/ How C-level executives really feel about big data

As data-driven insights begin to inform decision-making at every level of the organization, C-level executives have entered a dynamic environment that explores how data analytics translate into business value. Some executives appear more confident than others in the capabilities of big data, prompting us to ask: Who’s big on big data?

That’s the question at the heart of a new report published last week from the Economist Intelligence Unit. In a global survey of 395 C-level executives, the EIU sought to get a reading on how data analytics are being applied across organizations, who manages the growing suite of big data tools and the effectiveness of such initiatives.

The report discovered that C-level executives have overwhelmingly positive attitudes toward big data and believe it will transform the way they do business. Most revealingly, most executives believe that big data should be a shared, enterprise-wide responsibility.

Here are the major themes the report identified:

Executives are generally positive about big data.

The majority of executives agree that big data will play a valuable role in the organization’s future, as 48% of those surveyed believe big data is a useful tool and 23% say big data will revolutionize the way businesses are managed.

When asked specifically about how big data analytics could guide decision-making, the biggest priorities were increasing sales (84%), improving efficiency (78%) and building customer loyalty (73%).

Executives agree that big data solutions are needed.

On a positive note, 67% of executives said their department’s business functions would be substantially enhanced by improved access to big data. Furthermore, 75% said they feel comfortable that their understanding of big data is adequate to make informed decisions. A majority said they’d like to learn more about the technology behind big data tools.

Customer processes are the biggest priority for data analytics.

What areas are executives most interested in targeting with data analytics? The most important priorities for implementing big data, according to those surveyed are customer insights and targeting (42%), financial planning and analysis (32%), sales and order fulfillment (29%).

Lack of understanding and lack of agreement about big data are the primary barriers to implementation.

When asked what was standing in the way of big data implementation, 35% of executives said lack of understanding how to apply big data and 33% said it was a lack of financial resources. These obstacles are easy to wrap your head around – after all, there is often a learning curve when it comes to data analytics.

Another major concern is the lack of agreement among executives about the value of big data. The majority of CEOs (56%) said that big data requires collaboration among C-suite executives. On the other hand, 62% of CIOs say that the hype surrounding big data has created some unrealistic expectations among executives.

Organizations get the most value from big data when they create enterprise-wide big data teams.

Executives said that the most effective strategy to implement big data tools was to create an enterprise-wide team that promotes a comprehensive approach across all levels of the organization (32%).

On the other hand, executives seem reluctant to turn over business processes to technical specialists. Using technical advisors was the least popular strategy for getting value from big data tools (19%).

Senior executives are interested in implementing big data initiatives into the organization but there are several barriers, including a lack of agreement and understanding among top executives. Executives, it seems, want big data to be a shared responsibility coordinated across the organization.

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