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More now ‘get’ importance of Big Data: study

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Big Data is making its mark on the UK business landscape, where two-thirds now recognise its importance, according to a new study.

But while 63% of UK companies now agree that Big Data provides a competitive advantage, a joint report from IBM and the Saïd School of Business at the University of Oxford found, less than half said they had the analytical skills to use it effectively. This, however, represents progress against the 34% who in 2010 said they recognised the value of big data.

Some 90% of UK companies now gather Big Data from business transactions, while 72% do so from log data, 61% from emails and 56% from events. However, only 39% analyse social media, 37% geospatial data, and 39% external feeds.

Asked why businesses did not fully use Big Data, 41% agreed that there was a “lack of understanding of how to use Big Data to impact business.” Of those that did use it, 38% said they wanted to understand and engage with customers, while 18% wanted to develop new business models and 16% to manage finance and risk.

“One key reason for companies not collecting and analysing wider varieties of data,” said Matin Jouzdani, strategy consultant at IBM Global Business Services, “lies in the veracity – or truthfulness – of insights generated from sources such as real-time data and social media. Striving for high data quality is an important Big Data requirement, and the survey respondents questioned the ability to trust rapidly growing forms of unstructured data, such as those generated from on-line consumer comments, reviews, Tweets and other forms of freely offered opinions. 

“Another reason that such forms of data are being underutilised is due to the skills gap. Having the more advanced analytical capabilities for managing unstructured data – including geospatial location data, voice and video – as well as streaming data remains a top challenge for most organisations. Less than 25% of the survey respondents say they have the required capabilities to analyse highly unstructured data – a major inhibitor to getting the most value from Big Data.”

The study also concluded that only 5% of companies were fully using Big Data, innovating and driving value to benefit their business. But 70% were still in the early stages, identifying data requirements and developing their strategies.

The study, Analytics: the real-world use of Big Data, questioned 1,144 business and IT professionals in more than 130 countries and 26 industries.

Our view: While this is not a retail-specific study, we felt it was worth a mention because retailers are now starting to get to grips with Big Data, using it to analyse how their shoppers buy with them, and how they would best like to be served. In the future, it already seems clear, the ability to harness big data will give those who have mastered it a real competitive edge.

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