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  • 21 September 2012 12:17

Survey: big data strategy critical, staff shortages a concern

Strong link between defined data strategies and success, reveals SAS-sponsored Economist Intelligence Unit survey

A new global survey, Big data: lessons from the leaders, finds a strong correlation between financially successful businesses and a well-defined data strategy.

Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by business analytics leader SAS, the report explores how far the more than 700 companies surveyed have come on their journey toward a mature data strategy. It further identifies how to exploit the massive amounts of data companies collect.

Nearly half of companies that "significantly outperform their peers financially" reported a well-defined data strategy – four times the number performing on par with peers. The survey suggests companies should prioritise business goals to determine a data strategy and hire employees with the knowledge and skills to manage big data initiatives.

The impact of data on the business landscape is unprecedented, with the amount and types of data that organisations have access to growing exponentially. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the world now creates the same amount of data every two days as was generated between the dawn of civilisation and 2003.

"An organisation's data is only as good as the business insights it reveals," said Paul Kent, SAS Vice President of Big Data. "Mapping your big data strategy to address your challenges is crucial. But the importance of hiring the right people to manage and analyse your data and communicate results cannot be overstated."

Additional survey insights:

• Social media is mainstream. Some 66 per cent of companies surveyed are collecting Web data about their customers, but just 22 per cent said that social media and Web data significantly affects customer experience; this number jumps to 32 per cent among high-performing companies.

• The need for speed. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said the speed at which their companies process data has increased over the past year. High-performing companies in the survey experienced "significant" increases, compared to just 17 per cent of other companies. Increased speed has the most significant effect on strategic decision making (63 per cent).

• People as assets. Data scientists and data stewards are necessary for gaining insight from data. Yet the survey finds skilled data workers in short supply.

• Reporting is half the battle. Properly communicating the results of data-driven initiatives has challenged many organisations. Results must be shared with employees at all levels in various departments – from IT to C-level – in a language they can easily understand.

Download a free copy of the survey at

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