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Analytics for digitalisation: What is still keeping us behind?

Farzana Nahid | November 23, 2022 00:00:00

Digitalisation is a new game changer that has changed the ways of thinking. Now, a physical store, an e-Store, physical payments and e-Payments, and virtual reality can coexist. Digitalisation has created new types of socio-economic growth opportunities, greater transparency and efficiency, and more choices for consumers. Digitalisation is a crucial issue for organisations all over the world. The importance of digitalisation has been acknowledged by the government of Bangladesh through the 'Digital Bangladesh' slogan. Bangladesh entered the 4G era by initiating the "Digital Bangladesh" endeavour in 2018. According to Sung (2018), in an agriculture-based country like Bangladesh, the fourth industrial revolution can surely be helpful for the farmers to determine weather conditions, moisture, and quantity of daylight for cultivation in agricultural farms, through mobile devices. Bangladesh is gradually introducing telemedicine centres, satellite clinics in rural areas, and online home delivery services of goods. In sync with the efforts to achieve the Digital Bangladesh target by December 2021, the total Internet users stood at 113.73 million in Bangladesh (BTRC, 2022). According to Huawei Global Connectivity Index 2019, Bangladesh was on the list of "Top Movers? for its significant digital economy growth. However, Bangladesh still requires synchronisation of advanced technological changes at all stages in the pyramid. Unfortunately, full digitisation of the education system is yet to be achieved in Bangladesh where only 16% of the people are undertaking technical and vocational education. The financial and banking sectors have already electronic banking and digitization. However, the cost of e-banking is much higher for lower and middle-income segments of society. Top 8 digital wallets of Bangladesh called DESHIZ have gone cashless in Bangladesh. They are bKash, iPay, Rocket, NexusPay, Upay, GPAY, Easy.com.bd, Dmoney. In fact, the first digital cattle market named Digital Haat was introduced in Dhaka city in 2020. According to Ali (2020), Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) is working to disseminate information, communication expertise, and widen access to information.

Firms today are required to adapt swiftly and boldly to survive and thrive in today's turbulent and competitive global environment. Organisational agility helps firms respond to environmental business changes in a proper and timely manner. Data analytics unlock the potential of the wide variety of data the organisations generate today and can deliver valuable insights from the data.

In fact, data analytics help take smarter decisions and drive/improve performance. Through interviews with 50 small, medium & large manufacturing (restaurant, FMCG, book publishing house, printing press, retail shop, cement, and pharmaceuticals) and service-oriented (ed-tech, fintech, agro-tech, online grocery, food delivery apps, the ride-sharing app, software companies, insurance, and interior design firms) company personnel in Bangladesh, information has been derived regarding the benefits the companies are getting by using the analytical tools in business operation and also the reasons why\if they are not using the tools enough or at all.

Covid 19 was the biggest challenge to face in digitalisation for many companies. Some learned by force to survive whereas some businesses had to shut down as they felt lost and didn't know what to do. Many companies just had to wait for things to be normal as they didn't know they could run operations virtually using technology. On the other hand, the companies which knew about technology adopted it more and could survive the toughest days. The interviews confirmed some barriers for which companies are reluctant to use analytics. We found frustration regarding the lack of skilled/trained employees, lack of awareness, lack of sufficient capital to invest in analytics, and running operations manually are some notable ones. According to the interviewees, companies do struggle while finding skilled employees who can operate software and analytical tools. On a separate note, small-sized companies shared their struggle to provide in-depth training for analytical tool knowledge and usage as it costs them additionally. Besides, some companies were found which or who do not use any digitisation or analytical tools, these are some large and medium-sized garment companies, printing presses, and fast food restaurants. Despite operating 25 plus years on average, they don't use any analytical tools for the digitization of business operation. Some of the companies are not even properly aware of the tools' benefits. Some of the mid-aged employees from these companies in fact said they did not need any tool for maintaining anything of their business and they were just fine doing everything manually. Well, this surely expresses their reluctance while using analytical tools or even learning them. A manager from a garment factory said as they had a large number of employees to work, they did not need automation. Besides spending money to train employees to use any tools would be an extra hassle, he added. Another large furniture manufacturing company expressed their fear that their employees might leave if they were told to use/learn the new analytical tools. They also added that they were not even sure if these tools could bring them profit or more revenue. Furthermore, employees from both manufacturing and service-based companies said they used only excel in daily business operations as it's easy to use and almost everyone knows it. Some of the companies are aware of other analytical tools but not willing to take the hassle of using them. A furniture shop owner said he was aware of analytical software like IBM SPSS, Microsoft Power BI, SAS as he studied engineering. But as his business is comparatively small, MS excel fulfills most of his purpose. Therefore, trying out another software might be overwhelming for him.

Moreover, the interviews have also revealed some major advantages of digitisation, the use of analytical tools in particular. People did say that gathering and analyzing data about the supply chain could show where production delays or bottlenecks originated and could help predict where future problems may arise. Some interviewees did mention that data analytics were helpful in determining ideal product supply based on holidays and seasonality. Besides, in case of a company's overestimation of product demand, data analytics are useful to determine the optimal price for a clearance sale to reduce inventory. Another interview revealed that analyzing data not only increased their business efficiency, but also helped them in identifying new business opportunities, such as untapped customer segments. A pharmaceutical company CEO opined that they used analytics to train and promote employees. A CEO of a retail tech company said their company worked with huge data where the analytical tools provided them with much-needed quantitative insights, visualization and analysis of historical events to propose better future acts. A manager of a software company stated that their company was using MS Excel and Power BI for operations, admin management, Human Resource management, customer handling, and competitor analysis which helped them take the service of only a few number of employees and so saving time and money. An Ad agency owner said that they used Google Spreadsheets and Excel to create tasks for employees, record their job responsibilities and track monthly performance. In addition, they used Slack for their internal communication which made their lives comfortable.

From the above findings and discussion, it can be said that employees' readiness and management support are worth mentioning while thinking of digitization but the other stakeholders from inbound logistics to outbound logistics are seemed not quite prepared for obtaining access through digital devices. Access to capital is another obstacle for small and medium companies to think of spending extra to use any tools. Also, it appears that not all organizations are prepared for this change. They are reluctant to go with the digital trend and accept the benefits they can gain from it. Therefore, it is indeed required for all sizes and types of companies to improve innovation through a continuous process where these analytical tools surely be helpful to help them digitalise their operation. This will surely facilitate more usage of tools/software to gain business efficiency.

The investment policies, foreign direct investment, and outsourcing are becoming more convenient in Bangladesh. Therefore, proper activities and directions can be aligned for seed money, angel investors, startup ventures, crowdfunding, and investments for starting digital ventures. Also, by establishing, an entrepreneurial promotion-based data centre with international standards can expand access to economic activities. It is high time for Bangladeshi companies to work with proper guidance to motivate digital labour force to acquire digital literacy and prove their innovativeness. In addition, a human-centric development approach accompanied by technological advancement with proper execution is required. Nevertheless, to attain sustainable competencies, Bangladeshi firms should focus more on providing digital skill training. Digitalisation can ensure talent management and enhancement by taking into consideration the learners' age. Digitalisation should not replace low-skilled labour rather it must educate and enhance the skill level of all. The government can give hands to utilize data-driven innovation as consumer well-being can be achieved by creating a digital economy in Bangladesh

Dr. Farzana Nahid is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Marketing and International Business in North South University. Dr. Nahid has been the director of North South University Startups Next (NSUSN) for 2 years.

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