Organisations are still battling to deliver value from their data in a complex environment in which data volumes are growing all the time.

This emerged during a webinar hosted by First Distribution and IBM, in collaboration with ITWeb, where Fatima Dawood, IBM Software Product Manager at First Distribution, and Sheldon Hand, IBM Leader for Data & AI, Automation and Security at IBM Southern Africa, said local organisations were facing numerous challenges in their efforts to enable digital transformation and better leverage their data.

Dawood noted: “IT transformation is a complete reassessment and overhaul of an organisation’s IT systems to improve the efficiency and delivery in a digital economy. The top priorities in IT transformation include process transformation, business model transformation, domain transformation and organisational transformation.”

However, there were common challenges in the way of digital transformation, she said. These include a lack of dedicated IT skills, lack of organisational change management, evolving customer trends, lack of a defined strategy, budget concerns and constraints in ineffective data management.

Hand said: “Being able to leverage, harness and unlock the value of data is a key challenge facing businesses today.

In 2020, an IBM Institute for Business Value survey of CEOs of top companies found that among top leading organisations, 88% are more likely to make strategic decisions that are analytically supported, they are 112% more likely to address unmet needs with new data-driven business models, 178% more likely to outperform their competitors in revenue and profitability, and 148% more likely to make large strategic investments in AI.”

Noting that the likes of Uber and Netflix use data to drive their business, he said: “A few years ago, a large percentage of innovation was in killer apps, now what differentiates companies is their ability to leverage data and insights from data.”

Hand said analyst reports and feedback from communities indicate that customer and consumer expectations continue to rise, driving the emergence of technologies like virtual assistants, chatbots and real-time analytics to deliver a data-centric customer experience.

“But getting to grips with your data is not easy,” he said. “Up to two-thirds of data is dark data – which is never even analysed. Much of the data in organisations is in silos, in unstructured data sources and legacy systems. In many organisations, people are not sure of their data quality, and not enough organisations see data as a strategic business asset, therefore they don’t treat it strategically. A major ongoing challenge is an exponential rise in data volumes – with enterprise data volumes growing at 41% every year.”

Said Hand: “Part of the problem is data architecture – a common reality is that it is tool oriented, delivers little value, and is unnecessarily complex and costly. Organisations are challenged in putting a governance model in place to ensure quality data and provide the right data at the right time to the person who needs it. We’re seeing this problem being exacerbated as organisations move to the cloud.

IBM’s approach to modernisation journeys starts with a plan – the AI Ladder, a systematic, programmatic approach to unlock the value of data by infusing the data with AI. It seeks to understand how data is collected, organised, analysed and then infused throughout the enterprise.”

He outlined how IBM Cloud Pak for Data enables organisations to collect, organise, analyse and infuse data and deploy anywhere, irrespective of where data resides and where it will reside in future; with Red Hat OpenShift to support the migration of data repositories and services.

“The key thing is we don’t want to duplicate effort, so as we deploy these data services, we need to ensure we provide the right levels of security, administration and operations across all of these services, irrespective of the platform being used. We also open our platform via APIs, accelerators and solutions to allow collaboration across technologies. We offer the value and insights of this platform to all the custodians across the organisations, without having to write extensive code, so we provide a variety of ways for people to get value out of the platform,” he said.

“IBM Cloud Paks are focused on four key business outcomes: modernisation, automation, security and the ability to achieve predictability in the business,” Hand said. “We have a Cloud Pak of software focused on these four critical outcomes, with Red Hat OpenShift allowing organisations to build once, run many.”