Big Data Is Facing Even Bigger Challenges

Many businesses have embraced Big Data, and those that haven’t already plan to. Big Data often tops the list of information technology priorities for 2015. Data and its companion, analytics, may be the next big thing, but a new study from Forrester Consulting on behalf of Xerox shows a long list of challenges ahead.

“Executives see the potential of data-driven intelligence taking root, but the soil is still quite rocky in spots,” Craig Saunders, director, Analytics Resource Center, Xerox Consulting and Analytics Services said in a statement. “The ecosystem is full of challenges.”

Trust Issues

In identifying their top concerns about the current state of Big Data in business, the 300 senior-level executives at medium-to-large organizations (500 employees or larger) surveyed across Western Europe couldn’t select just one. In fact out of the 19 challenges they were presented with, nearly all of them were rated equally. By a very slim margin, data privacy and security took the top slot. Anxiety over privacy concerns isn’t surprising, particularly in Europe where new regulations addressing data privacy are expected before the end of the year.

A close second to security, poor data quality limits the success of Big Data. More than two-thirds of organizations included in the Forrester/Xerox study, titled “Big Data in Western Europe Today,” found inaccurate data in their systems. Low quality data is costly, 46 percent of respondents believed faulty data negatively impacted their business, causing them to recalculate data sets or toss them altogether. Setting a quality threshold for data is important, yet more than half of executives surveyed have no process in place to ensure data quality or realize the systems in use are not stringent enough.

Big Data delivers business benefits—from operational efficiency to better managing risk—yet poor data quality prevents executives from completely trusting data when it comes time to make important decisions. Despite the fact almost 75 percent of respondents believe data-driven insights provide their business a competitive advantage, past experience and gut instinct rate just as highly as data analysis when it comes to decision making. The study’s authors note this reluctance could lie more with the quality of analytics and reporting than the quality of the data, but it’s clear quality is a hurdle that must be crossed before Big Data becomes a trusted part of decision making.

Better Together

It’s still early for Big Data. Businesses are looking for support when it comes to harnessing its power. When building their teams, executives are turning to external partners with specialized knowledge. The majority (60 percent) revealed they would prefer more experts rather than fewer. The ideal team is made up of one partner with deep industry-specific knowledge and an analytics provider that specializes either in the needed industry or business function. Less than 30 percent of respondents are interested in a single partner that could serve both roles. Almost none were interested in analytical assistance alone.

The study’s authors believe it’s only natural for businesses to seek help. “To make the most of the opportunities that big data and data analytics presents, organizations need to make the right investments in their big data ecosystem – people, culture, systems and processes, as well as good partnering choices,” Saunders said.

For businesses the Big Data journey is a complex one. New technologies and challenges will continue to arrive. Those hoping to thrive in a constantly evolving unfamiliar landscape must anticipate change and react accordingly. The list of challenges to the mass adoption of Big Data isn’t likely to shrink anytime soon, as almost every one of today’s challenges is expected to play an even larger role within the next two years. Waiting on the sidelines isn’t an option. The majority of respondents believe leaders of tomorrow will be those that can use data and analytics to provide truly novel services (39 percent) or to disrupt the competition with a new business model (24 percent). While laggards are still solving the basics of Big Data, the competition is moving on, leaving them even further behind.