Big Data Still In Its Infancy, Say Researchers

by CXOtoday News Desk    Oct 17, 2014

big data challenges

While there is a growing urgency for organizations to embrace big data analytics for better decision making and efficiency, very few companies have adopted big data to optimize business, believe researchers, who suggest that big data is still in its infancy and has a way to go to reach maturity.

A global study, “Industrial Internet Insights for 2015,” from GE and Accenture reveals that despite the buzz, less than one-third (29 percent) executives surveyed are using big data across their company for predictive analytics or to optimize their business. 

The study points out the various roadblocks to big data realization as cited by the respondents. More than one-third of the executives (36 percent) said system barriers between departments prevent collection and correlation of data. Twenty-nine percent said it is difficult to consolidate disparate data and to use the resulting data repository. Security also ranks high as a challenge with less than half (44 percent) reporting an end-to-end solution to defend against cyber-attacks and data leaks.

Another study conducted by research agency GfK too suggests that nearly 70% respondents said they do not have the necessary skills to understand the opportunities and challenges of big data, even though they believe it is very important for their business. More than two third believe their job profile has changed because of the evolution of big data in their organization, which has made their work-life difficult, it said.

Experts believe mining data sets is vital for businesses to reach their target audiences through relevant, personalized campaigns, which is not possible when they are just relying on mass techniques. However, Colin Strong, MD for Business & Technology at GfK notes that very few executives know the actual meaning of algorithm, let alone understand how it can determine product development, placement and price, among other things.

“Meanwhile, although consumers are aware their activity is tracked by companies and that their data is used for targeting them with offers, almost half admitted they don’t know what actual data is being collected,” he adds.

The biggest challenge for companies is how - and how not - to include big data in their day to day decision making. They should have a sound understanding of data – both big and small and take gradual steps to reach their big data goals. Robert Plant, Associate Professor of computer information systems at the University of Miami School of Business Administration mentions in his blog that with the right orientation of both big and small data, executives can have the best chance of analyzing the right data sets.

“Companies would do better at satisfying and retaining customers if they spent less time worrying about big data and more time leveraging“small data” — already-available information from simple technology solutions — as well to become more flexible, informative, and helpful,” he mentions.

However, the good news the GE-Accenture report sees is a sense of urgency among enterprise when it comes to adopting big data technologies. The report says, the progress is underway and 65 percent of the companies use big data analytics to monitor their equipment and assets to identify operating issues and enable proactive maintenance, says the study.  Sixty-two percent have implemented network technology to help gather vast amounts of data in dispersed environments such as remote wind farms or along oil pipelines.

Two-thirds of the executives surveyed across eight industrial sectors believe they could lose their market position in the next one to three years if they do not adopt big data, which the report suggests is needed to support their Industrial Internet strategy.  Additionally, with 93 percent already seeing new market entrants using big data to differentiate themselves, 88 percent of the executives stated that big data analytics is a top priority for their company.

Nearly half of the companies represented in the study said they plan to create new business opportunities that could generate additional revenue streams with their big data strategy while 60 percent expect to increase their profitability by using the information to improve their resource management.

“There is a big data revolution,” says Weatherhead University Professor Gary King in Harvard Magazine. But it is not the quantity of data that is revolutionary. “The revolution lies in improved statistical and computational methods, not in the exponential growth of storage or even computational capacity,” he says.

Analysts believe only when enterprises have a clarity on their expectations from big data and work towards how to derive benefits from it, it will be difficult for big data to reach the next level of maturity.