This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Record.
The emergence of analytic technologies has had a radical effect on companies in most sectors. Being able to deduce what is happening within your company and act accordingly has now become vital to modern business success.
Chris Braisby, practice director at Columbus, and Martin Clothier, technical director at Columbus, identify two dominant roles analytics is playing – both beneficial to the business, but different in nature.
“There’s the cost reduction and outgoings perspective, where companies can modify and streamline their practices,” Braisby explains. “Then there’s the side that sees the use of big data and analytics to increase sales revenue and enhance business processes. This can be achieved through a greater awareness and understanding of not just what a customer wants, but when they want it, and having an up to the minute response.”
Predictive maintenance is another area of note, with some Columbus customers connecting machines using internet of things technologies.
“We’re connecting those machines up so we can crunch massive amounts of data and see when a certain part is failing or not operating 100% efficiently,” says Clothier. “We can get a service engineer out there, prevent downtime, and keep production efficiencies up for those customers. That’s an additional service that allows customers to have an additional competitive advantage.”
Columbus is working closely with Microsoft, and helping customers move data to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
“There’s an opportunity to take the large data sets within our customer base, and modernise those into the cloud using the Microsoft platform,” Braisby says. “By putting it in the cloud with the SQL Azure service, then manipulating it using tools like Azure Machine Learning, trends and patterns within the data can be identified and customers can start to learn from it. They can also use actionable visualisations using tools like Power BI.”
Clothier explains that Columbus can define the customer business case and values and help them get set up using the best Microsoft technologies for their needs.
“Microsoft provides the technology platform while we have strong business relationships and are carrying out big business change projects with some very large organisations,” he says. “Everybody’s thinking about this space, and most are saying ‘what does it mean for us? How do we buy it?’ I think going forward, there will be a scenario of embrace it or die. If you don’t do it, your competition almost definitely will be.”