Companies remain highly optimistic that big data analytics solutions will have a transformative effect on the way they do businesses, but younger employees are far more confident than their older counterparts, a new survey has found.

IDG's 2016 Data and Analytics Survey found that more than half of businesses (53 per cent) plan to implement big data initiatives within the next 12 months, are are already undergoing such as process.  

Overall, 78 per cent of employees agree or strongly agree that the collection and analysis of big data has the potential to fundamentally change the way their company does business in the next one to three years. Meanwhile, 71 per cent agree or strongly agree that big data will create new revenue opportunities and/or lines of business for their company in the same timeframe. 

However, a generational gap is emerging between younger workers who are enthusiastic about the technology and older employees who take a more cautious view. Those aged between 18 and 34 are far more likely than older workers to have a positive view of big data and its potential to transform a business.

"These age-linked differences may be attributable to younger employees being more comfortable with the latest technologies and more inured to the inevitability of technology-driven disruption," IDG stated.

However, it also suggested that as older workers will have seen many hyped developments come and go over their careers, they are less willing to predict that any particular trend will be a source of fundamental change, even one as far-reaching as big data.

The survey also examined the sources of data for use in analytics operations. It found that the average business gathers more than half of its data (54 per cent) from internal sources, while 25 per cent comes from external sources, with 21 per cent being a combination of the two.

The top sources of data for all companies, regardless of size, are sales and financial transaction (56 per cent), leads and sales contacts from customer databases (51 per cent), and email and productivity applications (both 39 per cent). 

IDG's survey did note that the types of data firms focus on differ depending on the size of the companies. Larger enterprises are more likely to collect transactional data, machine-generated/sensor data, government and public domain data, and data from security monitoring. However, smaller businesses concentrate their efforts on email, data from third-party databases, social media, and statistics from news media. 

One of the biggest issues for companies of all sizes will be handling unstructured data, such as emails, word documents and presentations. Due to their disorganized model and lack of a pre-defined database, deriving insight from this sources will prove difficult for many firms.

This may be why just 17 per cent of firms view unstructured data as a primary focus for their big data analytics initiatives, while nearly half (45 per cent) rate it as one of their main challenges.