No More Cowboys: Survey Shows Executives Focus on Data-Driven Decisions

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Six Tips for Formulating a Business Plan for Big Data

Let us pause, for a moment, to mourn the passing of an era. Gone are the days of shooting-from-the-hip leadership and cowboy managers whose intuition, conviction, and, yes, ego drive our businesses to success or failure.


Their time is ending, giving way to the Data-Driven Enterprise.


Nine out of 10 executives now describe their businesses as "data driven," according to a new Capgemini report on Big Data's rising impact. Even more telling: Nine out of ten business leaders believe data is now the fourth factor of production, as fundamental to business as land, labor and capital, according to the consulting and technology services firm.


The report provides insight into the pressure leaders are under to not only make business decisions based on data, but to do so quickly and with broader, deeper data than was previously available. On behalf of Capgemini, the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 607 executives, including 168 North American executives. The majority described their companies as data-driven and say collecting and analyzing data "underpins" both business strategy and daily decisions:


  • Approximately two-thirds believe Big Data is needed so their organizations can make informed decisions.
  • Fifty-five percent already use "hard analytical information" to make business decisions.


Yesterday, I shared that Big Data is different from many tech trends in that CIOs don't have to be convinced to invest in it. Time and time again, I'm hearing that CIOs are well aware they have an existing Big Data problem. The survey puts some numbers to the reality of that, with 44 percent saying the increasing volume of data from external and internal sources has slowed down decision making.


Scott Schlesinger, who leads Capgemini's Business Information Management North America Global Service Line, spoke with me about the report on Friday. Data is a major challenge for many companies and their CIOs, he said, offering an anecdote from a recent CIO symposium.


"Two questions were asked," he said. "The first question was how many people here feel as though their organization has a Big Data problem and every hand in the room went up. Then the next question was, how many of you have an understanding of what that means and how to address the big data problem and sadly not one hand in the group of some of the best and brightest CIOs in the country went up."


That's because the problem isn't just about storing and using the data. It's also about the quality of the data, with 71 percent saying they struggle with data inaccuracies on a daily basis.


What's truly revealing, though, is how much time pressures factor into data. Eighty-four percent say at their organization, the larger issue is being able to analyze and act on Big Data in real-time. Forty-six percent said a lack of time to interpret data sets is an impediment to decision making. Time pressures for decisions may also account for another finding: 62 percent reported an issue with data automation, noting not all operational decisions have been automated.


So, it's probably not surprising that half plan to increase their investments in Big Data analysis over the next three years. Schlesinger cautioned, however, that this is not something you can "throw technology at," unless you want to make the situation worse.


"Just to throw technology at it, I say, is like putting a car on the street that has no engine in it and say I'm going to use this car and rather than having an engine in it, I'm just going to have some people push it all the time. You're going to get to where you need to go eventually, but it's going to be slow, it's going to be painful and it's going to be costly," he said. "Understanding the fundamental issues behind big data, things like master data, data quality, have I put the right governance and procedures in place when it comes to handling big data, that I could solve the problem short-term with some technology, but the problems are going to creep up on me over and over and over again."


Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that the new report coincides with Capgemini's unveiling of a "broad portfolio of Business Analytics solutions and services, including a pragmatic business-driven approach to Big Data and objective advisory on the key technology options for customers." The consulting firm offers industry-specific solutions for telecommunications, utilities and financial services, as well as nine domain-specific business analytics solutions: customer analytics; marketing analytics; predictive asset maintenance; enterprise performance; social insight into action; advanced planning and scheduling; risk management; faud analysis; and CFO analytics.


Still, the report backs up what experts are saying across the industry: Data in all its incarnations is a major technology and business issue.


"Big Data is one of those disrupted technologies, one of those things that's taking the forefront of the minds of most of our customers and most of the global corporations throughout both North America and the world," Schlesinger said.


"The Deciding Factor: Big Data & Decision Making," along with several infographs for quick perusal, is available as a free download. You can also find the infographs and with other graphs on data on my Pinterest page, Data about Data.

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