Written by Alice Payne
Posted on 12/03/2015

Revealed: Business leaders’ biggest gripes about big data

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Big data is most certainly the buzzword of the moment - even possibly the decade. Due to huge leaps in technology, we now have more data than we know what to do with. After this huge influx of information the next challenge is deciding how best to use it.

With such a vast web of available data, companies need to streamline their processes to maximise business insight, rather than getting tangled up in unnecessary information. This means deciding which information is most needed and discarding the rest.

Big (data) problems

A survey of more than 300 business leaders by highlighted the frustrations they encounter working with big data. Lack of customisation, sheer volume, the time needed to source and manage it, inconsistency in findings and disparate data sources were some of the main complaints.

Every company has different data needs, but a healthy data infrastructure is key to making data-driven decisions. Surprisingly, the survey showed that only 10% of business leaders felt their reports provided a solid foundation for decision making while a mere 21% said their reports actually contained the information they want and need.

Top three issues

The executives’ range of frustrations was concentrated in three main areas: how data is delivered, when and where they have access to it, and the interactions their data doesn’t permit.

In terms of how data is delivered, executives identified issues with the systems that produced their big data, particularly in the format of reports and their consumability. In fact, 74% said they received their data from multiple, unconnected sources. While one third of CEOs most commonly received their data by email, fewer than 10% said this was their preferred format, with 50% favouring dashboards as their primary data format.

The issue of when executives have access to their big data reports was a key area, with 70% of business leaders revealing they lacked real-time access to important information. Indeed, one fifth of those surveyed said they only received a monthly update of their sales pipeline. The study found that executives were anxious to receive more real-time reports. One CEO in the Healthcare business complained their data was always received too late: “I won’t receive March data until the second week of April and if there is an emerging problem with March metrics I don’t know in time to ‘fix’ [it].”

The third key issue is what to do once this big data is received to ensure that it’s relevant and valuable. Executives wanted greater functionality; to be able to search, filter, generate ad-hoc reports, and slice and dice information to get the right insights and meet their operational needs. Aside from wanting to drill down to the details, one problem is that business leaders don’t have the technological knowledge to access and amend reports themselves, instead relying on IT teams to do this.

Better collaboration

Also high on executives’ wish lists was the need to better use big data reports to improve collaboration. Effective collaboration can be a significant differentiator between businesses that excel and those that don’t. A Forbes Insight study found that employees who use collaboration tools can have up to 62% higher productivity and accomplish their work 57% faster. Yet, according to, only 8% of CEOs questioned felt confident that their reports facilitate collaboration.

So what’s the answer?

The key to getting the best out of big data’s potential is identifying your aims as well as your frustrations, and then finding solutions to work around these. Once you’ve decided what insights you need from your data reports and where they’re falling short, you can begin rectifying this. Whether it’s providing more training to senior executives in how to tailor reports or establishing different criteria to pull, big data is there to be used. The key is using it well.