How African businesses can handle Big Data

June 17, 2014

For most businesses in Africa, Big Data has been treated as just the amount of data that idling on some data storage device within and or outside of the company premises. In developed IT countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya they are either structured or unstructured data located in one and the same storage device. In countries like Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania the trend is that they are either structured or unstructured data stored on smaller devices spread all over the company’s network across their physical and geographical locations. What companies are ignoring is that in reality Big Data is also the data that is not directly linked to or owned by your company, such as data exchanged and collected through social networking using Internet and also on mobile-phone applications. The basic characteristic of Big Data is that it is a fast growing and changing accumulation of raw data, neither sorted nor consolidated by any means. African business needs to know what they want to know. What information do business needs in order to monitor their business and make the right decision and they need to emphasize the importance of leading indicators versus lagging indicators.

For those unaware, Lagging indicators can tell what happened yesterday, last week, last month and last year. While it is always good to know how a business performed in the past, lagging indicators are a set of historical data and don’t help businesses much when making decisions for the future. Ensuring business has leading indicators as possible allow to foresee problem and act on them before it is too late. Businesses in Africa also need to be aware that one dashboard does not fit all users. There is no way a Managing Director will require the same information as the Risk assessment manager, and the Marketing manager will ask for a different set of information to enable taking the right actions, while a Finance manager again looks at different information. And that is why solution should not simply be delegated to the IT department. The different user groups need to very clearly define their requirements before IT can identify the solution that fits the business and then implement it. Recent research shows that defining the requirements can take up to more than three quarter of African business project’s time and cost. Today’s technology allows business to have all information on one screen, no matter whether it is a PC, notebook, tablet or mobile phone and that is one area where businesses in African should concentrate.

Contador Harrison