Is the Middle East facing a big data skills shortage?
Massive growth in data driven services could leave the region facing a skills crisis.
Revenues for big data and analytics (BDA) in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) totaled $1.98 billion in 2016, according to the latest Worldwide Semiannual Big Data and Analytics Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The company expects the region to see year-on-year growth of 11 percent in 2017 to reach $2.20 billion. The growth is expected to continue over the coming years to reach approximately $3.2 billion in 2020, which represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10 percent over the 2016-20 period.
When it comes to the technologies used in BDA implementations, a large portion of investment is focused on IT and business services followed by software. Indeed, IT and business services alone accounted for 55.1 percent of overall spending.
"This highlights that organisations in the region clearly face challenges in finding skills to support big data and analytics deployments, and rely heavily on partners to support them until the solution goes into production," said Megha Kumar, research director for software at IDC MEA. "Spending on software in the BDA space is focused on solutions for end-user query and reporting and databases."
"Organisations in the region acknowledge the need to leverage data for taking strategic decisions," continues Kumar. "There is a lot of focus around customer analytics and operational analytics to gain insights on customers and improve overall performance. While there is uptake around advanced and predictive workloads, it is very clear that many industries are still struggling to understand the use cases they can leverage within their sector."
In terms of industries, the government sector (both state and federal/local government) was the largest spender on BDA solutions in MEA in 2016, accounting for 20.4 percent of spending. It was followed by the financial sector (19.2 percent) and telecommunications (13.3 percent). Other industries with longer-term potential include manufacturing (both discrete and processed manufacturing), healthcare provider, resource industries, utilities, and transportation.
Industries that have shown very little BDA spending include construction, personal and consumer services, and media. The finance, healthcare, and government are the fastest growing sectors, with all three expected to grow at CAGRs of around 12 percent over the course of the forecast period.
From a geographical perspective, more than 24 percent of the MEA regions BDA investment in 2016 was generated in Saudi Arabia, followed by South Africa and the UAE, with shares of 22.7 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively. Turkey accounted for 15.6 percent share, with the remainder split between the rest of MEA countries.
"As alluded to earlier, BDA adoption in the region is rising with organisations seeking embedded analytics within applications," says Kumar. "Advanced and predictive workloads will give rise to demand for skills such as data scientists."
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”