Business leaders in Singapore and Japan are reportedly eager to prioritize analytics but face challenges in building an effective data pipeline.

A November report on data science and analytics trends has uncovered the impact of these technologies in digitization projects across six of the most digitally advanced countries in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

The 2019 Data and Digitization Report by Alteryx is based on a comprehensive survey of more than 3,028 businesses across Singapore, Japan, the UK, France, Germany and the UAE. 

The findings showed that business leaders in Singapore are currently actively developing their data analytics capabilities. Furthermore, over 57% of Singaporean businesses consider themselves early or mature adopters, with a further 17% in the advanced stages of their data analytics journeys. Similar trends were discerned in Japanese respondents. 

However, technological and cultural challenges still need to be addressed. Nearly one-third of respondents acknowledged that data quality remains a significant challenge to building an effective data pipeline. 

The value-add of data analytics 

In Singapore, businesses agreed that data analytics helped increase productivity (62%), provided more value to deliver deeper insights (48%), helped uncover savings and efficiencies at work (48%) and enabled a better focus on strategic aims by identifying key information in data (47%). 

These benefits were most apparent in the manufacturing and logistics industries, where as many as 71% of respondents acknowledged that data and analytics improved productivity. Business leaders are also seeing benefits across the board, with 70% observing a breakdown in silos in their organization, with 77% agreeing that data is so valuable that it is almost a new currency. 

Professionals working in data and analytics in Singapore are also being recognized for their work. Of the respondents, 40% were given more responsibilities as a result of their success in analytics projects, while 39% were awarded a promotion or pay increase. 

In Japan, the value of data analytics is also recognized by large enterprises. Over three quarters (71%) of professionals in these enterprises (500+ employees), stated that data and analytics have helped fuel productivity, growth and innovation. Also, 77% of professionals in large Japanese enterprises see data at the heart of the business and a critical corporate asset and over half (66%) base their decision making on insights gained from data analytics. 

Opportunities and hurdles 

In Singapore, when asked their top technology priorities to continually modernize their analytic journeys, almost half (47%) of Singapore businesses cited getting more value out of data resources as a priority for the coming year, followed by investment in digital transformation enablers (43%) and focusing on employee’s skills and talent (42%). 

Notwithstanding some challenges in implementation, businesses there still appreciate the future potential of data analytics, with 61% of business leaders agreeing that augmented analytics will power the next wave of disruption. They are open to adopting new tools, and expressed an interest in machine learning & artificial intelligence (34%), predictive analytics & modelling (34%) and data discovery, retrieval and combining from various data stores (30%). 

The majority of Singapore respondents (29%) generally believed that deep learning and machine learning will be the biggest game-changers for analytics in the next five years, though medium-sized businesses (100-249 employees) put more weight on self-service analytics (29%). 

Also, Singapore business leaders also strongly believe that empowering existing employees will be key in their digital transformation, with only 4% in disagreement. In fact, 77% of business leaders believe that everything they are investing in data and analytics will be useless without employees who deeply understand it. 

In Japan, 62% of businesses reported handling and processing data as the technology enabler with the greatest impact on their business, followed by cloud (20%) and data and analytics (18%). Other data cited also show that large enterprises are taking the lead in exploiting data analytics in a big way.  

In sharing the same outlook for the opportunities of data analytics, Singapore and Japan also share many common hurdles. Concerns about data privacy, security and governance posed a significant issue for 32% of Singapore respondents. Another significant challenge is the shortage of trained data workers, particularly for medium-sized businesses of 100-259 employees (37%) and 250-500 employees (31%).

For large enterprises of over 500 employees, the more pressing issue is a shortage of data scientists, with only 35% of all large enterprises maintaining a dedicated team for analytics work. The same shortage of trained workers occurs in Japan. Over three quarters (76%) of the country’s business leaders were not able to break down silos and analytic skills are still kept within a closed group of specialist data scientists in the organization. 

The challenge is made all the more pertinent as data sharing is still not common in some industries across Japan. For instance, two thirds (63%) of those in retail or wholesale, and a further 73% of those in services organizations do not create and share knowledge.  

Furthermore, the biggest data challenges for large Japanese enterprises is the lack of understanding of data science and analytics capabilities (22%). These results indicate that while data is being used in organizations, users do not fully understand what they are working with. Also, close to half (43%) of the respondents from large enterprises have a team to manage their work that involves data science and analytics, but almost half of all respondents from Japan claimed that they do not want to improve on any data skills in the near future. 

Smart investment approach and culture needed

The research report highlights that most businesses in Singapore and Japan are struggling with how to nurture a culture to derive value out of their data. There are also nuances between enterprise size when it comes to building a data analytics culture in both Singapore and Japan.  

Commenting on the findings, Alan Jacobson, chief data and analytics officer at Alteryx, said: “The business case for analytics has truly been acknowledged. While many are still balancing data inefficiencies with the challenge of a shortage of skilled data workers, this latest research underscores that investing in data and analytics technology alone won’t deliver real business-altering results. In order to digitally transform an organization, a smart approach to delivering the right culture that can embrace the change is equally if not more important in achieving success.” 

Alteryx regional vice-president for Asia Pacific and Japan at Alteryx, Celine Siow, added: “There is no doubt that data is key in driving success in the minds of (APAC) business leaders. Every data worker, regardless of technical acumen, wants the ability to easily find and understand what information is at their disposal; have the flexibility to prep, blend, enhance and analyze data from more sources and easily operationalize analytic models through a collaborative and governed platform.”