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C-suite strategies shifting in response to big data

The emergence of big data as a central part of how firms make decisions is leading to many executives making significant changes to how they approach their future strategy, a new study has found.

Research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of Platfora revealed almost half of C-suite executives (48 per cent) believe big data will have a positive impact on their operations, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent) expect it to completely revolutionise the way their businesses are managed.

The survey, which polled 395 C-level executives at Fortune 2000 companies, revealed many senior managers are already identifying key areas where big data analytics solutions can help drive business value and make a positive contribution to their bottom line.

If found the highest priority for such deployments is currently improving customer insights and targeting. This was cited by 42 per cent of respondents as the most important application for the technology.

Ben Werther, founder and chief executive of Platfora, said it is encouraging to see that enterprises remain optimistic about the potential of big data now that the technology is being increasingly adopted by mainstream companies. The positive opinions of C-suite executives stand as proof that this class of solution is working.

However, he added that senior personnel need to be at the forefront of such developments and promote the benefits throughout the business in order to ensure their success.

"Leadership that promotes the use of big data at all levels of an enterprise will see an increased competitive advantage and ability to meet the needs of customers at a whole new level," Mr Werther said.

Chief executive officers were found to be the C-suite personnel most enthusiastic about big data analytics. Some 76 per cent of these personnel said they had a positive or very positive view on the topic. This compares with 72 per cent of chief information officers and 67 per cent of chief marketing officers.

The study also noted that creating enterprise-wide big data teams will play a critical role in ensuring companies see optimal value from the technology. This should be part of creating a data-centric culture that runs through all parts of a business.

Therefore, the EIU identified several ways in which leaders can help foster such an environment.

It noted the C-suite needs to inspire personnel through their values and vision for the company, provide the expertise and education needed to enable effective use of big data, promote collaboration and transparency, and engage with employees in all departments through communication and openness.

"When leadership aspires to create a data-centric culture, the next critical step is the cultural transformation necessary to embed the new expertise and tools into day-to-day business transactions and decisions throughout the whole organisation," the report stated.

To achieve this, the EIU recommends companies adopt several best practices, including using data to set and track performance goals, offering training and education on data analysis, and experimenting and innovating with data.