The science and art of Business intelligence – eCEOs strategy

Founded in 2007 Bumiputera MSC-status company eCEOs specialises in project management consulting and business intelligence, with presence in Indonesia, Mauritius, Iraq, Sudan, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands. Founder and CEO, Jailani Mustafa drew his inspiration for the company name eCEOs around the concept of virtualizing business process and project management. Over the years the company has developed a strong reputation within the oil and gas, telecommunications, government and the public sectors.
The company’s 120 employees come from eight nationalities and are grouped into three different departments: business development and strategic alliance, project management and software engineering. Change management is popular among organizations going through restructuring. He also observed a strong demand for change management in the region.
According to Mustafa business intelligence remains a growth market particularly in the public sector where managers and heads of departments are looking to make better cost-effective decision-making through technology and process innovation. At the same time, he feels a sense of disappointment that progress towards use of BI tools as a tool for solving complex business problems has remained slow.
DSA: What is hindering the wider adoption of business intelligence in Malaysia today?
Personally I feel that Malaysia is 10 years behind others in adopting these technologies and this is due to a general lack of appreciation and conviction at the leadership level; both in the government and private sector. The leaders are at these industries at these technologies as optional "technology toys" rather than as mandatory tools to help them make better decision making. The word ‘solution’ is not generally equated to it because they just don’t see the true value of BI tools outside of report generation.
DSA: In terms of adoption and usage locally, how has business intelligence change in three past five years?
We don't see that much change. I would say that at this stage it hasn't reached the level of sophistication I would expect. Senior management, in general, are still relying on excel-based reports – very traditional type of reports usually delivered to them by others within the organization. This lack of hands-on experience, for example initiating your own data queries, means you don’t develop direct appreciation for what BI can do outside of generating reports.
DSA: Are local businesses receptive towards BI tools?
I would say it’s ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Some customers have gone through various implementations of BI and there is a sense of scepticism in terms of the benefits of the technology. You have to understand that many are business executives of limited technology background. Some may have developed a high degree of expectations (perhaps brought about by media, analysts and vendors hyping technology) as to what BI tools can deliver particularly with access to real time data analysis. Many do not understand that for true real-time data analysis to be possible a lot of integration with various data sources needs to happen first. And unfortunately, this is not always the case.
This has resulted in a backlash of unmet expectations creating unnecessary resistance towards the further adoption of BI across a wider cross-section of businesses.
DSA: Business intelligence is predicted as a driver for Big Data adoption. Do you agree with this assessment, and why do you think this is so?
Yes. By definition big data is a natural extension of BI. What we have observed is that organizations that are successfully using BI tools generally desire to gain access to greater volumes of data, at high speed, various types of data as well as from different sources. At that stage they become receptive to consider new forms of processing information to enable better and faster decision-making, insight discovery and process optimization.
Are Big Data and Business Intelligence mutually exclusive?  According to some definitions (e.g., Gartner) yes.  But we consider them as the same technology domain.  In our company, Big Data is managed by our BI service line.
DSA: Malaysia remains behind in terms of business intelligence and big data adoption compared to its more mature neighbours. What needs to happen for this to change? Who should spear head it? 
Big Data needs to be appreciated beyond CIO fraternity. The CEO, the CFO, business and organizational leaders need to take ownership of Big Data initiatives.  They must say Big Data is “our baby”.
DSA: What is eCEOs key differentiator when it comes to business intelligence? Likewise what is the company's differentiator when it comes to big data? 
We see BI as a marriage of arts and science.  The science part is to how to extract and process data efficiently.  The arts part is how to give the WOW effect.  We believe we can put the two together better than our competitors.  We are new in Big Data, yes, but I am confident we will be good at it very soon.

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