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Slow uptake of BI hurting African companies

Africa , 02 Dec 2015

Slow uptake of BI hurting African companies

The slow pace of adoption of Business Intelligence (BI) and Process Engineering technologies among African businesses has industry analysts and consultants concerned - and the solution is linked to a review of education processes, according to IT professionals.

With the global business environment becoming increasingly competitive, companies are now adopting new methods and technologies to analyse their data and assist them make more informed strategic decisions rather than making assumptions. This is in a bid to stay ahead of the competition, and as a result, concepts like BI and Process Engineering have increased in significance.

However, the uptake of this technology among African businesses and startups has been slow, prompting experts to urge SMEs and even blue chip companies to evolve with time or risk becoming obsolete.

A report by Gartner showed that BI and analytics software revenue in the Middle East and Africa (MENA) totalled $245 million in 2014, a 12% increase from the 2013 figure of $219 million, signalling a slow but steady uptake of BI on the continent.

Experts attribute this sluggish adoption to the lack of knowledge about the existence of BI, a shortage of technical skills and lack of training, as well as reluctance by top management in these businesses to embrace BI.

In Kenya

Speaking from a Kenya point of view, the co-founders of Nairobi-based business consultancy firm, Optimal, Thomas Kaberi and Muchemi Kamuto believe businesses must embrace new methodologies or be left behind.

"We have realised that there is a big difference in how businesses operate in the West and in Kenya," said Kamuto. "In the west, everything is streamlined and very fast, while in Kenya, people are still used to doing things the old way, which is very costly and not as productive."

Despite Kenya being ranked among the important technology hubs on the continent, software products continue to sell more than cloud-based BI solutions, signaling the preference of traditional on-site operation model over the more modern off-site approach.

"We enable clients to figure out the value of each and every activity they do, by using well thought-out scientific methods to come up with expected results," Kaberi said, "Our aim is to help our clients figure out how each and every activity they carry out, in terms of the value it adds to what they do as an organisation.

Kaberi said that it is unfortunate that most companies, startups and multi-billion dollar organisations are yet to adopt these new ways of working, adding that time was due for all employees of a company to align their daily tasks with the organisation's strategy - if they have a strategy.

Wilfred Kaburu, a data management expert at IT firm Labos Technologies, said more needs to be done to ensure companies (startups and established brands alike) take up BI and process engineering, with college education being the starting point.

"I went through four years of university education training to be a mathematician and computer scientist, but unfortunately I came to really appreciate the importance of Business Intelligence once I came into the job market," said Kaburu.

"I think the problem also lies in our education system, as we are training future decision makers for our companies without including the major current trends in the business world, yet we expect them to come out and embrace new concepts like BI," Kaburu added, "We need to stop burying our heads in the sand as a country and a continent, and ensure our syllabuses are reviewed from time-to-time to reflect the current trends in the business world."

Kaburu said that if the education system is reviewed and more BI specialists become more vocal about the advantages of adopting BI and Process Engineering, then the continent will witness an immense growth in business, a reduction in the number of failed startups, and consequently attract more venture capitalists.

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