Technology and Data News and Events

Big Data Analytics

Highlighting the top Big Data Cloud Storage Providers

by Mike Jones 13/05/2020

The most suitable place for most businesses to store their Big Data is within the cloud. Utilising cloud services for data storage and increasingly for analytics means businesses are outsourcing time and effort associated with storing and managing large sets of data. The implications of power consumption, space, infrastructure and security become the responsibility of your cloud service provider, and usually, they are well equipped and prepared to deal with these factors.

An additional benefit of using cloud solutions is the ability to scale. Most plans enable businesses to start off fairly small and then expand the capacity available for storing data as demand continues to increase. Some larger providers offer additional services to manage AI, analytics and other tools without having to shift your data away from the cloud.
analytics, and data visualization needs without your valuable data ever leaving the safety of the cloud.

Amazon Web Services S3

Amazon introduced its first platform-as-service offering in 2006 and created a model for nearly all other cloud storage and computer services provided. The Amazon data lake service referred to as the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and is utilised by millions of customers worldwide. AWS continues to be the leading cloud storage solution for big data services in terms of popularity. AWS generated nearly $10 billion in revenue for Amazon in the last quarter of 2019.

Microsoft Azure Data Lake

A rival competitor to AWS, Microsoft launched its service in 2010 and quickly established a range of tools to enable businesses that operate with large data sets and allow operations to be performed in the cloud. Microsoft has years of experience in managing some of the biggest processing and analytics operations worldwide. Azure’s services include Azure Data Lake which is targeted at managing the businesses with complex data requirements.

Google Cloud Storage

Google’s cloud platform is developed on the same technology that drives its own big-data services such as Youtube and Google Search. It offers a range of storage and data-lake focused services, capable of scaling and managing excessively large amounts of data. Google provides a range of pricing plans applied to different datasets and customers have the ability to choose their storage location. Furthermore, Google’s data storage solutions have generated zero net carbon emissions since 2007.

Oracle Cloud

Oracle’s established database platform is available via the Oracle Cloud service providing a flexible and scalable storage option. The service is regarded for its good security features and real-time encryption of data on the platform. The system uses its own advanced machine learning processes to automate many of the data procedures, reducing potential errors related to manual data entry.

IBM Cloud

IBM provides a range of data lake solutions depending on business requirements. Like most other solutions, IBM offers the option to scale up as you expand and store large volumes of data. IBM provides ‘cognitive’ analytical tools via the Watson AI platform that can be added with the stored data on IBM cloud services.

Alibaba Cloud

While Alibaba may not rival the major leaders in western nations, Alibaba is developing a strong presence. Being the biggest big data cloud service provider in China, the business has a significant customer base across Asia and offers similar analytics, security and AI tool to rival other US-based platforms. Alibaba provides a choice of pay-as-you-go and monthly subscription services. Recent industry reviews suggest the services provided may not meet the offerings in the US and Europe but pricing is viewed as very competitive.

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The challenge for CFO’s: Understanding the new normal

by Mike Jones 13/05/2020

As businesses prepare and deliver new steps for the future, many planning professionals suggest that we shouldn’t expect a return to the past. CFO’s across multiple industries are implementing a number of strategies to ensure their business can continue to survive financially during the downturn. They are also exploring various scenarios of how to progress when restrictions are eased and we begin to emerge from the pandemic. If done correctly, CFOs have the opportunity to position their business for higher success right from the beginning. However, if the right steps are not taken, businesses may struggle to recover from the crisis.

Baxter Orr, the global head of CFO practice for Anaplan recently explained to CFO Dive that it is clear the downturn will end but what is unclear is what the ‘new normal’ will actually look like. A recent report by Gartner revealed that over 60% of CFOs intend to maintain over 5% of their staff working remotely because the downturn has shown the effectiveness of having a segment of people working from home. With better technology and products, remote staff can save money and maintain higher productivity levels.
Alexander Bant, the VP of Gartner’s finance section explains that the majority of CFOs understand that technology and society have transformed to allow remote working to be more feasible for a wider range of positions. The challenge is understanding new ways of working and what methods of engaging with customers will work for businesses and at the same time understanding how the pandemic will transform people’s behaviours for the future.
In reality, there are endless scenarios covering how many of us will go back to work, what safeguards will be implemented and how the working environment will change. In order to answer these questions, we need to avoid looking at previous data that does not accurately represent the period we are in and the times ahead. In a very short space of time industry perspectives have completely transformed, business strategies and people’s behaviours are changing.

Incorporating new data, AI predictive analytics will enable CFO’s to model potential new environments. Predictive analytics, in particular, can provide clearer insights into customers behaviour and business changes. Leading organisations are exploring more useful insights such as what customers are currently talking about and what topics people are researching online. CFOs can use this valuable information to generate models to have a clearer understanding of customer behaviours in the ‘new normal’.

This approach will also support businesses by providing insights into existing customer pipeline. If sales are on the decline, businesses need to ensure their sales team are focusing on the right customers. This means assessing productive leads and customers who are more likely to renew and purchase additional services. CFOs can utilise this information to understand what changes need to be made and to ensure the wider business plan is optimised to deliver higher revenue and reduce ‘unreliable’ customers. Businesses need to consider their pipeline carefully, especially during these next few months. Insightful data can provide clarity on what potential customers are doing and enable you to determine what resources are needed to deliver an effective sales strategy.

Any decision, whether it be for now or to position a business for a post-COVID world isn’t easy. Altering plans can be challenging and mean shifting resources from one area to another but utilising data insights and predictive analytics can streamline and ease the entire process.

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Understanding the finance industry

Understanding the real value of the finance industry

by Mike Jones 06/05/2020

The introduction of innovative new systems and processes has enabled the finance industry to transform in recent years. Finance leaders need to remain focused on evolution and how digital technology and other innovative systems such as predictive analytics and machine learning will influence the industry over the next few years.

For finance leaders to remain competitive and stay ahead of the curve requires innovation and thinking bigger. In order to look at the future, we need to ensure that businesses are capable of meeting the most basic financial processes covering financial consolidation, budgeting, planning, forecasting and reporting.

In recent studies from EY, Accenture and the Modern Finance Forum over 75% of finance leaders intend to be more proactive and aligned with operations and the wider business. Over 70% of finance leaders also would change business in terms of their involvement with innovation and nearly 50% of all respondents believe their current function lack the tools to facilitate the demands of their strategic priorities.

What studies and data like this show is that finance leaders clearly want to be doing more and to be working closely with their business. However, these professionals are limited by the tools and services provided for budgeting, planning and reporting. While they may have been the optimum services in their time, many are simply not sufficient for modern finance practices. Many financial leaders looking to do more simply don’t have the tools to implement the changes they want or are unsure whether they are prepared for the future.

Modern finance leaders are beginning to implement more modern and sophisticated CPM technology to manage today’s challenges. New platforms provide a unified system and modern approach to many of the areas that need covering. Finance teams are provided with a broader scope of functions to enhance financial productivity, allowing teams to allocate more time to working with their partners and focusing on strategic plans.

Implementing a new platform is enabling finance leaders to create a new course for their digital finance future. To support finance leaders in this transition there are five core steps to consider:

Understand your business – collect insights from your business and ensure you really understand their core success metrics and KPIs

Focus on agility within planning and forecasting – implement a dynamic forecasting process and integrated business planning structure that is more agile and adaptive.

Streamlining Financial Close – Where possible, simplify jobs through automation, remove manual tasks, reduce potential errors and include comprehensive audit trails.

Automated Reports – Generate automated reports and shared dashboards for other business representatives to generate a single shared platform.

Focus on Advanced Analytics – Utilise innovative tools such as predictive analytics and scenario analysis to improve collaboration with other business teams and use this information to implement measures that will impact financial results before close.

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OneStream XF Services

OneStream launches Transaction Matching Solution to enhance Account Reconciliations and Financial Close

by Mike Jones 06/05/2020

OneStream, a leading provider of innovative corporate performance management solutions for medium and large businesses has released a new transaction matching solution that can accelerate account reconciliations and reduce the financial close process.

OneStream Transaction Matching enables businesses to gather and combine large transaction sets from various sources and quickly select and assess anomalies to deliver efficient period-end balances much quicker than by using external tools or traditional spreadsheets.

Tom Shea, the CEO of OneStream Software explains how time-consuming account reconciliation and transaction matching can be, especially when being applied across a range of systems and a number of accounts. Shea highlights that OneStream Transaction Matching will replace spreadsheets and other external solutions, allowing customers to improve the matching and account reconciliation process. Shea points to a number of early users that have experienced considerable savings in time by implementing the transaction matching process far quicker, generating quicker results and more accurate financial reporting.

The new system supports the OneStream Account Reconciliation solution, both of which are available on the wider OneStream XF MarketPlace. Both offer complete supported solutions, available on-premise or in the cloud, enabling end-users to manage their processes from an office or remotely.
OneStream Transaction Matching enables businesses to match transactional-level details from a range of sources through a simple, rules-based approach that selects and measures variances in transaction data. The system will replace manual systems and the use of spreadsheets, tools that tend to extend the period-end reconciliation process and can delay financial close. A lack of accurate transaction matching and account reconciliation can lead to reporting issues or potential undue write-offs which have a detrimental impact on income statements and balance sheets for business.

Developed on the OneStream XF Platform, OneStream Transaction Matching removes the added licence costs and maintenance of external products and combines the existing data quality tools of the platform for the generation and matching large data sets.

The Transaction Matching service streamlines account reconciliations and the overall financial close process by matching transactions within the entire business. West Bend Mutual Insurance is currently using the Transaction Matching system to support their claims. The new process involves measuring direct payments and daily reconciliation, instead of waiting until month-end. By implementing daily matching of transactions manually through Excel would be far too time-consuming for the business. The transaction matching service enables the business to automate most of the process and save significant time and effort.

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Cloud Business Intelligence – A strong combination for 2020

by Mike Jones 29/04/2020

All businesses, big or small need to focus on enhancing their processes and determine critical plans to generate higher value. Business intelligence will enable these processes to happen more effectively, allowing people to gather the right information, in the correct format and at the right time. Alongside this necessity, the improvements in technology mean cloud computing is accelerating its position from being a business feature to a necessity.

Cloud-based services have accelerated their position within many industries with SaaS tools such as Salesforce and Hubspot providing integrated software options for marketing and sales teams. Other file hosting providers like Dropbox and Google Drive have transformed how people share and work together on various projects. In the earlier days, cloud-based business knowledge was utilised by smaller businesses that lacked the financial support to manage costly BI services. However, cloud BI has begun to emerge as a standard for organisations of all sizes looking to embrace cloud computing for their own individual business intelligence plans.

Cloud BI tools transform how businesses approach data analysis. With a large number of analytical tools now available, businesses can become more information-focused in terms of the strategy and decision-making process. The BI and Data Management in the Cloud Issues and Trends study states that the use of Cloud BI has increased from 29% to 43% between 2013 and 2016 and approximately half of the businesses in the study are moving towards public cloud systems for cloud BI, analytics and data management.

Cloud-based BI combines two effective technologies for businesses. Cloud computing provides an ideal platform to support BI services when organisations need to generate a wide range of information from a number of sources at any time and from anywhere. With the potential to adapt and scale on the cloud, it provides an ideal solution for business intelligence plans. The 2020 Cloud Computing and BI Market Study by Dresner Advisory Services shows a significant uptake of Cloud BI and expects the adoption of these services to continue improving.

The study showed that nearly 90% of R&D offices believe Cloud BI to be an important tool for current and future activities. Most senior and executive management teams perceive Cloud BI as a critical part of delivering their ongoing plans and strategies. The rise of Covid-19 has accelerated the uptake of cloud-based platforms to a level beyond expectation. With distancing and remote work measures in place, Cloud BI has become an important element in a number of services. Business Intelligence focuses on determining better choices for individuals, information, processes and strategies. BI generates intelligent reports, improves business efficiency, lower operational overheads and enhances the delivery of intelligent business insights.

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Zoom Video Communications

Oracle selected by Zoom as Cloud Infrastructure Provider for its Online Video Service

by Mike Jones 29/04/2020

Oracle has announced that they have been selected by Zoom Video Communications to support their growth and further development plans. The leading video communications business continues to innovate and provides a vital service to many businesses worldwide.

Eric S. Yuan, the CEO of Zoom explains that they have experienced the most significant growth in their history, resulting in a considerable rise in a service capacity. Yuan highlights that Zoom has researched several platforms and believes Oracle Cloud Infrastructure has proven essential in enabling them to continue scaling at a rate to meet rising capacity demands of existing and new users. Yuan states that Oracle Cloud Infrastructure was selected because of its reputation for rivalled security, performance and its unmatched support offering.

Zoom has experienced a surge in customers rising to 300 million daily, resulting in a significant demand for additional cloud capacity. Within hours of deployment, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure was capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of zoom meeting participants. After complete production, Zoom is now providing millions of simultaneous meetings on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Oracle’s second-generation cloud infrastructure will enable Zoom to continue scaling and delivering unmatched and efficient service to its customers and be capable of adapting to changes in demands.

Safra Catz, the CEO of Oracle explains that video communication has quickly become a critical part of both professional and personal lives, and he believes Zoom has led innovation in the industry. Catz highlights how proud they are to be selecting and now working with Zoom as their key cloud infrastructure provider and as a customer, while they continue to expand and connect with people and businesses worldwide.

Oracle is in a great position to support the expansion of Zoom and its innovative video communications services due to its network technology, capacity and locations of data centres. Zoom is currently transferring in excess of 7 petabytes through the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure servers on a daily basis. This is the equivalent of over 90 years of HD video content! Oracle’s innovative cloud infrastructure, combined with unmatched security will enable zoom to continue delivering a leading video communication experience.

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Financial reporting in the cloud

SAP – The time for upskilling and retraining your workforce is now

by Mike Jones 21/04/2020

The pandemic has generated an abrupt and significant transformation and change unlike any of us have experienced before. Global restriction and measures have reshaped how we live our lives and how we work. As a consequence, we have needed to adapt quickly to address these measures and transform our working routine.

Many businesses and employees are finding it difficult to adapt to the measures and the sheer pace of change. Organisations are exploring new methods of revenue generation and ways to reduce overheads which have meant many employees are taking on new tasks, increasing responsibilities or being transferred to operate with other business members. All of which is happening through social distancing measures, with the large majority of the global workforce now working remotely.

Many industry leaders believe that business development during this challenging period will largely depend on the ability to reskill and train a workforce. Focusing on skills gaps should be viewed as a necessity, with studies clearly showing that the skills gap is largely common in many businesses. 

SAP has acknowledged this urgent need and has launched an extended trial offering to its SAP Content Stream by Skillsoft. The trial includes content covering business essentials, productivity, leadership and new digital technology. SAP Content Stream will enable businesses to learn and practice remotely and allow employees to continue learning the skills they require to support their business and their careers.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty concerning the future, it is quite clear that things will continue to change fairly rapidly, which means retraining and reskilling employees should only become more important. New digital technology is transforming the business landscape and as millions of people adjust to new duties in a new environment, it is essential that organisations integrate new tools and technologies to improve employee capabilities for now and the years to come.

The impacts of the pandemic will likely result in businesses having to do more with fewer resources. Redeploying skills is one technique, which requires businesses to define critical roles and skills and the employees who can offer support. Generating a skills gap analysis is important to effectively measure any employee retraining plans and enhance overall productivity.

The crisis shows that long-term progression is heavily reliant on agility, resilience and being open to learning and new tools. Businesses that apply a culture of continued learning will enable their workforce to meet their own learning requirements and ensure their business can succeed in the long-term.

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Big Data Analytics Jobs

The importance of analytics, data and industry expertise

by Mike Jones 21/04/2020

In a recent briefing, Andrew Cuomo the Governor of New York states that future decisions will be supported by data, expertise and science. New York is one region that has been severely affected by the pandemic and now more than ever needs a clear and effective strategy to tackle the current situation. 

A report by MIT refers to as ‘How to Make Better Decisions About Coronavirus’ explains that implementing strategies based on emotion-driven beliefs may guide people towards ineffective decision making. The report states that whatever our beliefs or opinions may be, we are better to determine plans based on a combination of data, expertise and science.

Industries need to acknowledge the situation and ensure businesses are equipped and capable of managing other scenarios like this in the future. How can businesses learn from the challenges and deliver strategies to be better prepared and more resilient? Will we be capable of returning to complete normality or will a new normal be created and cause businesses to radically transform? In the space of a month or so, we have witnessed a surge in unemployment, drastic reductions in investment and considerable changes in how businesses perform their day to day activities. 

Data has become a necessity during this period and not only to data professionals. Many people from all societies are digesting data to understand and gain further clarity on the situation and to try and decipher what the future may hold. Under these circumstances data is critical in driving the decisions our leaders will make and the potential risks we may take. For example, do regions start to ease restrictions and open certain establishments? Will business activities return and do we need to implement social distancing rules for an extended period of time? Data, analytics and industry expertise will play a vital role in answering these critical questions. In terms of the wider data industry, there will be many questions in how data, analytics and expertise can be utilised to its best to deliver economic and social benefits. The industry will need to learn from this period and adapt and transform for the future, incorporating innovative techniques such as artificial intelligence and automation.

It’s still too early to say but the businesses that do emerge from this situation in a stronger position will be the ones that have clearly demonstrated a flexible and adaptive approach. These organisations are likely to be the ones that are data-dependent, capable of reacting quickly to market changes and harnessing new opportunities formulated form data and analytics.

The existing opportunity for the data industry is significant. In times of crisis and stages of transition, businesses that adapt quickly will harness the advantages. In today’s times, data, analytics and expertise are hugely important and could be the difference between companies that continue to prosper and those that get hit by the economic and social challenges we face right now.

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Data and Analytics in the finance industry

Navigating businesses with data analytics in challenging times

by Mike Jones 15/04/2020

Analytics has been heavily involved in studies and work against the global pandemic. Many policies, plans and strategic decisions have been formed off the back of epidemiology models developed to measure and quantify the spread of infections within communities.

Countries are starting to discuss the next stages of the pandemic, the aftermath and the impact on the economy. The question is how can analytics support businesses in moving forward over the coming months once the pandemic begins to ease?

Data analytics has been particularly useful in determining viral spreads, influencing and redefining public policies based on clear trends and patterns. As more data is collected and predictions continue to improve, governments will be left with difficult decisions in determining when to ease social distancing restrictions and when to allow businesses to start trading again. From an economical perspective, countries are keen to ease restrictions and enable some normality to return, but the reality is that we need to take a very cautious approach before commencing any lifting of the enforced measures.

The economic impact of the pandemic has become a major focus of global media and as many countries extend their measures, people are concerned about the implications on the economy. For example, the United States has experienced a significant spike in unemployment, with millions of claims being made in the last few weeks. 

It is difficult to determine and forecast how we will respond to the pandemic once certain restrictions are lifted. Will people return to their normal behaviours or will we naturally avoid larger gatherings and events? Will businesses continue to utilise remote services and will customers buying patterns return to traditional trends as before the rise of COVID-19?

There are very few historical patterns to answer these questions or to measure these potential scenarios. 

Business leaders need to utilise analytics to create solutions and think creatively about the next steps. Analytics can provide vital information on what is driving demand, how profit potential can be improved and understanding performance across an entire business.

The data and models generated by epidemiologists are critical in creating varied scenarios and being prepared for the next stages and consequences of the pandemic. Businesses should use the tools available to them to manage the short-term risks to their business and creatively determine the best position for their business post-COVID-19.

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Future

Increased focus on AI and big data despite general decline in industry spending

by Mike Jones 15/04/2020

Global expenditure in the IT industry is predicted to decline by nearly 4% by the end of this year according to research by IDC. Leading software companies like SAP and Microsoft intend to focus on emerging technologies to become more efficient and relevant to current industry changes.

Software companies are accelerating their attention towards in-demand technologies and innovative tools to support their clients in response to the challenging times we are experiencing and a continued reduction in technology investment.

According to research consultancy IDC, the uptake of big data and artificial intelligence is anticipated to rise despite global spending in IT due to drop by nearly 4% this year. Leading software companies like SAP and Microsoft are making preparation to utilise emerging technologies to add further value to their customers. IBM has launched its own AI platform on the public cloud, making it available free of charge for 90 days. It helps customers understand and answer questions concerning COVID-19. Anil Bhasker, the business unit leader at IBM South Asia and India explains that businesses are experiencing significant impacts from the pandemic but the larger established businesses are using this time to recreate their approach, particularly towards analytics.

Bhasker explains that data science teams are being called upon to measure information to create the most effective business models based on informed and trusted data sets. Enterprises are utilising the benefits of emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and natural language processing to deliver predictive models for their customers.

Many other industries are showing high demand for AI and ML-based analytics to enhance and automate their communications and decision-making processes.

Last month SAP launched a range of solutions to support companies with business continuity. This includes SAP Litmos, a remote training tool and SAP Ariba Discovery, a product that offers support for suppliers and buyers for sourcing requirements. Microsoft has also recently launched a number of new AI features to Office 365 and rebranded its system as Microsoft 365. The strategy is focused on incorporating intelligent cloud and AI into its services.

IDC has stated that the COVID-19 crisis is definitely a challenge but also an opportunity for IT companies to develop and enhance their capabilities within AI and big data. IDC explains that businesses should embrace AI and see the opportunities available with emerging technologies, particularly within these challenging times.

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