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Big Data is on the rise, but in the wrong place

The term “Big Data” has been around for some time now and finally appears to have moved beyond its initial hype into widespread acceptance.

We recently carried out a survey of senior business decision makers, exploring their perceptions of Big Data and how it’s used by their companies, and it was clear from the findings that Big Data is now being exploited for real business gain. Three quarters of respondents agreed that their company now keeps the right amount of data, indicating that businesses have taken control of the issue and are starting to use it for real gain. Large companies have matured in their use of Big Data, and have moved to the implementation stage across different parts of their businesses, using analytics to underpin innovation, competitive positioning, customer experience and productivity.

By way of demonstration, almost three quarters of businesses now use Big Data to inform strategic decisions, with more than half saying that they used Big Data for customer relationship management, and a further half saying that it informed their marketing campaigns and strategies.

But it appears that, despite using it to specifically inform their business area, only 7% of senior marketing officers claim that they own the data their company collects. And with 61% of businesses believing their data to be held by the IT team, it could be argued that data ownership is not necessarily residing with the right department for it to be leveraged for competitive and innovative gain.

Whilst their ubiquity means that IT departments are, by necessity, becoming more aligned to companies’ business needs and able to inform business change, their function is not sufficiently customer or business focused to be able to drive that change.

We’re not suggesting that IT departments don’t make or influence strategic decisions but, for this decision making to be most effective and targeted, we’d argue that company data should be owned by the heads of the business units who can actually make these decisions.

Part of the problem holding back businesses is that, with so much data flowing through an organisation, more often than not they haven’t asked a number of fundamental questions about it, such as what is relevant, what should be analysed and what it can actually be used for.

Once these questions have been answered, data should then be integrated into a Master Data Management (MDM) solution. This serves as the home for all business data (eCRM and personalisation as an example) allowing for insight delivered by Big Data to be acted upon, whether for new processes or products. While Big Data needs to be analysed for insight, on its own it will result in few actual business benefits if there isn’t a platform such as MDM from which changes can be made.

The research results highlight that business leaders are beginning to face up to the implications of Big Data. The increasing volume and detail of information passing through a business will increase exponentially, fuelled by the rise of multimedia, social media and the migration online of core business functions. But the success of a company can be dependent on its ability to use Big Data for strategic and tactical gain. Analysing this wealth of data will become a key driver of competition, forming the basis of increased productivity, growth, and innovation. But this must go beyond the IT department and directly into the areas that need it most.

Those companies that ensure their data is held where it’s likely to be most useful are already likely to be seeing the rewards, but these companies only represent less than a third of those surveyed. The majority, whose data is arguably residing in the wrong area, are at risk of falling behind the competition – particularly now that Big Data has moved beyond the hype and is truly embedded in business operations.

Further information on the research can be found in the form of a whitepaper, available for download here.