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Study reveals that most companies are failing at big data

Sarah K. White | Nov. 11, 2015
Research from PwC and Iron Mountain reports some surprising statistics about how companies are using the data they collect.

Petley concludes that "data is so pervasive that it is taken for granted or is seen as a by-product. Often it is only when disaster strikes that this assumption is broken." Alternatively, some companies see data as the responsibility of IT and data architects, rather than an important resource that should be employed across the company. And that's an important shift to make; the idea that data isn't just a problem for IT, but rather a valuable asset that reaches far beyond the technical side of the business.

Gaining a competitive edge with data

Data strategy is the biggest resource in gaining a competitive edge against other companies, according to the study. By ignoring data or treating it as unimportant, business leaders do their companies a huge disservice when it comes to staying ahead of the game.

"The essence of analytics is for business units, marketing, emerging business offices, etc. to determine what they want to learn from the data and then use the records information management team, IT, data analysts and scientists to identify data sources, understand access controls, execute the analysis, and deliver the results in a user friendly, typically visual, mode," says Sue Trombley, managing Ddirector of Thought Leadership at Iron Mountain.

Businesses might be investing significant money into data capture, but then drop the ball when it comes time to actually use that data. Instead, business leaders need to focus on figuring out how to take the data and boil it down into easily digestible formats for internal use. It's all about "having a strategy for data management," says Trombley. The first step, he says, is to identify data sources, then understand the importance of analytics to every department and, finally, create a plan to stay competitive.

And the data suggests businesses aren't aware of the untapped resource they have in stored data. The study found that 16 percent of business leaders reported that they didn't believe their organizations knew what data it had, 23 percent said they didn't know how data transferred through their businesses or where it could be used best, and 20 percent didn't know where their data was most vulnerable.

Not surprisingly, Trombley says that a quarter of C-suite executives report not seeing any value from data around decision-making, product development, cost savings or customer acquisition and retention. But that's because they simply haven't invested in a strategy. Analytics is quickly becoming one of the most valuable resources to a successful business, and every company will need a unique and tailored plan for managing data.

Should your company hire a data scientist?

Before rushing to hire a data scientist or building an entire department dedicated to analytics, business leaders need to first sit down and figure out what they want to achieve with analytics, according to Trombley. Every company's needs are different and the best data strategy will depend on the overall mission and goals of the business. That means, your business might not necessarily need an entire department dedicated to data and instead tap into the skillsets of your current employees.


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