a number of areas including government, retail and FMCG sectors. Everyone can benefit from a better understanding of their data.
The analytics consultants in our team are experts in the Microsoft Azure cloud, using new technologies such as machine learning and Power BI, but also deeply appreciate how to build a modern data warehouse considering the characteristics of big data, and how to deliver benefit from the hype.
This is how you take advantage of business analytics in the cloud-based business world.
6. What developments and new capabilities should we expect in the next 12 months?
We’ll continue to be focused on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and will continue to develop industry solutions that accelerate business change using cloud-based analytics.
We will be delivering a broad range of capabilities from data strategy and governance to the more traditional aspects of business intelligence including data warehousing. However, our focus will be in advanced analytics where we can use machine learning and other predictive analytics solutions to provide answers about what could happen in the future, and what a business should do with the information to benefit from the data insight.
Strategically taking advantage of data is a long-term journey of over 10-20 years. There’s often a lot of work and foundations to be put in place, before a company is adept. We’re looking to use the cloud to short-cut this process using Microsoft Azure and by offering predictive analytics as a service.
If you have data, we will help you to get some answers.
If you’d like to find out more, or continue the conversation, please get in touch.