Big Data is perhaps the hottest topic in technology circles at the moment, with industries from retail to transport looking to benefit from the data they own. While some businesses are quite advanced in their approach, others are just beginning to explore the possibilities of Big Data. As a result there is little hard understanding of how far adoption has progressed overall and what effect it’s having on business.

To help clear some of the fog around Big Data, Stibo Systems commissioned a survey by independent experts Coleman Parkes Research, to look at Big Data adoption at 200 firms across Europe and Australia with more than 1,000 employees in their country of operation.

Interviews were undertaken with a mixture of Heads of IT Heads and Finance as well as Marketing Directors with the results revealing a range of insights into how Big Data is impacting business; from how it is used to who was taking responsibility for it.

Delivering Benefits

The research revealed definitively that Big Data is being used for both externally and internally facing activities and analysis. 53% of enterprises surveyed are using Big Data for customer relationship management and a further 50% are deploying Big Data approaches for marketing campaigns and strategies.

These results reveal that Big Data has now clearly moved beyond the hype curve and enterprises are analysing their data for real business gain. In some cases it is driving customer experience and competitive positioning while in others it is underpinning compliance (48% of responses).

For some (46%) it is focused on driving innovation through an enhanced business decision-making process, and for 48% of respondents it is used for helping with production /operations. There is clear evidence that larger companies are maturing in their use of Big Data and have moved to the implementation stages across different parts of the business. What the research also revealed was that Big Data is now also being utilised for strategic business decision making, altering the direction of different businesses.

Strategic Insights

Nearly three quarters of enterprises surveyed use Big Data for strategic decision making, with 65% of finance heads confirming this to be the case. While this is again evidence of Big Data maturing and moving beyond the hype, it also raises questions as to who ‘owns’ the responsibility for Big Data within an organisation.

The research revealed insights into this area, with senior managers revealing that they were unsure who owns the organisation’s data with 61% saying IT, 21% finance and 7% marketing. A further one in ten senior people openly admitted that they were unsure who “really owned” the data. This reveals real confusion within the business about who owns the data.

Should it sit within the IT department or should it be the responsibility of finance or marketing? If Big Data is increasingly setting the strategic direction of a business, this question needs to be clarified. For the decision making to be most effective and targeted, it needs to be driven by the heads of the business units in a way which it isn’t currently. As a direct result, decisions made by the business leaders will be of greater benefit to the organisation.

Masters Of Their Own Data

A significant part of the problem around ownership lies in the fact that businesses haven’t yet organised their data effectively. The research showed that one in five pan-European enterprises do not currently manage their own master data, the implication being that it is left to a third party or it is simply not exploited at all.

This is an error in the part of those businesses that will prevent them from fully exploiting Big Data over the coming years. Having an effective Master Data Management (MDM) solution is integral to the success of efficient modern business operations and is key to unlocking the business value of Big Data. Organisations have extensive IT landscapes, with a variety of systems outputting Big Data at increasing rates.

Businesses need to work out from this data what is relevant, what is stored where and what actions need to be made based on the information. Having decided this, the data then needs to be integrated into an organisation’s MDM solution. With an effective MDM platform in place, businesses have an opportunity to turn the insight that Big Data provides into clear, identifiable action.

The research highlights this point – of those organisations that do manage their master data, 81% have taken the approach to enrich it further with Big Data. This will allow for more effective and appropriate analysis to drive innovation, competition and productivity.

Moving To The Next Stage

The research revealed clear evidence that Big Data has come of age and moved beyond the hype curve. Businesses across Europe and Australia are exploiting Big Data for real business gain and analytics are underpinning innovation, competitive positioning, customer experience and productivity.

Big Data is being used strategically to underpin core strategic decision making. But ownership of the data has to change over time and move away from IT, more into the core business units for an organisation to really benefit from the use of Big Data. Those organisations that are able to exploit Big Data and generate change will gain the most. Enterprises cannot afford to be left behind.