Big data continues to be high on the agenda for many businesses, but despite the growing recognition of its importance, a large number of firms still do not have an effective plan in place for making the most of the technology.

This is among the key findings of a new survey conducted by DNV GL – Business Assurance and GFK Eurisko, which polled nearly 1,200 professionals from across Europe, Asia and the Americas. It revealed that many expect big data to play a significant role in future operations, but here is still a long way to go for many enterprises before this can be achieved.

More than three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) predicted that investments in big data technology will be maintained or increased in the coming years, while two-thirds (65 per cent) are planning for an environment where big data is a key part of their operations.

But even though 52 per cent of professionals agreed that big data presents a clear business opportunity, only 23 per cent have a clear strategy in place for embracing the technology.

DNV GL noted that in order to make big data analytics a success, companies should treat it as a new journey, and make preparations and changes to their existing processes accordingly.

For example, 28 per cent of respondents say they have improved their information management procedures in order to make the adoption of advanced analytics tools as smooth as possible, while 25 per cent have implemented new technologies and methods for handling data.

However, fewer companies have worked on changing their day-to-day activities. Just 16 per cent have made efforts to change the culture or organisation to reflect a more data-driven approach, while 15 per cent have changed their business model.

"Big data is changing the game in a number of industries, representing new opportunities and challenges," said Luca Crisciotti, chief executive of DNV GL – Business Assurance. "I believe that companies that recognise and implement strategies and plans to leverage the information in their data pools have increased opportunities to become more efficient and meet their market and stakeholders better."

The survey found that all companies that have already adopted big data analytics report clear benefits from their efforts. For example, 23 per cent stated they have seen increased efficiency, 16 per cent reported better business decision making and 11 per cent witnessed financial savings. 

Meanwhile, 16 per cent stated their customer experience and engagement has improved as a result of big data, while nine per cent reported better relations with other stakeholders.

However, there are several factors that are still holding many firms back when it comes to adopting big data. Chief among these are a failure to develop an overall strategy and a lack of technical skills, both of which were named as issues by 24 per cent of respondents.

Therefore, getting the right personnel on board will be critical in making big data a success. These individuals need to understand the intricacies of big data analytics technologies, as well as take a leading role in preparing the business for the era of data.

Mr Crisciotti said: "The ability to use data to obtain actionable knowledge and insights is inevitable for companies that want to keep growing and profiting. The data analyst or scientist will be crucial in most organisations in the near future."