Data Drives Growth, New Hires, Middleware Spending and Crazy Talk

Loraine Lawson
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Millennials Expect Brands to Use Their Unique Data for Hyper-Targeted Experiences

A new survey shows that organizations really are embracing the shift to data-driven leadership — so much so that it’s actually affecting the economy, according to Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of the survey’s co-sponsor, BSA.

Ipsos Public Affair polled more than 1,500 senior executives and business decision makers across the U.S. and E.U. Of those, two-thirds of senior executives say data analytics are important to their companies. That was slightly truer in the U.S. (69 percent) than the E.U. (65 percent).

Time and time again this year, surveys show a majority of executives are pleased with their Big Data investments, so this shouldn’t be surprising. But this survey is different in that it looks more broadly at data analytics and it queried across two continents.

What’s especially noteworthy is how data satisfaction scales up as the companies grow. The survey found that 60 percent of small companies — which means organizations with 50 or fewer employees — say data analytics are important to them. In mid-sized companies, that number jumps to 87 percent in the U.S. and 79 percent in Europe. Ask executives at large companies, and it jumps again to 97 percent in the U.S. and 82 percent in Europe.

As for the economic impact, data analytics is actually creating jobs and organizational growth.

“Thinking about this year, 33 percent of senior executives in the U.S. and 24 percent in Europe say they expect 10 percent or more of their companies' growth to be related to data analytics,” the press release states. “Looking ahead five years, 58 percent of senior executives in the U.S. and 43 percent in Europe make the same prediction.”

More than half of the senior executives surveyed said they plan to hire more employees to expand their data analytics companies.

This survey isn’t the only one to demonstrate that data is a booming business, of course. For instance, a recent Gartner survey found 73 percent of businesses have or plan to invest in Big Data within the next two years, according to TechTarget. The Gartner study, “Big Data Investment Grows but Deployments Remain Scarce in 2014,” was much smaller in sample size, but focused on global organizations, so it might actually be more significant.  

But here’s an odd finding from that report. It seems that while large enterprises are investing in Big Data, it’s mostly because their competition is. And what’s more, they’re not actually doing much with it: Only 13 percent actually said their IT organizations had put Big Data into production.

There’s a simple explanation for that: The technology and skills are too new, Gartner Research Director Nick Heudecker told TechTarget. Gartner’s findings suggest that organizations are unsure about how to actually leverage Big Data. Part of the angst seems to be about the data itself: The survey found that 30 to 40 percent say they expect to add every data source. Heudecker all but calls that plan crazy talk. Here’s the actual quote from the press release:

"We got a surprising result when we asked respondents which data sources they planned on adding in the future. Every data source received roughly 30 percent to 40 percent of responses, including extremely challenging data sources like audio and video. This overly optimistic and apparently random nature of future data sources for analysis indicates two things. First, organizations don't have a plan for what they're going to do next. Picking everything isn't a strategy. It indicates a fear of missing out on an opportunity yet to be defined. Also, there may be a certain amount of hubris at work. If organizations can 'do big data' on transactions and log data, they may assume they can also leverage more challenging data sources as easily." 

No wonder I’m starting to see experts pull out that old IT adage: Start small, show value, and then expand slowly.

Whatever the problem is, it’s certainly good news for integration and middleware vendors. Ovum predicts that organizations will spend $16.3 billion on middleware software next year. That’s an increase of 9.3 percent on a year-on-year basis, Ovum told

If you’d like to read more on data’s financial impact, check out Espinel’s column on the Huffington Post. It’s not exactly a robust analysis, since it’s not offering any real numbers on how much data adds to the economy, but she includes a nice graphic that sums up the key findings.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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