Leveraging real-time data – the next phase of digital transformation

Trying times and diligent transformation is fast shaping a future that will be written in real time. A decade ago, all talk was about cloud and modernisation; how organisations need to digitalise operations and/or move to the cloud for better infrastructure that would improve business capabilities. Fast-forward to 2022 and digital transformation is seen as the high point in the annals of technology history.

Today, it’s no longer just about adopting technology to improve business processes. The focus and priority have dramatically shifted towards activating data to drive actions in real time.

During the COVID-19 lockdown period, customer interaction radically changed to online consumption and financial transactions fueled by a massive infusion of mobile devices. This triggered the rise of what we now know as ‘digital-first’ customers. Digital-first customers expect nothing less than in-the-moment experiences via omnichannel interactions for products or services.

In its 2022 Digital Trends: APAC in Focus report, Adobe found that 77% of businesses in Asia-Pacific have experienced a new surge of customers in digital channels during the past 18 months. However, only 25% of businesses have the technology to tap into the insights of this new wave of digital-first customers.

Enterprises that were already at a good level of digitalisation to deliver these kinds of experiences fared well, while those that didn’t faced numerous challenges. For enterprises to gain a competitive advantage, delivering real-time customer experiences and capabilities is non-negotiable. Anything less and the prospect of losing mindshare, eroding brand equity, and descending into irrelevance becomes a possibility.

Why the struggle with data?

Before charting the course to real-time data success, it’s important for enterprises to understand why activating data in real time has been tough even when they have endless streams of data at their disposal. Many enterprises are challenged by the complexities of unifying their data. Whether it’s due to organisational structures, operational policies, internal politics, or simply because of circumstances like M&A, data is often stored in silos and strewn across an organisation in disparate systems.

When these silos don’t interact with one another or do so in a convoluted and archaic manner, data can’t be accessed at speed and scale, preventing enterprises from unlocking the value and intelligence trapped in their data. This inevitably creates hurdles in building real-time capabilities, operational agility, and a better customer experience. Over the last few years, hundreds of companies have gone through digital transformation, yet many still struggle to use their data in new ways and become data-driven enterprises.

Much of this is down to continuous reliance on legacy technologies, which are monolithic data architecture built on relational databases. These databases are more focused on data storage optimisation rather than data performance. However, with today’s deluge of data and the heavy pressure of modern workloads to accommodate, traditional models can no longer cope with the complexity and volume of data, as well as the associated scale up costs.

Monolithic data architectures have proven to be slow, difficult to scale, and susceptible to failures, and these can hamper developer productivity. Enterprises that win with their data and drive profitable growth are those that have deployed modern data architectures that consolidate and transform vast amounts of data into real-time insights and compelling in-the-moment digital experience for customers.

A McKinsey study found that personalisation can drive up to 15% growth in revenue, which means greater returns for businesses that become adept at applying data to grow insight into their customers. In the recent State of the Data Race 2022 survey of more than 500 CIOs and technology practitioners, about 71% of all respondents agree that they can tie their revenue growth directly to real-time data, while 78% acknowledge that real-time data is now a “must-have”, and no longer a “nice to have”.

Turning into a data-driven leader   

We are now in the age of data, but for many Indian enterprises, data remains their most under-leveraged, high-value asset. Business leaders recognise yet struggle to make the most of it due to their inability to eliminate data silos. Whether stored in public or private clouds, or on-premises, siloed data often has the tendency to become redundant. The key to unlocking the value of this data is the ability to unify it, process it, and swiftly use it to deliver business intelligence and agility internally while delivering instantaneous experiences to customers.

According to IDC, 30% of data generated by 2025 will be in real time. Likewise, 40% of spending on data capture and data movement technologies in Asia-Pacific will be focused on streaming data pipelines and enabling the next generation of real-time simulation, optimisation, and newfound capabilities to extract data insights.

The concept of real-time data is not new. It can be dated back to the early 2000s but the right technology to drive real-time actions was lacking. Today, we have technology building blocks to help enterprises build apps that power user experiences, drive critical processes, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction and revenue. Then there are providers who can put together this solution for businesses, while the business is focused on serving its customers.

As customer behaviour and actions are critical for enterprises to deliver on expectations, a best-of-breed streaming and messaging platform is an equally important part of the stack to connect analytic data and operational data. This enables enterprises to capture data in motion and make it visible to all applications to deliver action when it matters. Enterprises will also need to provide their developers with an API framework that is designed to support multiple development tools and data models — enabling developers to focus on building applications using their favourite dev tools instead of worrying about accessing and writing to the datastore.

With the right data stack in place, enterprises can embark on a data journey designed to innovate and grow their business with speed and agility, improve customer experience, and gain competitive advantage as a real-time data-driven enterprise.