In this picture from left to right: Prof Latham, Dr Sarah Riordan and Prof Gideon Maas
Big data, the term for large volumes of data that businesses and organisations have to deal with daily, has become a new buzz word in business. This is to such an extent that the authoritative The Economist (May 6th, 2017) says that "the world's most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data."
It is however not the quantity of data that is central, but what is done with it. With proper analysis, it can provide insights that lead to better decisions and strategic steps.
Speaking to participants of the Executive Development Programme (EDP), presented by USB Executive Development (Pty) Ltd at the Bellville campus, guest speaker Professor John Latham highlighted the importance of data-driven governance.
Prof Latham, Vice-Chancellor and CEO, Coventry University and Extraordinary Professor in the area of enterprise and entrepreneurship at Stellenbosch University, has a background in information technology and telecommunications.
"While large data sets have been used effectively by companies to drive their top line, they have not been effectively utilised for the oversight, planning and risk management of governance," he said. "There should be an agenda of striving towards 'data-driven governance' - to inform, impact and improve policy making and oversight with a view to facilitate holistic oversight."
Using Coventry University in the UK as a case study hailed as "the 3rd happiest university in the UK" by the London Evening Standard, he added: "Whether it is used to analyse growth, risk, or performance, data driven governance delivers meaningful insights from multiple systems, joining the dots to see the larger picture or detailed aspects of a university and environment."
Why data-driven governance? Prof Latham explained: "It supports accountability, transparency and risk management. It goes further and informs sound decisions and provides focus to develop and deliver the corporate plan.
"It also provides opportunities to improve decision making, from insights into historical patterns and trends to the development of predictive models. Furthermore, it helps to navigate tightly resourced and competitive landscapes and embraces technological change in using data-driven approaches to achieve better service outcomes for our customers and other stakeholders.
"It ensures we are able to anticipate change and be responsive to the environment."
A business intelligence approach allows for faster, data-driven decision making through the use of actionable intelligence. It incorporates integrated information, providing a single version of the truth, data visualisation and self-service analytics.
On the future of data-driven governance, Prof Latham said: "We are increasingly able to use our predictive analytics to anticipate demand for our services, or in policy changes and to prepare to meet stakeholders changing needs, informing decisions on what courses and services to offer and how they should be delivered."
As more services become digital and more devices become internet-connected, more data is generated. Embracing big data will enable us to make the right offering for our stakeholders at the right time.
This provides tremendous opportunities to improve decision-making both at a strategic and operational level.