Solving the data access riddle to unlock business value


Microsoft South Africa’s Johannes Kanis

Data has proven to be a double-edged sword for modern organisations. It holds the promise of immense value, but requires an intensive investment of time, resources and expertise before that value can be unlocked. Many businesses are struggling to find the right balance and, as a result, are failing to reap the rewards data offers as a differentiator.

“Essentially, an effective data and business strategy requires giving the right decision makers access to the right data and insights so they are enabled to make decisions that will drive the business forward,” says Johannes Kanis, Cloud and Enterprise Business Group lead at Microsoft South Africa.

Central to the ability to do this seamlessly is the need for a broad understanding of the different types of data – such as personal or confidential – and how these tie into different data needs and the data being generated across varying functions and units across the business, as well as the organisation as a whole.

Data security is a major issue and an increasingly important priority for businesses, particularly in the face of compliance requirements…

This understanding needs to be followed by the ability to classify data correctly, to give the right people access to it so that they are able to collect the data that will yield valuable business insights and make decisions tied to the organisation’s overarching data and business strategy.

A critical consideration in accurate data collection and classification to determine accessibility is security, particularly in an age where data breaches are an increasingly common reality. South Africa has also proven to be especially vulnerable to cyberattacks: The country had the third highest number of cybercrime victims globally last year, losing R2.2-billion to these attacks.

“Data security is a major issue and an increasingly important priority for businesses, particularly in the face of compliance requirements around the Protection of Personal Information Act, which came into full effect in July,” says Kanis.

It is clear then that security, access to data – and access control as part of compliance with regulations – need to act as the heartbeat of any organisation’s data management strategy. Data scientists and engineers, as well as key decision makers who need to use the data, should have simplified and secure access to it, but access should be carefully restricted according to who needs it and what they need it for.

Unlocking the power of insights

Navigating this tightrope can be challenging, so it requires the right mix of people, process and technology. Data scientists, enabled by streamlined processes and equipped with the latest solutions that are underpinned by trust and security, are able to access and collect the right data at the right time, and gather the insights that business leaders can use to drive the business forward.

“It is one thing to have access to data, but businesses need the right decision makers to get the insights needed from that data,” says Kanis. These decision makers increasingly look to solutions powered by the cloud and big data analytics to back up and enable their data strategy.

Cloud-scale solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, which Microsoft has now made generally available, bring together data integration, enterprise data warehousing and big data into a single service to help bring key data assets into one place for data engineers, data scientists and business analysts to collect, process and gain continuous, real-time insights.

“Business leaders then have all the information they need at their fingertips, and are equipped to make decisions that have the ability to drive their business forward, no matter what industry they are in or what their unique business challenges are,” says Kanis.

Using the power of the cloud and big data analytics, with AI and machine learning as their building blocks, means that business leaders can also drive agility and scalability according to their business needs and the insights revealed through their data.

“Ultimately, this means that they can begin to extract the insights from data at the front-end for value and experience, and to accelerate digital transformation to drive innovation,” Kanis says.

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