Big Data, Big Problems

11/9/10

In the global marketplace, businesses and employees are creating and consuming more information than ever before. Gartner predicts that enterprise data in all forms will grow 650 percent over the next five years, while IDC claims the entire world’s data doubles every 18 months.

According to “The Business Impact of Big Data,” a new global survey of C-level executives and IT decision makers, this data deluge is creating very real challenges for business leaders.

Across industries, regions and companies, executives report that the exponential growth in data is impacting their ability to access critical information. According to the report, more than half of business and IT executives, 56 percent, report they feel overwhelmed by the amount of data their company manages. And, many report they are often delayed in making important decisions as a result of too much information.

Data Addiction

Despite the fact that employees and management are overwhelmed by big data, they are still asking for more, and they want it even faster. This desperation for getting the right information to make business decisions is driving executives to feel more pressure to consume even more information – forming an addiction to information in absence of good business data.

While 70 percent of business leaders report that their current IT infrastructure allows employees to get the data they need at the speed they need it. That said, 61 percent of executives say they still want faster access. Further, one in three say they desire even more sources of data in order to perform their job better.

For many, this data addiction is driven by the inability to find the right information. It is the lack of correct information that is causing executives to search for more – creating an addictive behavior.

So what kind of information are executives most concerned about? According to the survey, executives’ top priority is the ability to keep up with customer service expectations.

And when it comes to perceptions on what the most important kinds of data, customer is king. Respondents reported that customer relationship and sales information are critical to their strategic decision-making process.

This focus on customers is driving technology investments in CRM systems – 67 percent of executives have invested, or are seriously considering investing in CRM in the next 12 months.

Enterprises have an opportunity to leverage their data in order to create new revenue streams and generate new businesses, especially when it comes to customers. But alarmingly, less than half of execs view the available sources of data as a strategic differentiator for their organization, and struggle to see big data as a driver of real business value.

Deriving Business Value from Big Data

So where’s the disconnect? Nearly half, 43 percent, of all respondents are dissatisfied with their current tools that filter out irrelevant data. In fact, 46 percent of companies report they have made an inaccurate business decision as a result of bad or outdated data.

It is imperative that organizations address this filter failure to reduce detrimental business decisions, and position themselves to be able to react quickly to business conditions.

Companies must develop a “data culture,” in which executives, employees and strategic partners are active participants in managing a meaningful data lifecycle. Data is produced, edited, released, searched, indexed, archived, purged, reformatted and the lifecycle goes on, but companies don’t think about educating their employees on how to best participate in that cycle.

This journey is not just a technology challenge. It is also a people and process problem. It takes a culture shift in the people that are actors on that data – whether they are producing or consuming – to be more responsible and accountable for the management of the data itself.

Tomorrow’s successful organizations will be equipped to harness new sources of information and take responsibility over accurate data creation and maintenance. This will enable businesses to turn data first into usable information and ultimately into true business insights.

Tyson Hartman is the global chief technology officer at Seattle-based Avanade. He is responsible for Avanade’s technology vision, solutions and R&D investments. Follow @

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  • http://www.shaycolson.com Shay Colson

    “According to the survey, executives’ top priority is the ability to keep up with customer service expectations.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but this statement seems counter-intuitive.

    It’s nearly impossible to get accurate and meaningful responses from customers through data alone. We all know that surveys are flawed, not very effective, and not well received.

    Rather than using blunt, ineffective tools to derive a best guess as to what your customers may want, why don’t more companies empower their front-line employees to simply ask them? Or undertake a targeted, though resource-intensive, campaign of user/customer outreach?

    Because data pulls us away from the human element.

    Translating consumer desires into data has always been difficult.

    What makes us think that “more” will translate to “easier”?