A report by IBM and the Saïd School of Business at the University of Oxford has found almost two thirds (63%) of UK and Ireland businesses recognise the competitive advantage associated with Big Data. This marks a significant increase with just over a third (34%) recognising its value back in 2010.

Despite this increased appreciation however, there are still key areas which UK companies are failing to exploit Big Data potential. Less than half of companies (39%) currently analyse data from social media (39%), whilst similar volumes neglect external feeds (39%) and geospatial data (37%).

Investigating the reasons behind the lack of uptake, the study found a ‘lack of understanding of how to use Big Data to impact business’ as the key primary obstacle, with 41% of UK respondents agreeing.

Commenting on the report, Matin Jouzdani, Strategy Consultant at IBM Global Business Services, said: “One key reason for companies not collecting and analysing wider varieties of data lies in the veracity – or truthfulness – of insights generated from sources such as real-time data and social media.

“Striving for high data quality is an important Big Data requirement, and the survey respondents questioned the ability to trust rapidly growing forms of unstructured data, such as those generated from on-line consumer comments, reviews, Tweets and other forms of freely offered opinions.

“Another reason that such forms of data are being underutilised is due to the skills gap. Having the more advanced analytical capabilities for managing unstructured data – including geospatial location data, voice and video – as well as streaming data remains a top challenge for most organisations. Less than 25 per cent of the survey respondents say they have the required capabilities to analyse highly unstructured data – a major inhibitor to getting the most value from Big Data.”

Other sources of Big Data however are proving more popular with UK business; with nine in ten (90%) of UK companies gathering Big Data from business transactions. Elsewhere 72% are engaging with log data, while 61% are gathering Big Data from emails, and 56% from events.

When asked for the reasons behind Big Data use; 38% of companies cited consumer centric outcomes as their primary reason, indicating an increased desire to understand and connect with consumers. Other reasons include using it to optimise internal operations (25%), developing new business models (18%), and managing finances and risk levels (16%).

The study also concluded that Big Data adoption occurs in four distinct phases, each with unique organisational behaviours and challenges. At present only 5% are UK companies are using Big Data in the fullest sense, whereby they innovate and drive value for business advantage, whilst 70% still operate within the first two stages, identifying data requirements and developing their strategies.

The new report, entitled “Analytics: The real-world use of Big Data,” is based on a global survey of 1,144 business and IT professionals from more than 130 countries and 26 industries. The report provides a global snapshot of how organisations today view Big Data, how they are building essential capabilities to tackle Big Data and to what extent they are currently engaged in using it to benefit their business.