Big data matures past the discovery phase: What's next?

A big data survey of Fortune 1000 C-Suite executives and other executives found that many of their companies are in a maturation phase and are increasing their expectations for the next stage.



Forbes contributor Gil Press wrote in September 2013 about a NewVantage Partners survey of Fortune 1000 C-Suite executives and executives responsible for big data. His article was a response to a prognostication by James Glanz in The New York Times that the economy was still essentially in the doldrums, and that big data will never revitalize the economy the same way as the first wave of the Internet evolution.

I argue that expecting gargantuan economic resurgence from big data that is commensurate with the Internet misses the point of big data. We should expect big data to boost revenues and improve profit margins, and companies are already seeing that occur. However, big data also improves how companies operate and manage other emerging factors, such as a workforce that isn't as well-educated or trained and a customer base that is more knowledgeable than ever.

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The NewVantage survey also reveals that companies are farther along with their big data strategies and thinking than many would believe. For instance, in 2012, a little over one third of survey respondents reported big data investments of one million dollars or more. In 2013, 68 percent of executives reported big data investments in excess of one million dollars, and 88 percent said they had plans to spend more than one million dollars on big data initiatives by 2016.

Equally impressive were the big data results in these organizations. At least 32 percent of executives surveyed said they had big data initiatives that already were fully operational, in production, or operationalized across the corporation -- with over 70 percent of these executives stressing the need to further accelerate analytical processes and the development of more sophisticated analytics.

While the NewVantage survey respondents heavily represented the financial services industry (which is ahead of most other industry sectors when it comes to big data management and analytics), this picture tells us that organizations are no longer in discovery or early phases of big data and analytics. In fact, many have already seen the gains that analytics can bring to their organizations, and are moving forward into new frontiers of analytics that they see bringing even greater benefits to their companies. For these organizations, big data has moved out of the gates and is now in a phase of maturation that sees companies raising the bar on what they want next from their big data.

What's next?

At the forefront of most of these companies' agendas is improving revenues and competitive advantage and expanding profit margins, as well as overcoming fundamental operational challenges.

If you operate a supply chain, for example, predictive analytics can now tell you which areas of the world are most likely to experience natural or other disasters so you can spread your supplier base to areas of less risk, thereby proactively managing your risk.

If you are a large industrial company like GE, you can use big data to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT) so the millions of devices that you manufacture and place in homes and businesses around the world can be remotely managed and repaired -- building up service revenues into a business of its own.

If your workforce no longer has the skills or experience to make or service your products, you can use big data to automate manufacturing and even service processes to make up the slack for lower skills levels or language barriers.

Not all of these examples make tangible deliveries to bottom lines or to end revenues, but they are making a difference. Above all, they are clear market indicators that many companies are no longer in the beginning stages of big data. This is an appropriate warning to any company that thinks it has limitless time to launch its big data initiatives and obtain difference-making results.

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