Is big data big in the boardroom?

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By Yves de Montcheuil, VP of marketing at Talend 

Big data represents a significant paradigm shift in enterprise technology and stands to transform much of what the modern enterprise is today. Digital data is everywhere and global data is growing at 40% per year. Companies across the world are capturing vast volumes of information about their customers, suppliers and operations.

Today, big data offers potential benefits to just about everybody seated around the boardroom table. For the sales director for example, it offers the opportunity to drive greater insight into customers and prospects alike, in turn helping sales organisations increase productivity and effectiveness and ultimately generate more revenue. For the chief marketing officer (CMO), big data could be used to drive marketing and brand strategy, customer segmentation and social media outreach and analysis. Finance directors could use big data analytics to bolster the bottom line and drive business strategy. For the HR director, big data offers the potential to assist evidence based talent management decisions.

For every key member of the board of directors, therefore, big data offers potential business benefits.  And for CIOs, big data can be a tool to start making the connection between IT and business goals and by driving the big data conversation at senior management level, win the ear of the CEO and the respect of the whole board.

Yet the question remains – to what extent has this transition been effected – how successful has the CIO been in shifting the focus of the conversation from the IT department to the boardroom?

Looking at the Numbers

Talend recently conducted a big data adoption survey with IT data professionals in 231 businesses, covering business objectives, adoption challenges and benefits as well as technologies being used. Is big data starting to make an impact on C-Level decisions and in the boardroom? The signs are positive. 41% of companies reported having a strategy for dealing with big data and 62% are achieving benefits, including business process optimisation and marketing and sales improvements.

Highlighting why the approach should be of as much interest to the executive as the data manager, two of the top three business drivers for big data were linked directly to the bottom line. 51% indicated revenue optimisation was a key driver and 48% new revenue generation, underlining companies’ drive to do more in-depth analysis to maximise wallet and market share. 

Driving Competitive Edge

Ultimately, to be a source of competitive advantage for business, big data solutions need to be able to detect, create and apply new types of processing to existing or new data sets, creating new value – often through the creation of innovative business models, products or services.  Today, to the obvious interest of the C-Level director, it is being used in a broad range of different ways to drive revenue generation, optimisation and ultimately business advantage.

Businesses are awash with complex data that has the potential to lead to better understanding of customer demand, behaviour and preferences. By using open source big data solutions, organisations can efficiently manage and process this data and interpret it accurately to gain an invaluable insight into their customers. In addition, the fact that open source typically brings higher value is broadening its appeal to encompass smaller businesses rather than just large enterprises.

From laser-sharp targeted marketing, to fraud detection to trading optimisation — the examples of how all sizes and types of businesses are today leveraging big data to optimise revenues are endless. Some industries specialise in leveraging massive amounts of data: banks and credit card companies focus on analysing transactions to detect fraud and retail chains are fine-tuning their inventories based on historical trends.

In line with this, the number one business driver, highlighted by 68% of respondents with a big data strategy was to increase the accuracy and depth of analytics or the ability to analyse current and historical data to make predictions. In other words, businesses today, from the largest enterprises to the smallest SMEs, are increasingly seeing the value of big data as a strategic corporate asset and as an approach that can drive competitive advantage.

Open source can play a defining role here in delivering this edge. Its scalability enables businesses to gain fast access to intelligence and therefore helps them to analyse it and use it to make strategic decisions more quickly.

The language of analytics typically appeals to C-Level executives and its potential use to drive productivity and business edge is a major selling point to the board. A recent survey conducted by technology research firm, Economist Intelligence Unit, found that top business executives want big data access for more of their employees in hope that more people using analytics tools will lead to a more productive organisation. 77% of global executives surveyed agreed that more employees should access big data while 66% said big data is ‘instrumental in seizing market opportunities’.

Yet, despite acknowledging these benefits, 47% of respondents said they don’t expect to increase investments in big data over the next three years, with 37% referencing financial constraints as a barrier to such investment.

Opening up the Technology

Fortunately, there are big data solutions available on the market today that can address these kinds of concerns. At Talend, we believe that open source technology provides the most effective way to address the large-scale problem that big data presents and get the job done faster and more accurately, at a fraction of the price of alternative solutions.  Open source effectively ‘shrinks the technology cliff’ by letting any company adopt and deploy technology, regardless of budget and level of expertise.

Today, big data, supported by open source technology, is coming more and more into the mainstream. CIOs are acting as the evangelists for these kinds of solutions. And they are playing a key role in ensuring that growing numbers of organisations, and the CEOs and other C-Level directors that lead them, are realising that information can be a key differentiator. Thanks at least in part to the work CIOs do in spreading the word across the boardroom table, they are beginning to realise that big data can give them an advantage over their rivals by enabling them to reduce customer churn, more effectively target new markets, tackle fraud, or simply make faster, better-informed business decisions.