How Cloudera uses AI to benefit communities and businesses

Cloudera’s Regional Vice President, James Johnston on the value of data, the company’s recent survey into AI and how data can help with sustainability

Tell me about Cloudera, your role and your responsibilities.

In 2020 I joined Cloudera as Regional Vice President. I’m responsible for revenue growth within the Northern EMEA and Israel region and building high-performing teams that empower our customers to digitalise their businesses. My passion is partnering with forward-thinking enterprises to realise the potential of technologies such as the cloud, AI and ML by helping them to successfully interrogate data to enable actionable and innovative insights. 

Why do you think data is such a valuable business tool?

Companies are continually generating vast amounts of data and increasingly are focused on refining their data strategy, especially as data is becoming an invaluable intellectual property. However, what we’re seeing is that most organisations are not leveraging the digital opportunities to integrate the data that they have to full effect — which is precisely where the value lies. When tapped into correctly, and managed in a way that enables data across the business to be accessed and analysed, organisations have a huge opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and overall profitability in a way that is simply not possible to achieve without data. Historical data insights, combined with real-time feeds, can also enable organisations to predict new business opportunities and accurately identify the areas of growth that otherwise would be left undiscovered.

How can data and technology help retain staff?

In the current climate, over two-thirds (67%) of businesses are struggling to hire for growth or even to replace existing staff. Faced with fierce competition, leveraging data and technology can play an important role in helping employers retain staff – if used in the right way. This is especially important when it comes to using data to make more sustainable business decisions. Increasingly employees are not just expecting but demanding businesses act more sustainably, and failure to do so means risking losing out on talent. 

Both business decision-makers and knowledge workers believe that at least 50% of the data their company uses on a day-to-day basis should be used for doing good for the communities it serves. What’s more, employees believe that a lack of data use for sustainable business decisions will result in the loss of employees. In fact, 34% of business decision-makers and 27% of knowledge workers believe employees would leave the business if it did not use its data to make more sustainable business decisions in the next 36 months.

In what ways can AI be used to benefit the communities businesses serve?

According to a recent Cloudera study — Limitless: The Positive Power of AI — over half of business decision-makers (52%) say their company is already taking action and using data to support the communities they serve and 95% believe that AI can be employed to some or a great extent to create more sustainable business practices. For example, Discovery Health, the leading medical scheme administrator in South Africa, recognised that it could effectively use the data it collects — which includes fitness device data, including vital statistics such as heart rate, sleeping patterns, and fitness activity — to help identify clients who might be at a higher risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19, ultimately allowing them to take proactive, preventative measures and help to improve overall health. 

Working with Cloudera’s data platform, machine learning and AI capabilities, Discovery Health could gather insights as to what new factors could affect an increased chance of hospitalisation. These were additional to the commonly known factors for COVID-19, such as old age and known, underlying health conditions. Armed with the information on what new factors could affect an increased chance of hospitalisation, Discovery Health could successfully determine what measures could be taken to reduce the chances, for example using a pulse oximeter device. As a result, Discovery Health identified an incredible 48% reduction in mortality risk for patients who received a pulse oximeter. Using the combination of technologies from Cloudera and data from Discovery Health, the organisation identified 20,000 additional members as high risk, compared with the standard clinical rules-based classification. 

How can big data help achieve sustainable business decisions? 

Sustainable business decisions can be reached using big data via predictive analytics. This is because these kinds of analytics can be applied to the data collected to enable congestion flow, predictive maintenance for minimising engineering failure and fraud analytics. Using predictive analytics businesses can therefore significantly reduce resources and energy spent on failures, risk mitigation for uptime, and avoid unnecessary costs, while also boosting sustainability both within the business and beyond. 

Armed with big data, and the right predictive analytics tools, businesses can better understand the entire end-to-end impact of their decision making, throughout the value chain, and ultimately strive to be as sustainable as possible. This includes looking at what is happening beyond the business such as how waste is managed, employee travel, raw material and suppliers.

The use of these analytics also comes at an important moment in time as, according to Cloudera’s recent study — Limitless: The Positive Power of AI — it is clear that leveraging technology to generate profit is no longer enough. 63% of knowledge workers and 68% of business decision-makers now believe there’s a distinct need for businesses to use their data for the good of communities and not just to generate profits. With this in mind, maximising on big data and AI to make more sustainable business decisions will be a key aspect of future competitiveness.  

How does Cloudera help with all of this? What can we expect from the company next?

There is a mass amount of unstructured and structured data in the marketplace that resides both on-premise and in the cloud. This creates a huge challenge for businesses in terms of being able to effectively tap into the right data to make the best decisions. In addition to this, data silos are a big problem for businesses. When data sits in separate areas of the business, organisations waste huge amounts of resources, severely limit data insights, and undermine customer satisfaction. This is where Cloudera is uniquely positioned to ensure data is not siloed and enable businesses to leverage the data pools to make more informed decisions. 

Organisations are continuing to develop their data strategy, overcome the complexities of the digital value chain and institutions such as governments are refining their regulatory frameworks. As they do so, businesses will need the flexibility to move use cases to cloud, on-premise or some combination of the two. It is here that fully integrated solutions, such as Cloudera’s that are underpinned by strong governance frameworks throughout the entire data lifecycle, will come into their own and effectively support organisations to develop more sustainable business models. 


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