Who’s Really Using Big Data
September 16, 2012 Editor 0
We recently surveyed executives at Fortune 1000 companies and large government agencies about where they stand on Big Data: what initiatives they have planned, who’s leading the charge, and how well equipped they are to exploit the opportunities Big Data presents. We’re still digging through the data — but we did come away with three high-level takeaways.
- First, the people we surveyed have high hopes for what they can get out of advanced analytics.
- Second, it’s early days for most of them. They don’t yet have the capabilities they need to exploit Big Data.
- Third, there are disconnects in the survey results — hints that the people inside individual organizations aren’t aligned on some key issues.
High expectations. Big Data clearly has the attention of the C-suite — and responding executives were very optimistic for the most part. Eighty-five percent expected to gain substantial business and IT benefits from Big Data initiatives. When asked what they thought the major benefits would be, they named improvements in “fact-based decision making” and “customer experience” as #1 and #2. Many of the initiatives they had in mind were still in the early stages, so we weren’t hearing about actual business results, for the most part, but rather about plans and expectations:
- 85% of organizations reported that they have Big Data initiatives planned or in progress.
- 70% report that these initiatives are enterprise-driven.
- 85% of the initiatives are sponsored by a C-level executive or the head of a line of business.
- 75% expect an impact across multiple lines of business.
- 80% believe that initiatives will cross multiple lines of business or functions.
Capabilities gap. In spite of the strong organizational interest in Big Data, respondents painted a less rosy picture of their current capabilities:
- Only 15% of respondents ranked their access to data today as adequate or world-class.
- Only 21% of respondents ranked their analytic capabilities as adequate or world-class.
- Only 17% of respondents ranked their ability to use data and analytics to transform their business as more than more than adequate or world-class.
Notice that the bullet points above describe a set of increasingly sophisticated capabilities: gaining access to data; analyzing the various streams of data; and using what you’ve learned to transform the business. (Students of IT will recognize the familiar hierarchy: Data must be transformed into information, and information must be transformed into knowledge.)
Problems with alignment? When we started to probe beneath the surface of these responses, we noticed that IT executives and line-of-business executives had quite different perceptions of their companies’ capabilities. Some examples:
- How would you rate the access to relevant, accurate and timely data in your company today? World-class or more than adequate — IT 13%, Business 27%.
- How would you rate the analytic capabilities in your company today? World class — IT 13%, Business 0%.
- How would you rate your company on leaders’ ability to use data and analytics to improve or transform the business? Less than adequate — IT 57%, Business 18%.
To some extent these responses simply reflect a proximity bias: IT executives have a higher opinion of the company’s analytics capability; similarly, business executives judge their own capacity to transform the business higher than their IT colleagues do. But we suspect there’s something else happening as well. Recall that 80% of respondents agreed that Big Data initiatives would reach across multiple lines of business. That reality bumps right up against the biggest data challenge respondents identified: “integrating a wider variety of data.” This challenge appears to be more apparent to IT than to business executives. We’d guess that they’re more aware of how silo’d their companies really are, and that this is another reason that they judge the company’s capacity to transform itself using Big Data more harshly.
This disconnect continues when respondents rank the “current role of Big Data” in their company as Planned or at Proof-of-Concept: only 31% of IT respondents felt the organization was at that stage, while 70% of the line-of-business executives thought they were at this stage.
Finally, in spite of the gap in perceptions, 77% of organizations report that there is a strong Business/IT collaboration on Big Data thought leadership. This is probably too optimistic, from what we’ve seen when working inside companies, and based on the gap in perceptions we saw in our survey. Job #1 is to get the organization aligned. Without that ground work, Big Data can’t live up to its promise.
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