According to a friend I spoke to recently, data scientists are among the most sought after talent in United States today and the same case is happening in Africa.In North Carolina where he works, dozens of companies are looking for such talents.Once described as nothing more than a storage disturbance, the emergence of data being a critical component of a growing business continues to showcase the evolution of IT transitioning between platforms by an increasing number of diverse users and applications. Africa has witnessed how the African end user landscape has started to place emphasis on the need to mine data and where the perception of data has changed from a cost containment view to one that is revenue generating. With that said, Africa is witnessing several key themes recurring within the industry, where African IT executives are beginning to leverage on multiple technologies in driving greater understanding of the market, and providing data internally for better competitive positioning. The emergence of line of business demands for data is forcing many IT departments to relook the data that has been stowed away from many, many years, and to relook at a manner to harness the power of the data sitting on their servers or storage devices. This as a whole is impacting purchasing decisions within end user organisations as well, and the trend of storage spending is starting to increase. I have noted IT officers in the continent are very likely to focus their storage spending in the next 16 months in areas such as archiving, regulatory mandates and business analytics. In essence, these areas mentioned have a huge impact on business continuity, and addresses components of maintaining data, compliance and utilising data for greater business growth.Aside from some of these transformative movements, however, African countries still witnesses a huge chunk of companies not truly grasping the essence of business continuity.
The majority of companies do not understand how much data or how much time they can afford to lose in order for their business to continue running.These challenges are heavily reflected in traditional sectors, where IT is less transformative, more traditional, have more than 90 percent of their budgets kept for keeping the lights on but in an ironic twist of events, business leads are starting to demand more from the organisation’s IT. Without the need to get overly technical, the short version here is that African business leads within these more traditional sectors of manufacturing, retail, wholesale, distribution and the likes have very little understanding on what exactly IT can deliver to them but at the same time, distorted information is causing them to emphasise on it for the sake of being more competitive. So while sectors such as media and communications, as well as banking, finance and insurance continue to be leaders in their respective fields in pushing forth the value of business continuity, also due to existing regulations, the majority of other end user sectors are barely skimming the surface on aspects such as downtime threshold, planned versus unplanned maintenance, and the overall impact downtime could have on their business. Majority of these more traditional sectors in Africa are not exactly consumer facing at all times.The impact downtime can have on a business is extremely broad, but it should be noted that they are both tangible and intangible in nature for both the short and longer term.Understanding the organisation’s most critical processes and data needs is the basic step in developing a plan.After that, elements such as how much data can the business afford to lose, uptime requirement for critical processes and the susceptibility of the operations to disasters have to be evaluated. While there are several business and technical considerations to determine the organisation’s preparedness level, the strategic importance of this would have to be first met by senior management prior to a full fledged implementation. Focusing on critical business processes, and providing cost-effectiveness that reduces overall cost structure and maximising profits is among of the many benefits business can get from good use of their data.