How does a company that’s become a multi-billion dollar business on then back of supporting IT and security professionals transition into one that focusses on the broad challenges facing an entire business? Although most of Splunk’s revenue – as much as 80 per cent – comes from its traditional customer base, the company is learning that what it thinks its customers are doing and what they actual do are two very different things.

The technical data coming from IT operations and security has become mission critical, said Simon Eid, Splunk’s Group Vice President. But as companies are working to build tightly integrated end-to-end processes, the importance of that technical data and how it impacts information coming from CRM, ERP and other businesses systems has become a greater focus.

For example, Eid said he was working wth one of the big banks.

“We’ve been able to track different parts of their operational side. So, with their lending operation, all their data’s in there. Now we can track and understand their lending portfolio. How many loans have been submitted, at what stage are they at, what follow ups do we need. Is it stuck in a process?”.

This happens because even though the data initially captured and used in Splunk was focussed on IT operations it can be used far more broadly than that initial application. That was something the Royal Flying Doctor Service learned. As well as tracking aircraft status – the RFDS is Australia’s third largest airline in terms of fleet size – it uses the software to track the temperature of medicines as doctors fly to some of the most remote sites in the country.

Jeff Schultz, the vice president for product marketing, added that while Splunk often starts as a solution for technical issues, businesses have learned that data gives visibility to far more.

“What we find, over and over again, is that they will often bring us in to solve a security problem or an IT problem or a DevOps challenge. Very quickly, they start to apply it to other use-cases”.

This message isn’t new. Since the 1990s, when data warehousing was the flavour of the month, businesses have been trying to harness data in order to learn more about their customers and markets in order to gain some advantage. By the 2000s, we entered the big data era as volume, velocity, variety and veracity became the foundation for data collection and analysis projects.

As processing power and storage and moved ahead, we are now at a point where it’s possible to collect and process large volumes of data in real-time in order to gain insights and take rapid action. But the challenge remains in how to get started. When you’re faced with a torrent of data from social media, chatbots, internal systems, cloud-based applications and myriad other sources, it can be daunting to know how to take the first step.

Schultz said that Splunk is working towards creating ‘blueprints’ that make it easier for businesses to get started. Rather than having to develop everything from scratch, he said special teams in the software company can provide ready-to-use tools to accelerate those first steps. Part of that shift means IT boffins need to understand that Splunk has broader business application and isn’t limited to the traditional IT and security use-cases and also educating the C-Suite to understand what data is available and what value it can unlock.

Smaller companies aren’t left out. New cloud-based tools from Splunk offer SMBs a path to data analytics tools that have been typically limited to larger enterprises with a healthy tech budget. But as Splunk’s Chief Product Office said, SMBs are a highly fragmented market.

While data was used in the past to understand processes in order to drive operational efficiency gains, we’re moving into a new era. Data is the best tool to understand customers and markets better in order to detect and exploit new opportunities – to make step changes and not just incremental operational improvements. By looking at operational data from IT systems and enriching it with data from business systems such as HR, ERP and CRM, businesses can gain better insights into their business and look for new opportunities.

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