6 Highlights of a New Survey on Big Data Analytics

A new survey of 316 executives from large global companies, conducted by Forbes Insights and sponsored by Teradata in partnership with McKinsey, provides a fresh look at the state of big data analytics implementations. Here are the highlights.

The hype gone, big data is alive and doing well

About 90% of organizations report medium to high levels of investment in big data analytics, and about a third call their investments “very significant.” Most important, about two-thirds of respondents report that big data and analytics initiatives have had a significant, measurable impact on revenues.

59% of the executives surveyed consider big data and analytics either a top five issue or the single most important way to achieve a competitive advantage. This attitude is slightly more prevalent in financial services and much more prevalent in Asia-Pacific, where 41% of executives (compared to the survey average of 21%) consider big data and analytics the single most important way for companies to gain a competitive advantage.

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The right organizational culture is key to big data success

No matter how many times you say “data-driven,” decisions are still not based on data. Sounds familiar? 51% of executives said that adapting and refining a data-driven strategy is the single biggest cultural barrier and 47% reported putting big data learning into action as an operational challenge. 43% cited fostering a culture that rewards use of data and valuing creativity and experimentation with data as key challenges.

Companies that don’t get the data-driven culture right tend to fall behind their peers. 47% of executives surveyed do not think that their companies’ big data and analytics capabilities are above par or best of breed. And the survey found that the more the respondents know about big data and analytics, the less likely they are to judge the organization as above average or best of breed. For example, among data scientists, only 8% call their organizations best of breed and 10% think they are above average.

Big data is top of mind when the CEO loves data

If you take big data analytics seriously, you get results. 51% of organizations where big data is viewed as the single most important way to gain competitive advantage are led by CEOs who personally focus on big data initiatives. In organizations where big data is viewed as a top-five issue that gets significant time and attention from top leadership, the sponsor is typically one level below top leadership. Finally, companies that have established data and analytics positions at the CxO level are more likely to have above average data analytics capabilities.

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Going from the right attitude to the right action is a long big data journey

Even if you have top leadership sponsorship and the right culture, getting data to drive action and strategy is a challenge.  48% of executives surveyed regard making fact-based business decisions based on data as a key strategic challenge, and 43% cite developing a corporate strategy as a significant hurdle. Other obstacles to realizing the benefits of big data analytics are focusing resources to get the most insights from data (43%) and viewing data as a valuable asset (41%).

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There’s gold in them thar brontobyte data mountains

The survey found that big data is driving opportunities for innovation in three key areas: creating new business models (54%); discovering new product offers (52%); and monetizing data to external companies (40%). To pursue these opportunities, companies that are gaining the most traction are looking beyond transactional data—exploring a wide variety of many data types.

The most-cited was location data (used to identify an electronic device’s physical location), collected by over half of the respondents, followed by text data (unstructured data like email messages, slides, Word documents, and instant messages). Social media is tracked and its unstructured data collected by 43% of companies surveyed and about a third finds golden nuggets in images, weblogs, videos, sensor data and speech files.

Big data miners still very much wanted

Realizing the business and innovation opportunities hidden in the mountains of data requires the right set of skills and experiences.  46% of the executives surveyed, however, reported that hiring the talent that can recognize innovations in data is a challenge.

Originally published on Forbes.com