Canadian businesses embrace big data for big decisions

Stock ChartManaging big data is a challenge for organizations, but a recent study from solutions provider Avanade found that 88 per cent of survey respondents north of the 49th parallel are using big data to make better business decisions. In comparison to 84 per cent of businesses worldwide doing the same thing, those in the Great White North are ahead of the curve.

Wakefield Research surveyed 569 C-level executives, IT decision-makers and business unit leaders in “top companies” in 18 countries on behalf of Avanade. The study — “Is Big Data Producing Big Returns?” — followed up on a similar study conducted in 2010 that showed nearly half of the respondents had made poor business decisions as a result of bad or outdated data. Two years makes quite the difference, according to Avanade CTO and vice president Benoit Bertrand.

According to the latest study, 70 per cent of Canadian companies (73 per cent globally) have already used data to increase revenue in existing and new revenue streams. Businesses are now realizing the potential and business value of big data.

“In just two years, with greater access to data than ever before, we are reaching a tipping point with companies that leverage big data finding both financial gains and a competitive advantage,” Bertrand said in a statement.

The pervasiveness of big data is also giving employees more tools to use in managing and analyzing data. Of the respondents, 89 per cent said they are using tools to manage and analyze data today.

Big data management and analysis has moved beyond the metaphorical four walls of the IT department. The majority of businesses no longer consider data analysts as part of the IT staff. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents indicated data management is now embedded throughout their businesses. Additionally, 63 per cent said more employees than ever before are involved in making decisions as a result of more widely-available data.

When asked how employees are factoring into business decisions based on data, Dean Olmstead, senior vice president at Avanade Canada, told the survey didn’t delve into the particulars, but there is a trend towards pushing more data analysis and management down into all levels of a business.

Even though big data can be an asset to businesses in the Great White North and around the world, there are still plenty of challenges to overcome. Of the Canadian respondents, 77 per cent said they are still trying to overcome obstacles related to managing and analyzing data, and 69 per cent indicated their companies need to develop new skills to turn data into business insights.

Naturally, major trends like employee mobility, cloud computing and social networking are forcing an upheaval in data management strategies.

“The challenges of big data remain, but the opportunities are even greater. Business leaders are really moving from defence to offence in their data management strategies,” said Tyson Hartman, global CTO and vice president at Avanade, in a statement. Forward-looking companies are empowering more people across the enterprise with the tools and skills needed to make better business decisions and ultimately, harness the power that big data promises.”