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These days, a company needs to have its products and services continually available to clients for the highest customer satisfaction, writes LEON WRIGHT, Business Group Lead for the Server and Tools division at Microsoft South Africa.

The expansion of the data universe is occurring at an unprecedented level and pace, being fuelled by an every-growing array of computers, internet of things, gadgets and mobile smart devices. Pew Research has released a report that predicts that there will be 50-billion connected devices by 2025, equating to five devices for every person expected to be alive.

This amplification of data is changing the way in which companies do business, as organisations can no longer afford to only serve their customers during standard business hours within a single time zone or geography. The modern business needs to have its products and services continually available to clients through a series of operational measures ranging from internet presence through to tracking complex worldwide operations for the highest efficiencies and customer satisfaction.

Downtime and limiting access to BI are no longer viable options

The days are numbered for concepts like the maintenance window, during which a company’s services might not be accessible for users (at lease over the web), with IT departments using this opportunity to perform maintenance and system upgrades.

Consumers expect continuous service, whether they are at work or at home, and they are also looking out for access to information and personally tailored user experiences. When a consumer is looking for a particular service or product and cannot access your businesses’ website due to its systems being down, they will head elsewhere to have their needs met.

Beyond embracing back-end solutions that deliver smooth sailing for mission critical services 24/7, 365 days a year, organisations must opt for solutions that support complex data types and non-traditional data sources such as Big Data. This will result in the benefits and advantages of a data-driven culture becoming accessible by many more firms, with a recent IDC report revealing that companies that embrace a data culture stand to realise a 60% return on their data assets.

To effectively establish a data culture at an organisational level and remain competitive in today’s business environment, organisations must open up access to the BI tools. Companies make decisions based upon facts and insights and within the BI space, the desired end goal is to get as much insight from as many sources as possible. So firms need to keep everyone informed, empowered to make the best decisions and able to reach customers with the right information to improve overall customer experiences.

On this front, Microsoft has a leg up on rival data platforms since the company is making Excel the BI tool for everyone, which means supercharging it for data of all sizes with data discovery (Power Query), analysis/models (Power Pivot) and visualization capabilities (Power View, Power Map), while keeping the simplicity of the interface. Retraining isn’t something users need to do when they use the BI capabilities and add-ins for Excel. Microsoft is also making BI more accessible with Power BI for Office 365, which takes BI capabilities to the cloud for collaboration (Power BI sites), mobile BI and new experiences.

Choose wisely when it comes to data platforms

The modern business landscape presents IT departments with Everest-like challenges as they have to balance the impact of data amplification, with declining budgets and complex compliance policies plus government regulation. This balancing act needs to be done with much greater levels of expected uptime, due to competition amongst companies becoming tougher.

Microsoft’s new data platform which includes products like the latest edition of the most widely deployed database in the world, SQL Server 2014, delivers a new standard in enabling mission-critical operations. It does so with true enterprise-class availability, performance, and security features that are built right into the platform’s solutions.

With the introduction of SQL Server 2014 to our new data platform, we’re able to articulate the depth and breadth of what it means to embrace in-memory and how we’re changing boundaries around what’s possible in databases. We have enhanced our in-memory column store to unlock additional performance gains and enable compression benefits. Microsoft has built in-memory into the core database engine, which means users don’t have to rewrite apps to get performance gains, and they don’t have to buy a separate product. Since it is built to run on industry-standard hardware, companies also don’t have to invest in high-end, costlier hardware.

Ultimately, organisations have to choose the right platform that can provide them with a reliable, comprehensive, and integrated back-end solution that assists them in lowering the cost of ownership and manage compliance requirements, all while meeting the demands of the evolving digital world.

Some input:

The Internet Of Things will provide an unprecedented opportunity to get closer to our customers in all there guises, be it connected at work or from a football field with their children or during a workout in a gym. Having ambient intelligence embedded everywhere and constantly feeding information into the cloud is truly a game changer. The key is mining this data and having a unified interface and tools for engaging multiple devices and database formats and accessing all data in the cloud. The correlation of seemingly disconnected and irrelevant data in real-time, will not only present new customers and market opportunities but will catapult these organisations revenue and customer satisfaction. Capturing the opportunity as it is busy unfolding through data, will revolutionise how we engage with our customers.

Looking forward, decision making will take place from multiple sources of traditional and non-traditional data. We are fast heading into a world where the data analyst will no longer exist, and this capability will sit within each of us and the interface to this information will be natural language.

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