Tapping the benefits of big data management

Taking the lead on data culture

We live in a digital age, a time in our history where the collection, analysis and utilisation of business data has become an important strategic imperative for organisations throughout the world. Big data analytics technology has made the gathering of these ingredients possible, but some businesses may still struggle to see the value of the innovation.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), big data and analytics are set to see continued growth in Asia Pacific over the coming years. The industry in the region is expected to reach $7 billion in revenues by 2019, with 53 per cent of organisations planning to adopt analytics in the near future – if they haven’t already. Once a business is able to wrap its mind around the value, it’s often only a matter of time before that business makes the leap.

“Enterprises are overwhelmed with massive amounts of data, and additionally, mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) are adding to this exponential growth and complexity,”  

“This, in turn, is facilitating enterprises to relook at their Big Data and analytics strategy and leverage the growing data to make quick and right decisions to achieve business goals.”    Sherrel Roche, IT services senior market analyst, IDC Asia Pacific.

One of the key terms often used with regards to data analytics and modern operations is agility – an ability to read the business landscape and adapt quickly to capitalise on trends or deflect potentially damaging variables. At a time when a number of common processes are slowing down – Fortune Magazine found that hiring new employees in 2015 took on average three weeks longer than in 2010, for example – speeding up decision-making wherever possible is essential.

That said, an agile company needs a solid, consistent foundation to allow for rapid change.

“Agility requires stability, a stable foundation – a platform, if you will – of things that don’t change. It’s this stable backbone that becomes a springboard for the company, an anchor point that doesn’t change while a whole bunch of other things are changing constantly,”

Aaron De Smet of McKinsey & Company.

Collected and analysed big data can provide that foundation to speed up the decision-making process; however, gathering information from a vast array of sources can lead to confusion and poor-quality data. The sheer volume and variety of data has reached near-unmanageable levels, and the speed at which new information is feeding into organisations today makes identifying the most accurate and useable insights a tremendous challenge.

For organisations to ensure the quality of their data and effect meaningful change across the business, individuals at all levels need to be equally informed about the value of analytics. Achieving that spread of information must start from the top, with business leaders willing and able to develop and nurture a data-driven culture.

A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) looked into the effectiveness of data-driven enterprises, finding that executive-level leaders are considered the most crucial element in developing culture across a business. Top-down guidance was revealed as the most important factor in companies whose own cultural development has been successful, noted by almost half of all respondents in the survey.

Organisations who continue to keep their information siloed in particular areas of the business – with the IT department, in many cases – may be missing out on the biggest benefits of data analysis. It’s little surprise then that the EIU survey found that the promotion of data-sharing practices was the second-most critical strategy towards a data-driven culture, mentioned by 48 per cent of respondents.

“It is not a belief that data is an issue for someone else in the company, a job for a data specialist or perhaps the IT department,” 

“Forward-looking organisations are placing data at the heart of almost all important decisions. And they are tolerant of questioning – even dissent – about business decisions being made, as long as the questioning is based on data and their analysis.”   Jim Giles from the EIU.

Data-driven culture starts at the top.

Results speaking for themselves

Encouraging an operational culture built on data and led from the front by members of the executive team makes sense in theory, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Attempting to learn the key factors separating high- and low-performing organisations, McKinsey & Company queried a number of business leaders about their use of data and analytics initiatives. Looking specifically at the two factors mentioned above – having executive data leadership and promotion of data sharing – the survey yielded some strong evidence in favour of these approaches.

Sponsorship of analytics initiatives by the CEO or one of their direct reports was reported by 73 per cent of high performers, compared to just 34 per cent of low performers. Similarly, 64 per cent of high performers stated that their data was accessible across the entire organisation, a sentiment echoed by only 33 per cent of low performers.

The importance of tools

Regardless of where your organisation’s data expertise lies – be it with the CEO, CTO or a dedicated data specialist – their job will be made much easier with access to the most current and effective data management technology. Beyond the sharing of information, respondents to the McKinsey survey noted the availability of analytics tools as a huge factor in performance.

There is a great variety of solutions available to organisations that are trying to get the most benefit out of their business data, and choosing which particular product is right for your needs can be challenging. Working with consultants can ease this part of the journey – experts who can assess your business structure and capabilities. Recommendations regarding the right platform (or platforms) to get a handle on your collected data will help to derive the most impactful insight from it.

Get in touch with Acention today for more information and advice about unlocking the potential of your business data.