Three-quarters of firms to invest in big data in next two years

More than three-quarters of businesses around the world are currently investing in big data analytics solutions, or plan to do so in the next two years, a new survey has revealed.

Research by Gartner found this is a three per cent increase over 2014, although this growth is not as rapid as in previous years. It also noted that the big data market is heading into a new stage, where users are less interested in simply chasing hype and more focused on solutions that can deliver value to the business.

Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner, said: "This year begins the shift of big data away from a topic unto itself, and toward standard practices. The topics that formerly defined big data, such as massive data volumes, disparate data sources and new technologies are becoming familiar as big data solutions become mainstream."

He noted that seven out of ten big data-equipped companies are investing or planning to invest in location data analytics, while 64 per cent aim to incorporate free-form text into their analytics.

Typically, organisations will have multiple goals for their big data analytics initiatives, which usually include improving their customer experience, streamlining existing processes, delivering more targeted marketing campaigns, and cutting costs.

Boosting customer experience remains the top priority, with 64 per cent of respondents stating this is a key goal. However, the fastest growing area of interest is improving businesses' data security. With news of large-scale breaches frequently in the news, the research found 23 per cent of companies are now looking to enhance their security systems with big data, up from 15 per cent last year.

The majority of companies surveyed stated they expect to see a positive return on investment (ROI) from their initiatives. But there remains a great deal of uncertainty, with 43 percent of enterprises that are planning to invest and 38 percent of those that have already invested saying they do not know whether their ROI will be positive or negative.

This finding comes shortly after it was observed by InformationWeek writer Paul Korzeniowski that ROI is often not the best measure of a big data project. He explained that there is no guarantee at the start of a project about how successful it will be, while a process of trial and error means it can take time to hit upon an effective solution.

As a result, individuals managing big data projects may have to work hard in order to demonstrate the value of these efforts to the board. 

However, this is no longer just a job for the chief information officer (CIO). Gartner found that while IT departments still lead the way on many big data projects, business units are becoming increasingly involved.

Last year, 37 per cent of big data projects were initiated by the CIO, while 25 per cent were initiated by business unit heads. In 2015, the roles are nearly tied, at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.