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Big Data Dissonance: The reality vs expectation of big data solutions

Mark Braund | April 10, 2015
A skills shortage is a significant reason for the gap between businesses' expectations of big data and the reality they experience.

Undoubtedly, big data has generated a lot of hype with solutions promising to radicalise business practices. By aggregating and analysing mass volumes of (previously untapped) data, CEOs are expecting to boost operating margins, improve value propositions and build entirely new revenue streams and scale.

While the promise remains alive and well, big data is yet to deliver for most organisations. Gartner reports that more than 85 percent of Fortune 500 organisations will not be able to exploit big data effectively in 2015. More alarmingly, there is disconnect between what CEOs perceive big data is doing within their organisations and what the rest of the organisation is witnessing.

In a recent study of 362 executives, The Economist revealed that 47 percent of CEOs believed that all their employees have access to the data they needed, however, only 27 percent of all respondents agreed with the sentiment. Further, 43 percent of CEOs thought relevant data was captured and made available in real time compared to 29 percent of the total study.

The findings of the study raises two critical questions; why is there such perceptual dissonance, or gap, between CEOs and the rest of organisation - in terms of data? And, why are data science solutions failing to meet the expectations?

Cultural issues

Perceptual dissonance in this instance may occur for a myriad of reasons; employee engagement, the personality of the CEO or media hype surrounding the speed and scale to which big data can be implemented successfully. However, it's most likely that organisational culture is creating the disparity. Most businesses have yet to adopt a data centric culture whereby data capture, value, protection and utilisation is communicated and integrated enterprise wide.

Russell Glass, head of marketing products at LinkedIn, cites that cultivating a data centric culture requires top-down leadership and bottom-up engagement. While boards are excited and engaged with the prospect of big data, many boards are missing someone with the expertise to communicate the technical capabilities of the organisation; the value of developing existing data assets and the ability to drive holistic data science strategies.

Unfortunately, it's not the case whereby you can switch on the proverbial light bulb and instantly aggregate and analyse all manner of internal and external data to build a competitive strategy. Research from TDWI found 46 percent of organisations are unable to exploit big data analytics due to inadequate staffing or skills.

Data driven solutions are long-term strategies that not only require investment in technology but also various specialist analytical, technical, managerial and operational skills - at various stages of implementation, ongoing maintenance and utilisation.

Skills gap

The Economist states that organisations must invest in the technologies and tools which will enable them to house, process, organise and visualise data effectively. In implementing these technologies, businesses may need talent anywhere from business analysts to specialist infrastructure engineers, service desk analysts to experienced project managers.

 

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