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Just Using Big Data Isn’t Enough Anymore
February 12, 2016 Blog

This article was originally published by hbr.org and can be viewed in full here

Big Data has quickly become an established fact for Fortune 1000 firms — such is the conclusion of a Big Data executive survey that my firm has conducted for the past four years.

The survey gathers perspectives from a small but influential group of executives — chief information officers, chief data officers, and senior business and technology leaders of Fortune 1000 firms. Key industry segments are heavily represented — financial services, where data is plentiful and data investments are substantial, and life sciences, where data usage is rapidly emerging. Among the findings:

  • 63% of firms now report having Big Data in production in 2015, up from just 5% in 2012
  • 63% of firms reported that they expect to invest greater than $10 million in Big Data by 2017, up from 24% in 2012
  • 54% of firms say they have appointed a Chief Data Officer, up from 12% in 2012
  • 70% of firms report that Big Data is of critical importance to their firms, up from 21% in 2012
  • At the top end of the investment scale, 27% of firms say they will invest greater than $50 million in Big Data by 2017, up from 5% of firms that invested this amount in 2015

Four years ago, organizations and executives were struggling to understand the opportunity and business impact of Big Data. While many executives loathed the term, others were apostles of the belief that data-driven analysis could transform business decision-making. Now, we have arrived at a new juncture: Big Data is emerging as a corporate standard, and the focus is rapidly shifting to the results it produces and the business capabilities it enables. When the internet was a new phenomenon, we’d say “I am going to surf the World Wide Web” – now, we just do it. We are entering that same phase of maturity with Big Data.

So, how can executives prepare to realize value from their Big Data investments?

Develop the right metrics. While a majority of Fortune 1000 firms report implementing Big Data capabilities, few firms have shown how they will derive business value over time from these often substantial investments. When I discuss this with executives, they often point out that the lack of highly developed metrics is both a function of the relative immaturity of Big Data implementations, as well as a function of where in the organization sponsorship for Big Data originated and where it currently reports. Organizations that have the executive responsible for data report to the Chief Financial Officer are more likely to have developed precise financial measurements early on.

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