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Carving a competitive future with business intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) adoption in Malaysia continues to move forward with Gartner estimating spend on BI to have reached MYR114.5 million in 2013. As with their counterparts in other countries, Malaysian businesses view BI tools are helping them improve decision making by putting information to better use.
 
One such company at the forefront of helping local and regional companies adopt and utilize BI tool to their potential is Datamicron Systems Sdn Bhd. Data&StorageAsean spoke with Mr. Jimmy Ting Heng Toon, co-founder and managing director of Datamicron on the history of the company and its role in the development of BI and big data in Malaysia.
 
 
DSA: Datamicron is now 12 years old, how have things changed for the company since its founding in 2002?
 
Back when we started Datamicron business intelligence and data warehousing were not commonly understood outside of large enterprises and multinational companies. Big Data, as a concept didn’t exist at the time. It was very challenging trying to convince of the benefits of business intelligence. Over the last 15 years, it’s been an interesting journey.
 
DSA: Has Big Data always a goal for the company?
 
Not really! At the time when we started there was no Big Data and social media wasn’t really prominent at the time until about 10 years ago. Big Data itself has only risen to prominence in the last five years. So during those times, big data wasn’t really a goal for us. But over the years as we saw the interest and opportunities pick up around big data, we decided to join the foray.
 
DSA: Do you find your customers confused between business intelligence and big data?
 
It is very true that today there is a lot of confusion and misconception about what big data is about. Some equate big data primarily to large volumes of structured data. The interpretation is not so clear. Whilst the definition of big data in terms of volume, velocity, variety of type and source is consistent, how this is interpreted by the business, and in some cases, the individual is inconsistent. Some people don’t know what to do with big data. Some are using it only for sentiment analysis for example. Some verticals have started collecting machine data but much of this is for future references with little or no action being undertaken today.
 
In Malaysia, not many organizations are aware of what big data technology is but in many cases they are not actively rolling out big data solutions. I don’t there are many Hadoop installations locally. Many are likely in the initial stages of business intelligence or data warehouse. We are a long way from seeing big data implementations in a meaning full way.
 
 
DSA: What are the real world challenges business people have with regards to understanding big data, separating reality from hype, and discerning what big data means for their business?
 
Business users are keen on big data but they prefer to use packaged solutions that are vertically aligned to their business – easy and fast to deploy.
 
DSA: In Malaysia who are the current users of business intelligence solutions? And will these same users implement Big Data?
 
Within our customer base, BI usage spans across verticals including banks, government, and retailers among others. While some have aspirations to implement big data in the future, the reality is that today, many are still learning to use Business Intelligence and Business Analytics tools. We believe that once they are familiar with the business benefits of BI and BA, we might start to see serious queries for big data. Before that they don’t want to do too many things.
 
DSA: How far are we from big data becoming mainstream in Malaysia? And which industries will likely steer the development of big data locally?
 
I would imagine at least 2 to 3 years away. Certainly the private sector will be keen to implement big data to cut operating costs. Within the government, big data will likely be used to gauge public sentiment analysis prior to implementing new policies.
 
DSA: Can you share some actual big data implementations Datamicron is currently involved in?
 
We have a lot of Proof of Concept implementations on Big Data. We are working on mining unstructured data derived from social media platforms, for example, using existing tools. Some of these POCs revolve around being able to predict outcomes.
 
DSA: What is your suggestion to businesses trying to get a grip on big data for their business?
 
Any organization consideration needs to understand what outcomes they want to achieve with big data. Avoid big bang approach towards implementation. Take measured small steps learning from small implementations and fine tuning as the organization learns from each small step.

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