SMEs can develop data unicorns too
Mita Srinivasan
10X Technology

SMEs can develop data unicorns too

Data analytics is no longer a buzzword and driving data-driven outcomes should no longer be complicated. A data culture is no longer a nice-to-have but rather a must-have for organizations to navigate uncertainties and ensure business resilience. Richard Timperlake, Vice President for EMEA at Alteryx shows how SMEs can harness the power of data. .

Over the last 2 decades, Dubai has been transforming itself into an international city and a regional business and tourism destination. In 2014, the UAE government announced the launch of Smart Dubai initiative, anchored in the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, that aims to empower, deliver and promote an efficient, seamless, safe and impactful city experience for residents and visitors and position Dubai as a world-class innovative business hub.

It’s economic strategies such as UAE Vision 2021 and UAE Centennial have strong themes around digitalization and transformation. The strategies focus on transitioning the UAE into one that is based on knowledge, promoting innovation, investing in research and development (R&D), and embracing ground-breaking technologies.

While small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) comprise the majority of Middle East enterprises, they lag in digital technology adoption. According to a recent report by McKinsey, among SMEs in the region, only 18 percent in the UAE and 15 percent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are digital. Another study by market intelligence and advisory firm, IDC, found that 90 percent of companies in the region are still in the process of evaluating how to digitalize or are just now beginning to make their first steps. Meanwhile, 5 percent were currently innovating their operations, and the remaining 5 percent showed resistance to the concept of digital transformation.

However, a data culture is no longer a nice-to-have but rather a must-have for organizations to navigate uncertainties and ensure business resilience. Data-driven firms reported that they were quicker in making strategic business decisions and were more effective at communicating with stakeholders. Investing in data skills and harnessing data-driven insights are now key competencies in ensuring an organization’s agility and confidence when faced with obstacles.

The term “data unicorn” - an individual who is mathematically strong, technically learned, and narratively inclined to draw data insights for the business or mission value – has been popping up in digital transformation narratives. While these data specialists are steering the digital transformation and conversation, and SMEs’ workforce may lack the seemingly specialized skillsets to kickstart their digital journey, deriving data-driven insights to bolster their business outcomes is not as daunting as it seems. Process automation – the ability to take repetitive tasks and have them completed with minimal human interaction - is the answer to developing this mythical “data unicorn” for SMEs.

Process automation provides any organization, such as a SME, a unified, human-centred platform experience that automates access to data analytics, data science, and process automation all-in-one. With the power of hundreds of ready-to-use automation building blocks in the platform, any and every employee of the organization of varying degrees of data literacy can achieve analytic outcomes in just hours and contribute to data-driven decision making. All it takes for this to work in practice is the right strategy. But where do SMEs start?

Self-service and code-free

We need to get past the myth that working with data is only possible for those with highly technical degrees. This might have been the case 20+ years ago when analytics first hit the business world, but with the ease of use of modern analytic tools, this just isn’t the case anymore. The learning curve of the latest technology tools is much different than the prior generation. With drag and drop simplicity, built-in help and training, and extensive community support, the task of upskilling has never been easier. It is possible to learn these new tools over lunch and implement faster processes the same day.

Self-service data science is aimed at all employees who are not professional data experts and provides them with simple to use tools with pre-configured workflows, so they can safely and accurately explore their data and achieve success. Coupled with online courses that can be taken for low or no cost, and it is difficult to imagine a successful company or employee not working to upskill through the combination of technology tools and training.

Any data, not just “big data”

Some believe that in order to derive useful insights you need to have huge amounts of data to work on. This is simply not the case. Most data projects leverage relatively small datasets to deliver significant value. It’s more important to focus on the quality of data than the size of it. From logistics to procurement, and engineering to legal departments, each can hold small amounts of core data that the company has collected over years. Systems built specifically for data analytics can transform the cumbersome tasks of manual data discovery to an automatic discovery of critical assets.


Collecting data is one thing, digesting, understanding, and turning it into a breakthrough is another. For humans with little more than legacy spreadsheets to help, it is a huge job. Using yesterday’s tools for today’s data sets will not enable SMEs to start using data effectively to drive business results. Capabilities like self-service drag-and-drop simplicity, code-free automation, along with built-in help and extensive community support all make the road to data-driven insights much easier to navigate. Today’s data analytics platforms can eliminate manual data analysis in favour of high-speed processing power that results in faster actionable insights.

Today’s self-serve analytics and data science solutions have proven to simplify and broaden the accessibility of data, analytics, and data science to every organisation and employee. If your business can’t find this mythical data unicorn, you can help build one in your existing team.

About the author

Richard Timperlake is the Vice President for EMEA at Alteryx. As SVP EMEA at Alteryx, he is responsible for the hyper-growth of the business and driving Digital Transformation across all sizes of organisations.