Many organizations are rushing into big data efforts before it’s clear what business benefits will come from this new paradigm. And this is creating problems for big data analytics proponents. “At one very large financial services firm, we’ve heard that the next executive that uses the word ‘big data’ without a very precise explanation of how it will be used for the organization will be fired,” says Randy Bean, co founder of NewVantage Partners, quoted in MIT Sloan Management Review.
“The point is that there’s been so much overuse and misuse of the term that organizations need and want to understand precisely how big data capabilities and big data initiatives will help them,” he explains.
While organizations may be wrestling with the implications of big data, there’s no question that it’s time of mind for many executives, as shown in a recent survey of 50 executives from NewVantage Partners finds big data is top of mind for leading industry executives. In fact, the survey finds 85% of the respondents have Big Data initiative planned or in progress.
The survey also finds that executives have high expectations of big data – they see it as a way to improve analytic capabilities and make smarter business decisions. In addition, big data is being considered for a surprisingly broad range of applications, led by customer insights and customer experience.
Bean says organizations are increasingly seeing two data environments “that coexist side by side” –
traditional production operational environments, along with “discovery” environments that employ advanced analytics.
Challenges include enabling access to big data – 61 percent of IT respondents thought that access to data was “less than adequate,” while only 46 percent of data users (analysts or business users) gave this rating. The ability of executives and business leaders to use data and analytics to improve or transform the business revealed an even bigger gap: 57 percent of IT felt that it was “less than adequate” while only 18 percent of business users gave this rating. This mismatch in perceived capabilities indicates that alignment is clearly an issue.
In addition, 80 percent of the respondents said it was challenging to fill data scientist roles, which encompasses statistics, data visualization, computer programming, data mining, machine learning, and database engineering to solve complex data problems.
Educating management is another challenge. Forty-three percent rated “the ability, by executives and business leaders, to use data and analytics to improve or transform business” as less than adequate.
Bean recommends that organizations “take a step back and think about their key business drivers: What are they? Which ones would benefit from more sophisticated data-driven decision-making, in particular, the ability to iterate through data more rapidly and integrate new sources of data? And then think about how to put in place the processes and make sure they have the organizational alignment and skills to make that happen.”