Does using Big Data technology add up?

Close to 60 percent of the companies using Big Data applications have squeezed new revenue growth out of existing business operations, according to a new Avanade survey.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

The term "Big Data" may be vying for status as one of the most over-used marketing phrases of the year, but that doesn't mean the concept isn't real.

Approximately 73 percent of the 569 companies surveyed by technology consulting firm Avanade said that they are using insights surfaced by so-called "Big Data" applications. Approximately 58 percent of that number report that "Big Data" has helped them increase existing revenue streams, while the rest have discovered new data sources.

"Big Data" is used rather broadly to describe a category of data management technologies that help analyze and visualize existing corporate data, surfacing trends, anomalies and other insights that could help inform business strategy. The category steps beyond traditional business intelligence software to help demonstrate trends that are meaningful to businesspeople, not just mathematicians.

Data management tools typically have lived under the control of IT departments, but increasingly "Big Data" applications are being managed by business operations employees, the Avanade survey showed.

Among 58 percent of the respondents, for example, data management is now embedded into business operations.

This shift is signaling the rise of a new category of business analysts, who aren't employed by the IT department, the Avanade survey showed. Indeed, approximately 95 percent of the companies surveyed by the consulting firm said they don't consider data analysts as part of the IT staff and are taking steps to spread their knowledge across the company.

In its analysis of the survey, Avanade wrote:

"Most see the volumes of data they must manage and analyze as an operational asset rater than an anchor. Ninety-three percent of participants report their company has used data analysis to try to predict and analyze future business activities across a wide range of functions. The most popular use of data is for sales-oriented tasks. Interestingly, as companies get larger, they are more likely to also use data for competitive intelligence."

So how do businesses ensure that a "Big Data" investment isn't going to flop? There are definitely a number of challenges, including:

  • Finding the right technology
  • Finding the right staff
  • Developing new skills to turn data into business insights
  • Getting a grip on existing structured and unstructured data, so that companies can derive the most value

All of these factors were mentioned as obstacles getting in the way of meaningful Big Data applications.

Avanade's survey focused on C-level executives, business unit leaders and IT decision-makers from 18 countries including North America. The survey spanned several industries and it was conducted in April 2012.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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