Written by Alice Payne
Posted on 04/09/2015

Companies making big advances in big data analytics

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With so much information now available through big data, the question is whether or not it delivers enough return on investment and how businesses can position themselves to make the most of it.

A recent survey conducted by Forbes Insights asked 316 senior data and IT executives about their use of big data in order to understand how this new landscape is impacting organisations’ practices and bottom line. In particular, they looked at their level of investment in big data and the returns it provided. In answer to the million dollar question of whether it was worth it, the majority answered yes – suggesting that big data is increasingly becoming a critical part of business activity.

In fact, 55 percent of Western European participants said they viewed big data as a top-five issue on their agenda. Interestingly, this rose to 83 percent in Asia Pacific, suggesting Western Europe is lagging behind in this area. However, overall, across the globe leaders were investing significantly in this area in order to develop their capacity and increase scalability.

Big data sources

There are many sources organisations can harness to gather their big data – ranging from weblogs to sensors, consumer transactions, location data and social media streams. Interestingly, the survey found that relatively new sources such as social media and video are just as important to organisations as established sources, like text and sensors. Indeed, while approaches to analytics might be diverse, business objectives remain largely the same across regions and industries. Essentially, organisations are “looking to data to build new business models, discover new product offers and monetise information,” according to Teradata, which conducted the survey.

The good news

Overall, it seems that big data is generating positive results for organisations and validating the investments required. The study concluded that:

• 59% of all respondents view big data and analytics as a top five issue or the single most important resource to gain a competitive advantage.

• Two-thirds of respondents feel big data and analytics initiatives have created significant, measurable impact on their revenues.

• Throughout all genres of investment, around 90% of organisations had implemented medium to high levels of investment, and about a third call their investment “very significant.”

Executive buy-in

One key trend that emerged from the study was the need for executive buy-in. Organisations that integrated big data into their processes without a carefully thought-out plan and executive support were more likely to encounter “cultural, strategic and operational hurdles”. Surprisingly, over 50 percent of those surveyed revealed that the concept of a data-driven strategy wasn’t unanimously accepted in their organisation. Conversely, organisations with strong leadership, knowledge sharing and executive support were more likely to achieve a return on their big data investments. And in organisations that prioritised big data as the single most important way to gain a competitive advantage, 51 percent had CEOs who took a direct interest in big data initiatives.

“We’re at a point now where data is a strategic asset,” says David Mathison, founder of the CDO Club for chief digital officers and chief data officers. “Everything else is being outsourced…but data and security are two things that companies are realising they really need to focus on.”