EMC study shows UK businesses in grave danger of wasting the valuable resource of customer data

Some new research has been produced by EMC UK, and has found that almost half of British businesses have no data analytics platform experience, and a big data skills shortage is holding back all industry sectors.

The Big Data League study, which encompassed 300 business and technical decision makers from UK enterprises and the public sector, found that 60 per cent of organisations felt that making better use of customer data and insights drawn from therein is key to unlocking future growth.

Yet 45 per cent of companies admitted having no data analytics platform experience, and 62 per cent lack the skills to understand "ethical, responsible and compliant" use of their customer data.

Furthermore, 42 per cent felt that their IT infrastructure was holding them back in terms of data analysis.

The study also evaluated levels of big data readiness across different industries, with market researchers Opinium working out an aggregate score for this, based on the criteria of culture and leadership (drivers for capitalising on data), skills and infrastructure.

Related: EMC survey finds 73% worried about keeping pace with big data innovation

The retail sector came top of the table, hitting a score of 7 in leadership (which was the top score), 10 in skills (again, top), with a 12 in infrastructure (that was joint top with manufacturing). That gave retail a total score of 29, which was ahead of the second place manufacturing sector on 27.

IT and Telco only came third on 25, with the public sector fourth on 24, followed by financial services on 23. The average UK company score was 26 (meaning the IT industry was below average according to these numbers, which is a poor showing).

The survey also found that 67 per cent of retail sector leaders felt that data analysis was a key driver for stoking growth and making more money, and that 38 per cent of UK businesses are currently recruiting data scientists or business intelligence experts.

Read more: "Data scientists aren't quite unicorns, but they're close": How to avoid a big data nightmare

We spoke to James Petter, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, UK & Ireland, EMC, while we were attending the EMC Forum this morning, and he noted that the "skills challenge is becoming bigger and bigger", which is a "major concern for everyone." He observed: "The UK will become less competitive as a result of this."

Petter commented further: "We're past the point where people can write off the potential for and use of data as the responsibility of IT or an operational silo. It has to be a strategic focus for the business if we are to successfully deliver a new era of accelerated growth in an uncertain, hyper-competitive market context."

"It's great to see that the majority of businesses across all sectors are embracing big data analytics of some kind, but there's clearly a long way to go before all businesses are equipped with the right skills, leadership and IT infrastructure to drive real change and new opportunities in their markets. Now is the time for businesses to invest in their people and processes to make sure that they don't get left behind."