Big data strategies ‘must change to meet expectations’

With a growing number of businesses adopting big data solutions in 2015, expectations for the technology are at an all-time high. But this may mean that many users are in danger of being disappointed with the results they get, if they do not approach their projects in the right way.

This is the warning of Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins, who stated that with two-thirds of companies expecting to implement some form of big data analytics initiative by the end of this year, it is clear that business leaders are buying into the technology.

However, he added that positive results are so far proving elusive for many users, and often, this is due to a disconnect between the perceptions of senior staff about the capabilities of the technology, and what is achieved in reality. 

In many cases, the problems lie in the fact that IT personnel are simply left to analyse data, with little thought given to how the results of these activities will be interpreted and translated into action. If such issues are not addressed, big data is likely to be a "big letdown" for many companies in terms of how it optimised customer engagement and experience.

"Big data is about turning more data into insight," Mr Hopkins said. "In fact, our latest data and analytics survey tells me that big data plans are still overwhelmingly an IT department thing. As such, they have fallen victim to supply side thinking – just furnish the data and the technology, 'the business' will do the rest."

On its own, big data will not automatically ensure that insights are tested for value against business outcomes, or deliver these insights at the point of decision-making. It will be up to business users and data specialists to work together to perform these tasks and ensure big data deployments are able to meet their full potential.

To achieve this, he said it is vital enterprises set up "systems of insight" to help take the information outputted by big data systems and transform it into details that are actually useful to the organisation.

Mr Hopkins defined these systems of insight as "the business discipline and technology to harness insights and turn data into action". Implemented effectively, such initiatives can achieve what big data alone cannot – effective action through insights-driven software.

This idea is becoming increasingly popular among executives who are unhappy with the current IT-led big data environment and who are not convinced by the results they have seen so far.

Mr Hopkins said: "It is time we, as technology leaders, stop talking about big data and start talking about the insights-to-execution made possible by creating systems of insight that drive our digital businesses."

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