The use of the cloud in the META region has been increasing over the past few years. “We saw an increase in cloud adoption in the region during the pandemic, and it’s still accelerating. Early adopters of the cloud are the private sector and start-ups. However, it’s not all smooth sailing,” says Mohamed Zouari, General Manager – META at Snowflake.
In this interview, Zouari talks about how cloud technology drives sustainability and how challenges with data adoption and data democratisation continue to hamper organisations’ ability to accelerate digital initiatives.
Excerpt from the interview:
Give us your view of cloud adoption in the META region? Which industries are early adopters, and what are the common barriers to adoption?
We saw an increase in cloud adoption in the region during the pandemic, and it’s still accelerating. According to IDC, spending on public cloud services in the META region is forecast to grow 27.3 per cent in 2022 to $6.8 billion. SaaS applications will constitute 41 per cent of public cloud software spending in 2022.
Early adopters of the cloud are the private sector and start-ups. Start-ups, in particular, are capitalising on cloud technologies to enable them to scale faster and compete more effectively with more established players in the market.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing. The public sector is still very much in the regulation phase, and key common barriers to adoption are related to data sovereignty – local data residency is necessary to provide security of sensitive data. There are also the added difficulties of a lack of public cloud providers in key countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
What are the data challenges when adopting new technologies, and how can enterprises ensure their systems are flexible to change?
Data is an essential lifeblood for organisations and one that each organisation needs to capitalise on. According to a study, over 90 per cent of businesses cannot properly succeed in the data economy, with 40 per cent not even having a fully developed data strategy in place.
Challenges with data adoption and data democratisation continue to hamper organisations’ ability to accelerate digital initiatives. Data access should not be siloed to IT teams or data departments. Instead, employees across different departments, such as marketing or sales, should be given access to the data they need to fulfil their jobs and do so seamlessly and securely.
On top of this, we’re also seeing many organisations lack the talent and specialist skills required for data engineering, analytics and science. The world of AI and ML has been growing steadily in recent years, but there is also a high demand for these positions, with a limited number of dedicated employees to meet these roles.
A huge change management program and data culture shift are required to educate and explain the importance and value of data. Organisations need to push for more people to have data in their day-to-day work and to base decisions on data rather than gut feeling.
Historically, organisations have been hampered by legacy technology which has caused data silos whereby each department within an organisation has its data. With the world now being ever more connected and the value placed on data, the concept of data democratisation is evolving. There’s an ambition to be more open, transparent and inclusive of data across an organisation, tackling the past challenges.
Helping this journey, the rise of cloud data platforms is making it much easier to drive data analytics to support key business outcomes and drive new revenue streams. These platforms are more user-friendly, support concurrent users, and can power all a company’s data needs in one platform without requiring several dedicated specialists. This mandate must be issued by the C-suite, such as the CEO, CIO or CDO, so that the culture of data filters throughout the entire organisation.
Is having a single data operations platform addressing a broad spectrum of workloads crucial?
In today’s hyper-connected ecosystem, massive datasets are generated in every interaction. Consumption and usage of data have significantly changed over the years, helping shape new business models and driving a customer-centric approach to transformation. However, most companies struggle to turn data into tangible insights and are stuck in rigid ways of doing business, such as sharing data files via FTP or email.
The main challenge they are facing is data silos. The number of data sources and the amount of data they have to drive their businesses has exploded, but that data is now spread across different departments and environments.
Customers need the flexibility and scalability of a single data platform that can execute multiple workloads with the right velocity and speed to market. They can thus centralise all this data in one single platform rather than having multiple tools to accelerate the speed of insights. This platform can also support data science and data sharing workloads so that organisations can truly mobilise the world’s data.
How is cloud technology driving sustainability?
Boardrooms and shareholders are becoming more acutely aware of the dangers of global climate change, and they are taking action. The cloud is revolutionising the IT industry in many ways in offsetting carbon emissions. According to a report by 451 Research, moving applications to the cloud could compress the energy footprint of a workload to one-fifth of that of running the same workload in on-premises data centres.
On the data side, there are additional meaningful gains by employing a modern, multi-cluster, shared-data architecture built for the cloud. Specifically:
- Eliminating the need to transform and process big data datasets
- Eliminating the need to store multiple forms and copies of the same data
- Compounding the effects of more efficient data centre design and management
Snowflake enables a platform that is powered by the largest cloud hyperscalers such as AWS, Azure and GCP. These cloud providers are also putting great investment in having more eco-friendly solutions to support the organisation’s goals of keeping carbon emissions at a minimum.
Tell us about your Retail Data Cloud and what kind of industry-specific problems can it solve?
Fuelled by the birth of ecommerce, retail experiences are no longer driven solely by-products or in-store customer service. There is greater value in providing enhanced and personalised customer experiences with no matter where or at what stage a customer may engage with a retailer.
The pandemic most notably has been a huge contributing factor in altering society and fuelling new consumer trends and habits, largely through the concept of homebound consumers.
With a large number of the workforce operating from home, retailers have had to adjust their proposition. These include more health-conscious people, purchasing from more sustainable brands fuelled by Gen Z, and the need for super quick access and delivery of products from retail to home to the ever-growing demand for qcommerce. To tap into these trends and ensure retailers are catering for customers — homebound or not – they must effectively harness near real-time data and automation to drive faster, more informed insights.
Data platforms are offering these in abundance but are also enabling retailers to have a full 360-degree view of the supply chain and customer buying cycles. More and more retailers will enrich their first-party data with more expansive third-party datasets encouraging more diverse and accurate retail insights.
Through Snowflake’s Data Cloud, the retail and CPG sector can have a holistic view of all their data in one single platform. From checkouts to online purchases, all data can be processed in near real-time and supported with data science capabilities and technology partners to drive automated and predictive data modelling. Thanks to Snowflake’s Data Marketplace, organisations can build more accurate data models by tapping into a network of over 200 data providers and enhancing their ability to cater for customers. If retailers are to truly keep pace with modern customer habits, then they must also adopt modern data technologies to have a complete view of the retail cycle.
How can teams encourage open access to live and governed data while managing risks?
Data sharing is becoming a competitive advantage for all organisations. Every company needs external data. Internal data only provides a limited view of the business context in which a company operates, and a limited view of its customers. And, most companies today are looking for additional data to complement their own internal data. According to Forrester Research, the vast majority of companies have prioritised initiatives to expand their ability to source external data.
Traditionally, organisations have been stuck in archaic forms of data sharing whether that’s sharing data over email or via FTP. Not only is this cumbersome, but also a massive security risk for organisations. Instead, organisations should capitalise on data sharing in Snowflake’s Data Cloud where organisations can securely and seamlessly access and share data in near real-time.
The benefits of data sharing are numerous and will accelerate organisations to better tap into the cloud:
- Reduced risk: Accessing more data to improve risk models, such as fraud detection. For example, Insurance companies can share risk models and training data to improve detection.
- Improved operational efficiency: Optimise operations with additional data from a broader business context, including location data such as weather, traffic events or other information that would improve understanding of a business context.
- Increased customer satisfaction: Better understanding of customers to provide enhanced customer experiences and products.
- Revenue growth: Data sharing helps companies optimise prices, improve business locations, personalise customer offers and improve their customer experiences. All of these contribute to revenue growth. In addition, building data products and services and either selling back to customers or offering to partners creates new revenue streams, adding to revenue growth.
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