Big Data Analytics in Latin America: Stormy Waters, but the Tide is Rising

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Government corruption, energy price declines and the slowdown of trading partner China have created a challenging economic landscape for Latin American enterprises this year.

Government corruption, energy price declines and the slowdown of trading partner China have created a challenging economic landscape for Latin American enterprises this year.

Analytics opportunities, however, present a huge upside for the region’s emerging markets as digital transformation redefines swaths of the economy. Latin America demonstrates that when you apply the latest technology and practices to emerging markets that are still early on the adoption curve, the potential for economic expansion is high.

So, despite the pessimistic headlines, 2016 is an optimal time for industry leaders in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other major Latin American markets to invest in analytics. Here are three forces driving technology change and opportunity, followed by recommendations for C-level executives to navigate them for topline and bottom-line benefits with analytics.


In 2014, IDC counted 689 million mobile subscriptions in Latin America (111 percent of the population), of which 52 percent were smartphones. By 2019 more than half of Latin American workers will be mobile, and to prepare for this shift, this year nearly half of local employers will create formal “mobile” strategies that fuse IT and Line of Business priorities. They will integrate more organizational processes, such as marketing, customer service and field services, with mobile infrastructure spanning partners, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Enterprises that invest wisely and execute successfully can improve operational efficiency and create new services and markets. For example, Banco do Brasil already offers deposit, transfer, balance inquiry and ATM locator services through consumer smartphones. As in other developed markets, such services will become increasingly mainstream as Latin America’s young population favors convenience over tradition. Financial services is just one sector that will use mobile services to create new revenue streams, reduce costs and compete more effectively with IT startups.


The middle class in Latin America swelled 50 percent in the first decade of this century according to the World Bank, adding 50 million consumers to a pool of increasingly sophisticated and connected online shoppers. Last year Amazon opened in Mexico to compete with Mercado Libre, Linio and other established online shopping sites. Latin American shoppers are still early in the migration to e-commerce, creating opportunities for both new entrants and traditional retailers to ramp up and optimize their web presence to steal market share. Cencosud, whose supermarkets, department stores and other consumer businesses serve Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia, partnered last year with New York-based startup Grability to furnish its local customers with new smartphone shopping options.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Latin America depends heavily on manufacturing, energy and commodity industries that can improve operational efficiency and create new services with sensor-sourced data. From 2014 to 2020, the IoT market in Latin America will roughly double to $15.6 billion as the number of connected endpoints in the region triples to more than 800 million. Both established players and local entrepreneurs will need to address use cases that span manufacturing operations, freight monitoring, smart buildings and intelligent grids.

Each of these three driving forces depends on data analytics, which in turn hinge on efficient and effective data management. The enterprises that successfully use these forces to their advantage will be those that adhere to the following data management best practices:

Embrace new data streams and with them new platforms. When you start to combine social media streams with historical customer transactions to improve insights, you need new platforms like Hadoop. New data migration and management tools empower IT organizations to add these platforms to their architectures, optimizing the right workloads with the right platform, without making the process prohibitively complex. This means automating the movement of tables or unstructured data sets across platforms, eliminating the typical manual code that is required for “extract, transform and load” processes. It also means measuring your data usage and the underlying resources across platforms to optimize data placement, performance, cost and chargeback.

Go real time. Location-based retail offers, ATM locators and predictive maintenance for oil rigs only work if you deliver the right real-time data to the user. Perfecting this timing means using “change data capture” technology that identifies and relays data updates instantly from source to target.

Empower analysts within the lines of business. Here, again, automation holds the key. When the team for a new IoT/analytics initiative can create their own data mart based on the central data warehouse (version of truth) without waiting on IT programmers, they can launch and learn from their tests much more rapidly. Faster iteration means a better competitive edge and quicker ROI.

The macroeconomic picture will undoubtedly weigh heavily on Latin American enterprise agendas. Most IT initiatives in the region will require that cost savings serve as the chief justification. Although such fiscal pressures might curb some new investments, overall they seem likely to accelerate the move to new mobile technologies and efficient open-source options such as Hadoop. Now is the time for proactive Latin American companies to pivot to disruptive platforms and initiatives.


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