As speculation continues to gather about the outcome of the UK’s Brexit negotiations, the business community remains unclear about what the UK’s impending departure from the European Union will mean for companies next year. Alongside this, digital disruption is shaking up traditional working models, and companies are becoming more aware of the need to make major IT investment decisions, to maintain their competitive edge.

These are uncertain times for business leaders. Against this backdrop, the important role of analytics to drive insights, efficiencies and smarter decision-making could not be clearer, yet many companies are still lagging behind in this area.

 The road to a data strategy

Business intelligence tools play a critical role in helping companies large and small to gain better insights into data. Increasingly these tools and their associated strategies are the cornerstone of good financial data management and essential for delivering accurate planning, reporting and forecasting. It’s time for business leaders to start a serious conversation about their company’s data analytics strategy to prepare for the challenges ahead.

One of the main reasons for this is that data is now everywhere and can be used to power all aspects of the business infrastructure. Across sales, marketing, finance, IT, and procurement to name just a few, data on purchasing, processes, performance and customer preferences is easily available and incredibly valuable when correctly analysed and interpreted.

Big data is now also a big business, with recent research indicating that big data and data analytics will be a key pillar to the future of the UK’s digital economy. The industry is expected to add £241 billion to UK GDP by 2020 as well as creating 157,000 additional jobs, according to official figures from industry body, techUK. Companies have expressed great interest in the technology, but there is still slow progress around implementing more sophisticated programmes.

Progressing in the data journey

Our recent Data Surge Report revealed that three-quarters (72 per cent) of decision makers in UK companies believe their company’s response to big data has been positive, yet only four per cent recognise that managing big data will lead to less administration. However, when asked about the importance of data, 96 per cent of business chiefs said they understood the importance of data for their company’s future.

One of the biggest concerns with implementing data analytics is the fear around effective security and management of sensitive information, despite the fact that these systems are much more secure. This issue is frequently cited by decision-makers as a stumbling block to moving away from inefficient and unsecure – yet trusted – manual reporting systems, often unnecessarily preventing companies from moving forward and making the savings they need.

Still, many organisations remain at a very early stage of development. Many oversee environments where operational reporting from business systems is carried out ad-hoc rather than for strategic purposes. Overall, organisations generally lack defined processes for analytics, performance metrics and decision-making. The system in turn often leads to disconnected decision-making on a localised level, which can inadvertently trigger serious business issues.

At the other end of the scale, fully adept businesses are reaping major benefits from mastering analytics. In these organisations, data is seen as a strategic asset that has the power to generate revenue and sharpen competitive edge. As a result, an organisation at this stage will deploy a full range of analytics and BI applications to support cross-functional and enterprise-wide decision-making. Additionally, companies in this area will start making use of Artificial Intelligence to plan ahead, identifying problems before they can gain a foothold.

The benefits of cloud-based analytics

Increasingly, we’re seeing businesses choose cloud environments to manage critical information and business processes. From an analytics perspective, all the major technology companies are now advocating the cloud approach because it is cheaper, faster and a more efficient way to operate.

There are many other operational reasons why embracing cloud analytics can enable faster decision making. You can say goodbye to reporting bottlenecks, with users able to log-in, edit and update reporting dashboards without sharing passwords and waiting their turn. Information can be collated, visualised and acted upon at the touch of button, instead of at the end of a complex and time-intensive reporting systems. Best of all, cloud environments are super-fast, removing the painful, sluggish on-premise processes that drive decision-makers to distraction when there has been poor investment in IT.

So, as uncertainty continues to grip the business community, it’s more important than ever that companies take decisive action to implement analytics to spot problems before they cause damage to the business. Following the cloud-based route is an effective way to gain all the benefits of data analytics without delays and complications associated with restructuring the IT department. Right now, the future may look stormy, but with cloud analytics you can ensure your future remains bright.