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Digital "BUSINESS PHYSIOLOGISTS"

Interview with Ugay Igor, Grant Thornton's consulting partner, on digitalization in the conservative financial sector for Forbes magazine.
- Igor, Grant Thornton - is this primarily an audit company? How did you come up with the need to provide IT consulting?
- Our main income has really been forming an audit for a long time, but everything is changing. The rapid development of IT has taken competition to a new plane. Now a successful company is a company with the prefix IT: ITbank, IT-logistics, IT-medicine. Grant Thornton actively promotes IT related services. In March of this year, we conducted a global CFO survey. It turned out that a significant number of CFOs are already implementing technologies such as advanced analytics (38%) and machine learning (30%). The most important competency that CFOs would like to develop is advanced data analysis: 55% of respondents. And we offer this service.

- What is advanced data analysis? Is it BI?
- Yes, it's mostly BI.

- Could you tell us what BI is for you and explain how your BI solutions differ?
- BI is a decision support system. You can compare them with physical activity trackers from Apple, Samsung, Garmin, that is, BI is such a business activity tracker. But in order to achieve sports results, it is not enough to hang a fitness tracker on your hand. Just as an athlete needs a sports physiologist who can interpret the indicators, identify the characteristics of the body, draw up a training plan and guide the athlete according to it, so a business that has "sports" ambitions needs qualified consulting to implement them. At the same time, in order for the BI system to work fully, we can help with data engineering, that is, with the correct construction of data flows that feed BI.

- It turns out that you can be called business physiologists or, better, business doctors?
- As you wish (laughs). But rather, it's business math. On the whole, business needs simple mathematics: count income versus expense in a different way.

- You compared BI tools to fitness trackers. Let's continue this comparison. Is the BI technology market as diverse as the trackers? What are the trends in this market?
- The BI market is no less diverse. The trend in the IT industry is the transition to the clouds. You wrote about this recently in the context of the acquisition of AlmaCloud by Uchet.kz. At the same time, BI tools are trend spotters, lawmakers of infrastructure changes. Alphabet, having a powerful Google Cloud Platform with a basic BI tool on board, nevertheless acquired another Looker BI cloud service for $ 2.6 billion this month, filling in the missing functionality. Immediately after this transaction, another significant merger took place - the many-year leader in the BI market Tableau was acquired by Salesforce for $ 15.7 billion. Tableau now has financial support for creating its own PaaS. Mergers and acquisitions are always difficult, especially in IT, because it is not so much a merger of the code base, but a grinding of people, corporate culture. Microsoft's current BI leader earlier this year deployed its Power BI DataFlow ETL tool in the cloud, which, together with the Azure cloud platform and office suite, makes up a powerful set of technologies.

- What BI do you use and why?
- In developed markets, where more mature IT, many BI solutions are used, in accordance with the needs and level of consumer preparedness. In Kazakhstan, as in the CIS countries, a different situation. For our market, the concept of BI itself is quite new. Until recently, Excel was the most common BI tool, since more advanced BI solutions required significant resources, both human and financial. The situation has changed with the advent of Power BI in 2015. It is affordable in cost, a wide arsenal of data is sewn into it, up to data science, and for those who are familiar with Excel, an acceptable entry threshold, since the basic Power BI technologies were first tested on Excel. In 2019, this tool was recognized by Gartner as a leader in its comprehensive understanding of market needs and affordability. Therefore, in Kazakhstan we use Microsoft Power BI both inside our company and for our customers.

- Besides BI, where else in IT can you be useful for our readers?
- The next, more difficult level after the introduction of business intelligence is the introduction of data science technology, which has many fields of application. Our professional interest is, for example, reducing production costs or improving commercial analytics. We believe that for our realities this is one of the most important applied areas. Imagine that you produce ice cream and sell it for 100 tenge, the cost price is 40 tenge, and net income is 10 tenge. By reducing the cost by only 10%, it is possible to increase net profit by 1.4 times. For these purposes, we do not limit ourselves only to data science, but we use other knowledge. Closer cooperation with IT will help the owner, manager or CFO to rethink their business and see a completely different picture. In addition, in a new era of low margin and high competition, only close collaboration with IT will help businesses survive.

Other results of the global CFO poll in 2019 by address:
www.grantthornton.com/CFOSURVEY2019
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