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Big data projects on the rise (but data use could be better)

Thor Olavsrud | Feb. 5, 2016
Companies putting big data initiatives in place report positive results, but most also say their business could improve by making better use of that data.

"While some businesses may have made progress in select areas of data management, many have not fully connected the dots between developing and implementing a data strategy in order to have a positive effect on other business objectives, such as improving staff productivity or developing more effective ways to engage with customers," the report says. "For IT solution providers or vendors working in the big data space, this should serve as an important reminder to connect data-related solutions to business objectives, emphasizing outputs over the nuts and bolts inputs."

Respondents cited a number of factors for the increased importance of data:

  • 63 percent rely on data for day-to-day operations
  • 61 percent cited sensitivity around data privacy
  • 60 percent use data to better understand customers
  • 59 percent rely on data to measure business objectives
  • 56 percent say they store data outside the company

Robinson says that if companies wish to improve their data usage, the first question they must answer is which behaviors they hope to improve through enhanced data management and analysis. Making better/faster decisions and reducing costs/overhead topped the list of strategic objectives for 48 percent of respondents each. They were followed closely by improving workflows/communications (43 percent), improving business operations (42 percent) and reaching new customers (34 percent).

Decisions, decisions, decisions

"It is no surprise to see a desire for better decision making at the top of the list," the report said. "The big data trend saw a rapid ramp in hype due to two factors. First, it followed the momentum of cloud computing, where companies without much infrastructure started with a cautious approach but quickly jumped on board as they realized that cloud could more easily help them expand. Second, the discussion around big data always centered around decision making, a topic with more universal appeal than infrastructure."

The report also argues that the focus on cost reduction reflects an oversimplification of the technology's potential. The ultimate goal, it says, is business transformation, whether that takes the form of improved customer relations, new business offerings or innovative thinking. And all of those changes imply value beyond simple cost savings.

For those organizations aiming to amp up their data usage, Robinson recommends taking measured steps at each of the three stages of data usage: collection and storage, processing and organization and analysis and visualization.

He notes that many organizations have indicated a willingness to work with third-parties for help with their data initiatives. More than one-third of companies currently work with an IT firm for their data needs. However, those engagements then to be somewhat "simplistic" — data storage and data backup, for example. He suggests that as companies become more aggressive with their data initiatives, IT channel firms may find opportunities to offer comprehensive end-to-end services around data.


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