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Big data could mean big returns

You’ve probably heard the words; now it’s time to take them seriously. According to a large-scale survey byAvanade, big data – the large and complex amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data a company creates?- is reaching a tipping point in business. For high-growth, mid-sized firms, how you accumulate and then use your data may well determine your business’s success.

As eventually happens with all new technology trends, we are moving from defence to offence in navigating big data. Already a surprising number of businesses are seeing returns on their big data investments.

While 91 per cent of companies report they are already using tools to manage and analyse data, 75 per cent say they will make additional investments to improve their data analytics capabilities.

Many companies may be collecting big data, but few know how to find value from it. Companies are heavily investing in the conversionof data into business value, but are still struggling with its sheervolume and security concerns. In terms of usefulness, companies areso far focusing on on predictive analytics, management tools andmobile data access.

Some 85 per cent of respondents in Avande’s survey mentioned obstacles in managing and analysing data. Among C-level executives, the majority explained that finding the right technology for handling data was their biggest problem. Among IT professionals, interestingly, most believed that finding the right staff to handle data was the main issue.

Most shareholders feel their company needs to develop new skills to turn data into business insight. In other words, they need to invest in a wider range of staff skills, such as maths, statistics and visual design.

With the right skills in place, namely dedicated data analysts, the majority of companies are turning data into revenue. 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 competitor intelligence. Some 84 percent of respondents report that using data has helped them make better business decisions.

Summing up the results of their survey, which was conducted with 569 C-level executives, business leaders and IT decision makers, Avanade published four key trends that will be used by forward-looking, high-growth businesses to make the most out of big data.

1. Merge

The amount of structured and unstructured data in business is growing. In order to derive the most value from big data, companies will need to merge data from multiple sources. This includes structured data – for example, customer information in CRM – with unstructured data, such as customer sentiment in social news feeds. Tools such as?Hadoop can help make this connection.

2. Optimise

Not all data is good data. With more and more types of data, channels of distribution and pace at which data is produced, companies must identify, select and capture the optimal data set to make decisions. By framing the right questions and utilising the right tools and processes, companies will be able to better prioritise and optimise their data strategy.

3. Respond

Two key steps here. First, companies must be aware of their data. This means they must have reporting tools in place to surface the right information for the people who need it. Then, once companies are aware of their data, they need the right processes and tools to enable them to take action on real-time insights.

4. Empower

A data management strategy can only be successful if employees are empowered to take action with the right training and tools. By training staff to recognise and act on big data insights, companies will be able to improves business decisions and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

How high-growth small and mid-sized firms can make use of huge amounts of data will be a key theme in the presentation of McLaren Applied Technologies managing director Geoff McGrath at next week’s Entrepreneurs’ Summit.


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