by Thor Olavsrud

IT wants (but struggles) to operationalize big data

May 26, 2016
AnalyticsBig DataBusiness Intelligence

Big data leaders at large companies are bullish on the capabilities of big data analytics, but are struggling to break down data silos and make data accessible.

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Big data leaders at large companies are confident their big data strategies are headed in the right direction, but most also feel that they’re struggling to operationalize them, according to a new survey.

“Big data is not going away. It’s increasing in momentum. People are starting to understand the different types of use cases and move things from prototyping into production,” says Stephen Baker, CEO of Attivio, a company that helps customers catalog and leverage all the data at their disposal. “But there are challenges for sure: Challenges in terms of hiring the right kinds of resources, challenges around organizationally changing the way people behave. There’s this concept of Shadow BI.”

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In April and May, Attivio surveyed 150 executives at large companies (with at least 5,000 employees) that influence their company’s decisions to leverage big data to inform company business decisions and that have influence over their company’s decision to partner with business intelligence and big data vendors.

On the road to data efficiency

The survey found that these big data leaders overwhelmingly believe their corporate big data strategies are headed in the right direction (94 percent). Fully 98 percent said their company encourages its employees to ground business decisions in data and evidence (60 percent said their company ‘strongly encouraged’ the practice; 38 percent said their company ‘somewhat encouraged’ it).

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Additionally, 81 percent of respondents said their company will increase their investment in talent, tools and technologies to help leverage big data over the next five years.

Still, only 23 percent of respondents felt their company was extremely successful at leveraging big data to make decisions (and 39 percent felt their company was very successful). Despite the optimism and some success, Attivio found that data leaders face numerous challenges.

Data in all the wrong places

While 78 percent of respondents reported that a member of their C-suite was driving the effort to compete on analytics, 41 percent said that data was too siloed within functions to be accessible when they needed it. In fact, only 23 percent of respondents said their companies utilize more than three-quarters of their available big data. Even when data is accessible, it takes a long time to access disparate data sources: 37 percent of respondents said it takes a day or more to access big data sources for analysis — at the extreme end it can take weeks or more.

Other challenges include the following:

  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents said their legacy data storage systems require too much processing to meet today’s business requirements.
  • The perception of a dearth of data scientists is real; 66 percent of respondents said finding and hiring big data analytics talent is difficult.
  • There is an ongoing struggle between IT and BI, as evidenced by the fact that 59 percent of respondents said “shadow analytics” leads to data governance problems.

“This survey underscores exactly why chief data officers now have a seat at the executive table,” Baker says. “Enterprises are competing on an incomplete view of their data; they cannot adequately see or unify data across their silos. The need for immediate visibility into the right information continues to be the last mile in establishing these organizations as true data-driven companies.”