Businesses with an effective Big Data strategy are far more likely to be more successful than those without one

What strategy determines the success or failure of a business? What can a company do to increase the likelihood of success? Well, according to a recent survey sponsored by business intelligence and analytics solutions provider, SAS, the answer is simple. The survey’s results clearly demonstrate that there is an unquestionable correlation between a successful business and a clearly-defined and well-executed data strategy.

The global survey, named ‘Big Data: lessons from the leaders’, was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. It looked at information about where more than 750 companies surveyed stood in their efforts to implement an effective data strategy. It also aimed to identify how the most successful businesses exploit the massive amounts of data their companies collect. The survey was conducted in March 2012. The respondents were based mainly in Western Europe (33 percent), North America (28 percent) and the Asia-Pacific region (26 percent). Nineteen industries were surveyed, including manufacturing (12 percent), IT and technology (11 percent), financial services (11 percent), professional services (10 percent), health care, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology (8 percent), and consumer goods (7 percent). Fifty percent of respondents were C-level or board-level executives, 55 percent were from companies with annual revenue exceeding $500 million.

The survey’s headline statistic revealed that nearly half of companies that ‘significantly and consistently outperform their peers financially’ stated they had a well-defined data strategy in place. The overall survey results suggest that companies should ideally prioritize business goals to determine their data strategies, and then hire staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to manage their Big Data initiatives and analytics.

SAS officials reported that the impact of Big Data on the current business landscape is unprecedented. They also stated that with the amount and types of data that organizations have access to growing exponentially, it is imperative for companies to act decisively and to get their Big Data strategies in place as soon as possible. A failure to do this will leave them at a distinct disadvantage. Paul Kent, vice president of Big Data at SAS claimed in a statement accompanying the survey:

“An organization’s data is only as good as the business insights it reveals. Mapping your Big Data strategy to address your challenges is crucial. But the importance of hiring the right people to manage and analyse your data and communicate results cannot be overstated.”

The survey indicated that new roles like data scientists and data stewards were not only being created, but that they were now essential for any business wishing to gain insights from data. The major problem many businesses now face is that qualified and experienced data staff are in very short supply, and are therefore expensive.

The other interesting statistics revealed by the survey related to the type of data that businesses gathered. Around 66 percent of companies said they were collecting web data about their customers, yet only 22 percent said that social media and web data significantly affected customer experience. This figure was considerably higher, at 32 percent, for high-performing companies. 65 percent of the respondents stated that the speed at which their company processed data had increased over the last year: high-performing companies in the survey experienced “significant” increases, compared with just 17 percent of other companies. And 63 percent of respondents said this increased speed had the most significant effect on strategic decision making.