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Big Data Value Is Out There — Somewhere

July 26, 2016

By Steve Swoyer

July 11, 2016

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Is your organization getting value from its investment in big-data-related technologies? According to a recent survey, more than half of organizations aren’t. The good news is that most of them believe this will change.

These are just two findings from a recent survey by business assurance specialist DNV GL. What does DNV GL know of big data? About as much as any organization that manages almost 15,000 ships and mobile offshore rigs. DNV GL has a significant consulting presence in the maritime, oil and gas, renewable energy, and healthcare sectors, which means it works with some of the largest companies in the world.

That’s what makes its survey of 1,189 customers so intriguing.

For one thing, a majority of respondents (65 percent) believe big data will be a big deal. Ironically, not all believe big data will a big deal for them: less than half of respondents (45 percent) “recognize[d] the direct importance of big data capabilities for their companies,” according to the DNV GL report.

North American respondents (56 percent) and respondents in companies of 1,000 or more people (60 percent) are more likely to believe big data will directly affect them. Companies in the EU (50.5 percent) and the Asia-Pacific region (40.7 percent) are less convinced.

Right now, slightly more than one in four organizations (26.8 percent) are using big data technologies to power revenue-generating or value-creating business activities.

Those numbers are a bit better among North American companies (almost one-third say they’re doing business with big data) and large companies in all regions (43.5 percent), but it’s still far from commonplace.

Elsewhere, just over half (52 percent) of all respondents say they’ve implemented at least one big data-related project; companies in the EU and North America (both at 55 percent) and large companies (63 percent) once again outpace other respondents.

What are they doing with big data? According to DNV GL, most organizations (27.6 percent) are using big data technologies to “enhance” their data management practices. Almost a quarter (24.8 percent) say they’re “integrat[ing] new technologies and methods.” This sounds less like a revenue-generating/value-creating use case than the simple adoption of big data technology.

What’s more, 16 percent of respondents say their use of big data technologies has contributed to (or otherwise triggered) changes in their culture or organization. Fifteen percent used big data to change up their business models, 10 percent to develop new delivery models.

When it comes to believing that big data will have a big impact, North American companies tend to outpace organizations in other regions. When it comes to realizing that impact in the here and now, North American firms trail companies in other regions.

For example, only 36.6 percent of North American companies say they have derived “at least one” benefit from their big data-related projects. Companies in the EU (45.4 percent), Asia-Pacific (42 percent), and even Central/South America (41.5 percent) easily surpass this score.

Larger proportions of firms in the EU (21.5 percent), Asia-Pacific (23.5 percent) and Central/South America (23.1 percent) use big data technologies to increase efficiency, too. The number for North America is a wee 18.3 percent.

We’ve been living with big data for more than a decade. We’ve been explicitly talking about it for at least half a decade. Its mainstream ramp-up is proceeding apace, just not as apace-edly as some in the vendor community might want. Most companies aren’t — and can’t be — Facebook, Google, or Yahoo.

Respondents to the DNV GL survey specifically cited the need for big data skills as well as the challenges posed by big data governance. “Companies seemingly will not be searching for a solution in futuristic inventions but by investing in human skills,” the report reads.

Approximately 50 percent of companies believe they can develop in-house skills and competencies. One-fifth plan to offset skill shortages and deficiencies by outsourcing. “Questioned on how they intend to manage the increasing data complexity, most [companies] answer [that] they are planning significant changes to their workforce in the mid-term,” the report says.

Survey data and analysis is available here free of charge.