Big Data Challenges Organizations
By Samuel Greengard
Over the last few years, an avalanche of data—both structured and unstructured—has pushed organizations to the breaking point. CIOs and other IT executives recognize that their ability to achieve success is now heavily dependent on tapping into big data and putting it to full use. The question that confounds many executives is how best to approach the task.
A recently released Capgemini study, “The Deciding Factor: Big Data & Decision Making,” revealed that 90 percent of business leaders now view big data in the same critical category as land, labor and capital. More than two-thirds of North American executives (168 of the survey's 600 global respondents) indicated that their organizations must address big data issues in order to improve decision making. At present, 44 percent say that the volume of data and inability to manage it effectively has slowed decision making.
It's no small challenge. "There are a large number of disruptive technologies impacting organizations," says Scott Schlesinger, vice president and head of business information management for North America Capgemini. "Big data doesn't only involve dealing with large volumes of data; it's about handling the sum of the data."
Remarkably, 85 percent of respondents indicated that the growing volume of data isn't the primary obstacle. Rather, it's being able to analyze and act on it in real time.
The survey also found that 71 percent of respondents struggle with data inaccuracies on a daily basis; 62 percent say there is an issue with data automation and not all operational decisions have been automated; 46 percent struggle with interpreting data sets; and 39 percent have difficulty managing unstructured data. Altogether, 58 percent say that they will make bigger investments in data analysis over the next three years.
Schlesinger states that resolving the challenges related to big data requires a strategic focus more than technology tools. Organizations that have undergone mergers and acquisitions face particularly steep challenges, particularly when it comes to handling data governance and data quality issues.
The first step, he says, is for an organization to break down departmental and business process silos so that different applications and systems aren't running at different sites. "Remarkably, some companies still use multiple ERP, payroll, HR and other systems at different locations," Schlesinger notes.
In some cases, organizations may need to upgrade storage networks in order to connect to data scattered across an enterprise. Others must find more effective ways to assimilate social media streams, video, spreadsheets, e-mail and other forms of unstructured data.
Finally, there's an increased need to focus on hard analytics and find talented staff capable of managing big data environments. About half of the survey's respondents indicated that a shortage of talent contributed to big data hardships.
In the end, there's no simple solution or quick fix, Schlesinger says. "Big data is not so much a technology issue as it is a need to map data more effectively,” he points out. "Organizations that have a fundamental understanding of their overall data environment are positioned for greater success."