2022 in focus: Putting data at the core of Gulf innovation
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2022 in focus: Putting data at the core of Gulf innovation

2022 in focus: Putting data at the core of Gulf innovation

Buffeted on all sides by the forces of digital disruption, businesses are now refocusing their efforts on futureproofing

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Automation has transformed every industry and changed our collective definition of human potential. With the fourth industrial revolution just over the horizon, most organisations will only have one chance to answer the big efficiency question – how can more be delivered from less? Today, we’re at the epicentre of one of the greatest business resets in modern history, with businesses now split into two camps… those who take advantage of digital transformation 2.0, or those who are outcompeted.

Data is the only business commodity that continues to grow exponentially year over year. The volume of data generated in the next three years will exceed that created in the last 30. And with that, data complexity will reach levels we never imagined. As the amount of data increases drastically, the number of specialists capable of transforming data into insights is impeding efforts to deliver business value from data. Far too few qualified data scientists enter the market each year to stymie the torrent of under-utilised data.

Amidst this changing business cycle, new Alteryx-commissioned research into the state of data literacy in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, completed by YouGov, notes that the Gulf is amongst the most well-placed for artificial intelligence (AI) and automation success, with 50 per cent of data workers in the region now able to automate their day-to-day tasks compared to five years ago. Despite this strong progress, we see that inconsistent training remains a blocker.

The research shows that only existing data experts, like data scientists, receive crucial training in effective data work, with the remaining employees left in the dark – a significant risk to long-term output quality. Recognising the challenge, 97 per cent of those surveyed insist on more consistently applied training, stating it should be expanded to all data workers as needed.

In meeting these challenges head on, I predict a number of areas in which businesses and educational establishments will focus on in 2022 to achieve a data-rich future.

Further integrating automation
The reliance on automation is increasing with exponential growth of business data. With the speed at which business happens, people need insights that answer key questions faster to drive improvement. The ability to automate has greatly impacted the speed to insights, and business leaders are no longer satisfied waiting days or weeks for answers they know they need in minutes or hours.

Fast tracking employee upskilling programmes
Ongoing investment in continuous data analytics education is a vital strategy for success. While many businesses are talking about ways to upskill their employees and equip them with the tools they need to deliver analytics for business impact, a recent Alteryx survey found that the majority of workers believe more training in data work would result in better (75 per cent) and faster (69 per cent) decisions. As businesses seek to gain competitive insights and value from their data, they will need to quickly address upskilling needs if they want to keep pace with their market.

Replacing spreadsheets with modern interoperable tools
Businesses will increasingly replace legacy spreadsheets and pivot tables with modern data analytics tools to educate the next generation of knowledge workers. Employees need to show that they can work with data from the prep and blend stages all the way through to analysing the insights.

Further democratising data work through no-code technology
No-code and low-code will simplify and democratise AI – although data scientists will continue to focus on high value problems, the number of people who are able to participate in advanced analytics utilising automation, computer vision, natural language processing, and machine learning will increase. More companies will invest in AI-driven automated insights to complement their existing dashboards.

The new business environment has forced organisations to reshape and empower their knowledge workers even further. Wherever the data comes from, by automating manual, repetitive data-driven processes, workers of all abilities can quickly deliver forward-looking insights to produce better business outcomes, and transform an organization from the ground up. But without the fully trained data workers needed to process it, and without automation integrated throughout a business, complex data will remain perpetually untamed.

Karl Crowther is the regional director – MEA at Alteryx

Read: Alteryx survey highlights the great data disconnect in the region

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