Yes, There is ROI in All That Big Data: Survey

Big data is not easy. For many companies, the sheer volume of big data now surging their their enterprises is overwhelming. And, there doesn’t seem to be enough skilled talent to help manage and analyze all this data.  But the good news is that executives feel investments in big data initiatives are paying off.

That’s the word from Avanade, which just released the results of a survey of 569 business executives and IT leaders from across the globe. All in all, big data is seen as a positive force – 84% percent of respondents believe big data helps them make better business decisions.Significantly, 73% of companies have already used data to increase revenue.  This includes both growing existing revenue streams (57%), and creating entirely new sources of revenue (43%).

That sounds good, and means, to a large degree, that management “gets” what big data means for advancing the business, and is on board with supporting the work that needs to be done to get the most business value out of all the data surging through enterprises.

In a survey Avanade conducted two years ago, there were more questions about finding business value than answers around big data. At the time, less than half of execs viewed their available sources of data as a strategic differentiator for their organizations, and at least 43% were dissatisfied with their current tools.

A lot of this concerned has turned around in the past two years. The current survey suggests that the technology for managing big data is getting better – and more widely available. The majority of companies surveyed (57%) noted that in just the last 12 months, more technology options became available to help analyze and manage data. More importantly, research shows that companies are investing in this technology, with almost every company surveyed (91%) reporting the use of tools to manage and analyze data today.

However, as with many major technology trends, the benefits of big data come with meaningful challenges. Eighty-five percent of respondents still report obstacles in managing and analyzing data, including being overwhelmed by sheer volume to data security concerns to not having enough dedicated staff to analyze the data. The majority of stakeholders (63%) also feel their company needs to develop new skills to turn data into business insights.

Further evidence of business’ embrace of big data is the fact that it’s increasingly seen as a business – not just IT – adventure. Today, 95% of businesses do not consider data analysts a part of their IT staff. Instead, companies are now distributing that expertise to line-of-business groups throughout the company. The majority of respondents (58%) report data management is now embedded throughout their business as a dedicated function. Further, over half of global companies (59%) say more employees than ever before are involved in making decisions as a result of more widely available company data.

Of course, big data isn’t occurring in a vacuum. The survey’s findings also show three other major trends – employee mobility, cloud computing, and social networking – are making the data deluge more challenging. The majority of respondents reported that employee mobility (73%), cloud computing (65%) and social networking (61%) are all causing their companies to “rethink” their data management strategy.

Still, as this survey, and the preceding 2010 survey show, we’ve come a long way in understanding where the business value lies in big data – and companies are ready and willing to make the most of it.

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