Paul Morgan, Business Unit Lead – Data, Planning and Analytics at Altron Karabina, unpacks the business benefits of including data warehousing platforms in the transition to the cloud.
The cloud journey of most local companies has centred around the migration of on-premise virtual environments. But with the local Microsoft Azure data centres approaching their one-year anniversary, the business benefits of including data warehousing platforms in this transition can no longer be ignored.
Of course, concerns remain around how to effectively and securely move such a large amount of data into the cloud. Added to this is the complexity of restructuring and rebuilding a data warehouse in this new environment. Some organisations have made the decision to keep their focus on first optimising what they have in the cloud before taking the next step.
But despite this hesitance, the increased popularity of cognitive services might result in a move happening sooner rather than later. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Real-time Data Analytics and other services can be difficult to implement optimally from an on-premise perspective. Local Azure access means businesses can start experimenting with big data environments and implement solutions they would be unable to deliver on-premise.
For example, even though the Microsoft Power BI Service for analytics has been available to local users for years, South African-based data still had to leave the country, even though it was encrypted at all times. Now with Power BI available in-country, this data sovereignty issue has been resolved. This has removed a major compliance concern for South African clients.
Having these capabilities available locally, latency and performance improvements will be significant. Even a basic thing such as refreshing a report happens faster. These time and cost savings quickly add up, bringing a meaningful difference in challenging economic conditions.
Independent vendors are also moving their solutions into the local Azure stack. This gives their local customers the means to access their data faster than ever, adding to the return on investment the cloud can deliver.
Last year saw AI really taking off in the local market, with 2020 poised to see companies starting to unlock value from this technology, using such capabilities as Azure Cognitive Services. To fully benefit from AI, companies will have to ensure their data is accessible to cloud services, where the hyperscale environment can really offer high performance.
However, some organisations are reluctant to push the AI and automation agenda too hard as concerns around the potential for job cuts remain. This is especially the case when it comes to employees who are fulfilling niche functions at the company and feeling threatened by this technology.
But instead of seeing it as something that will replace jobs, people should view AI and automation as the means to augment their capabilities in the workplace. Ideally, once these niche functions are available to everybody in the organisation, the individuals with the specialist knowledge can be transformed into subject matter experts who are enabled to spread their knowledge. By working with a wider view on how employees can add value and improve things for everyone, change will be embraced.
The end result is that humans will be empowered to focus on higher order business thinking, with automation managing the heavy lifting and schlep-work. Yes, it is difficult in a cost-cutting economy to manage both skills development and implementing new technologies, but it will ultimately lead to an enhanced workforce. Throughout all of this will be the cloud that will become the fundamental building block for the digital work environment in South Africa.