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July 25, 2016

How to outperform the competition, use data strategies to grow the bottom line

News: Challenges remain but the benefits of data pile up.

By James Nunns

UK businesses that are performing better than their peers have earned their success with a well-defined data strategy.

Businesses which are seeing their financial performance substantially ahead of peers are able to make the most of data in order to drive operational efficiency and gain competitive advantage.

According to research titled ‘Big data: Forging corporate capabilities for the long-term’ by a SAS research programme, more than 35% of respondents that have a well-defined data strategy reported stronger financial performance than their competitors.

In contrast, only 10% of ‘aspiring data managers’ that merely understand the value of data and are gathering resources to take better advantage of it, are able to make the same claim. It was also found that 38% who put nearly all their relevant data to use are highly successful in their big data initiatives.

Mark Wilkinson, SAS Regional VP, Northern Europe, said: “The survey shows that there is a strong link between having a clear data strategy and experiencing strong financial success. Organisations that put data firmly at the centre of their organisation are better equipped to introduce changes that grow the bottom line.”

Many UK executives (32%) claim that the increasing availability of data has presented opportunities for strengthening operation efficiency, however, despite this belief more than a third (34%) of UK organizations believe they have little or no capability for using data to open up new markets.

There is a similar feeling for when it comes to using data to speed up market entry, where 31% feel their organisation is lacking. A quarter of UK organizations also struggle with using data to develop new products or services.

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According to Wilkinson businesses are currently focusing on analyzing internal unstructured text data, such as customer inquiries, financial reports, and web click-stream data. However, it is likely that external unstructured data and the Internet of Things data sources will become a much larger focus in the next year.

Tapping into these other data sources will create further difficulties for UK businesses. For example the growing amount of data has become an increasingly challenging issue.

In 2011 it was found that 8% of global respondents struggled to deal with the large amount of data they had, this figure has jumped to 17% in the UK and 24% for the rest of the world and 57% in the UK say that they probably leverage only half of their available data.

Maintaining data quality and integrity is the top challenge faced by companies with their data initiatives as indicated by 52% of UK execs. Dealing with the collection, storage, and management of huge amounts of data was cited by 30% as a major challenge.

One of the ways to overcome these problems is to hire and retain data skills, however, 20% say they lacked  the skills to use data effectively, admitting they are not or don’t know if they are competent at training or acquiring analytical talent to gain business insights from data.

A quarter of organisations are looking to improve data skills within the workforce by hiring and training employees who understand data and the business. Many are placing an emphasis on recruiting data strategists (35%), data scientists (35%), as well as technology staff to manage data systems (35%).

While the benefits of using data effectively are becoming increasingly apparent there is a lot of complexity facing businesses that need to be overcome in order for success to be achieved.

The survey is based from the responses of 632 people of which 18% were from the UK, 16% were from companies with less than $500m in annual revenue while the same amount had revenue of $500m-$1bn. In addition, 22% had a revenue of $1-5bn, 13% had a revenue of $5-10bn and 25% had a revenue of more than $10bn.

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