Article by Johann Mifsud Executive at eSkills Malta Foundation

‘Datafication’, or the process of transforming an activity, such as an industrial process, in a way that key data is collected about it for further analysis, has had exponential growth over the past years. There is no reason to believe that this trend is slowing down in fact all indicators show that this trend is only growing.

The range of areas this transformative process is finding its way into, is as broad as the range of human activities themselves. From collecting data from social media platforms like LinkedIn to glean information on workforce mobility trends for HR purposes or increasing book sales by using data to know customer preferences on online shops all the way to using GPS data, commercial vehicles now use GPS to track and optimise journeys.

To take the latter case as an example, it is easy to see that optimising the routes of a fleet of vehicles can have a huge impact on many aspects such as savings in time and fuel, better customer satisfaction and overall competitivity. Therefore, an organisation might view that embarking on a project to gather data and transform its ‘fleet operations’ as an attractive proposition. For an organisation to make the decision to invest would be based on potential returns as compared with the actual costs involved to digitise the fleet and associated cost if implementing and running the project.

The same concept can be applied to other situations, as for instance a manufacturing process. In essence an organisation might spot an opportunity to digitise a non-digital product, service or operation, with potential gains.

The gains to an organisation’s operations a datafication implementation might bring are numerous, and the following are typical examples:

• More agility in decision making based on factual data;
• Long-term planning based on reliable predictions;
• Provides visibility and thus rendering processes more controllable;
• Deeper knowledge of clients / users and thus improve services; and
• Opportunities to optimise operations and processes.

A datafication exercise will not simply consist of data collection, as data alone is not very helpful. Rather, it must be presented in the form of reports, lists, charts or some intuitive format suitable for the decision-making process. In other words, data is to be transformed into actionable knowledge.

To accomplish this, organisations require highly skilled professionals that can spot the opportunity in terms of cost-benefit on the one hand as well as those with the right abilities and knowledge to bring about the transformation process successfully on the other. Be it data scientists, project managers, developers are amongst the several roles required.

As large numbers of commercial and other entities embrace datafication, an inevitable consequence is the increase in demand for IT professionals with expertise in the area. Those willing to tap into this area of the job market and are motivated to pursue training and upskilling can find ample offerings of courses and certification programmes in related specialties including data analysis and data science programming technologies, and data visualisation, that can be fundamental to entering this area of computing technology.
Whether you are an organisation willing to invest and gain a competitive advantage via technology, or a worker willing to develop your skillset and willing take on professional challenges, datafication is sure to offer fertile ground for a prosperous future.

This article was prepared by collating various publicly available online sources.