Expand the SA Information Horizon

Susan Andre Survival Strategy Column

The Dow Jones/Reuters venture, establishing a global service providing proprietary and third-party business information to corporate and professional markets, quoted independent research saying that the corporate information market may be worth $6 billion by 2002.

Do South African companies recognise the business opportunity in servicing their company's information requirements?

This partnership targets business professionals through Internet distribution. The information gathering and dissemination business services a tremendous corporate demand, but South African business people have only started to see the potential benefits to their own businesses.

The basis of analytical business intelligence is a comprehensive data warehouse and the core of any useful data warehousing system is its data.

Data traditionally comes from transactional and other operational systems. The data warehouse has often been used to consolidate information from diverse sources and platforms. The inventory information on that old mainframe system can now be viewed with the sales information and as an information user, you should no longer have to request and wait for special reports.

More questions than answers The initial response to a data warehouse is often positive, but then the glow wears off as everyone finds that they have more questions which are not answered by company data. In trying to respond to global changes, fast moving markets and more demanding customers, it becomes apparent that other data sources must be investigated.

Take the questions, use them to find out where the information is which will give the answers. Managing credit risks calls for information from credit bureaux. These organisations recognise their changing role in the modern business environment and are looking at redefining their services and products. If you need info from them, you should be asking them about it.

Marketing companies provide a wide range of databases and analyst information to help businesses understand product performance and market dynamics. This can be invaluable input into planning campaigns, product development and national and international marketing input into product and customer analysis. Have a look at AC Nielsen's Web site and see what sort of data and services are available. South African companies should also be moving into these services. Added to your data warehouse, this is a valuable additional marketing analysis dimension to support your decisions and the Internet offers a new and efficient channel of distribution.

The JSE, McGregors, I-Net Bridge and Reuters all supply financial data such as currencies, share prices, closing prices, volume, volatilities, bond information, deposit rates and forward rate agreements. Businesses interested in financial risk management are interested in worldwide stock market fluctuations. This data is essential input into risk analysis modelling and the data warehouse provides a well-managed storage base for it, making it accessible to all who need it. Information from the Reserve Bank gives GDP, repo rate and Consumer Price Index data.

Increasingly, participants recognise the need for open exchanges of information between supplier and customer. Joint programs such as loyalty programs need data accumulation from many sources. Also, inventory management and trend analysis is facilitated by customer companies sending stock level and ordering data to valued suppliers. SAPO already publishes postal information but additional subscriber information from other sources like Telkom, the Yellow Pages, MTN and Vodacom broadens existing views of customers and potential customers.

Central Statistical Services provides updated demographics and building statistics. Population details can be important factors when looking at the establishment of new markets, erecting retail outlets and extending services into new areas.

Geographical information systems, which are maintained by the Department of Transport, the Weather Bureau, CSIR and Department of Land Affairs, support planning by transport companies, the leisure industry and event planners.

Some of this data is already available in electronic format, some not. Negotiate with the supplier to get ready access to the information you need, over the Internet where possible.

Today's marketing companies are alert to customer needs and many of them provide generic as well as customised databases. Now you have no need to confine yourself to the traditional sources of information.