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Drowning in data, thirsting for business insight and value

David Butt Consulting Director

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lines are about a thirsty sailor surrounded by undrinkable seawater, but could as easily refer to the struggle marketers face in driving value from enterprise data.

Data is everywhere – flowing into the organisation at high speed in unprecedented volumes – yet business leaders are not satisfied with their ability to turn this data into insights that create business value. A recent Wunderman survey of 250 senior executives found that 99% believe that data is critical to success, yet 62% feel that that they are unable to turn data into insights or actions. Another study from the Harvard Business Review found that less than half of structured data is actively used in decision making and less than 1% of unstructured data is analysed or used at all.

This challenge will only grow in the next few years as the volume and variety of data flowing into the organisation explodes. Not only are most enterprises collecting more information about customers from digital touchpoints than ever before, they also have unprecedented access to new data sources such as the Internet of Things, public databases and social media.

Cisco estimates that by the end of 2019, the Internet of Things will generate more than 500 zettabytes per year in data, and that number is expected to grow exponentially. Brands need to rethink how they approach data if they are to drive the maximum value from data – to transform it from saltwater into a resource that quenches the enterprise’s thirst for knowledge and insight.

As a starting point to enriching the value an organisation can get from its data, it’s worth considering that the biggest barriers to success are human and organisational in nature. Marketers today have access to powerful data management tools and integrated stacks of marketing solutions, but face challenges in tapping into the full value that this technology can offer.

Thus, one of the first steps should be to look at how the organisation’s structure and culture inhibits the shift towards data-driven decision-making. We have access to technology that enables us to give people the data they want when they want it most. But that requires new thinking, new structures, and new strategies—a focus on breaking down organisational siloes and aligning data strategies and tools across departments.

There is plenty of data, but not all of it is good or useful

We see two ways that organisations can begin to revamp their data management strategies and position themselves to take better advantage of the deluge of big data:

Focus on speed and agility

As Forrester recommends, enterprises should focus on speed, quality and self-service in their data management strategies. There should be a shift away from centralised control towards more flexible data management models and architectures that can respond to fast, constant change.

One lesson we should learn from the decade or so that has passed since big data started to become a buzz phrase is that technology needs to be agile to be fit for purpose today. The emergence of trends such as the rapid maturing of cloud computing and artificial intelligence quickly eclipsed the strategies of enterprises who imagined they had 10 years to implement a Hadoop-focused strategy for big data.

Zoom in on quality and value

There is plenty of data, but not all of it is good or useful. Companies that get the best value from their data will focus on enhancing the quality and value of their data. High-quality, high-value data is accurate, consistent, unique, complete and easy to access at the time it is needed. Here are some ways to evaluate the value of data:

  • How good and easily accessible is the data and how likely are others outside the organisation to also have it?
  • How applicable to the business or business process is it? How quickly can the data be updated?
  • How much does having the data contribute to KPI targets over a given period?

Data should enlighten every function of the business, including customer experience, operations, marketing, sales, service, and finance. As we shift to a more regulated landscape in terms of data privacy and protection, managing this resource in a responsible, consumer-friendly manner will become a competitive advantage.

A data management strategy is critical. The goal should be clear: provide all business functions with quick and complete access to all of the data and analytics that they need, both now and in the future.

About The Author David Butt - Consulting Director

David is responsible for the discovery, design and deployment of global analytics and customer centric data solutions in multiple verticals.

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