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The second phase of the “Information Age”: Why understanding the opportunity brought by untapped big data is a priority

The term ‘big data’ has been a buzz term for at least the past year, with vendors, customers, and analysts all having their say on how best to cope with the unavoidable data deluge facing businesses across the UK and globally.

Organisations have been adapting their business, specifically their IT strategy and systems, to cope with growing quantities and types of data sets, with the aim of making business processes more efficient - from HR operations to finance, customer service to marketing. The benefits of harnessing data are being recognised, but there is still some way to go.

Recent research conducted by Gartner revealed that businesses are spending 20 per cent more than they need to – equivalent to at least $10bn wasted worldwide – on backing up unnecessary data.

This got me thinking, why are so many businesses storing vast quantities of data, without seriously considering the practical applications of this information? There is a clear mentality that data needs to be retained, but are organisations really aware of the nature of the data they own, and the business value it can offer?

We need a cultural shift; it is time to make the decision to either eliminate irrelevant data or to utilise the untapped (and potentially highly valuable data) which is lying unused. After all, data is effectively meaningless unless it is analysed and categorised in a way which transforms it into material with real business value and insight. Companies need to understand that these data pools can be utilised to drive customer insight, market understanding and competitive advantage.

Data can also have real monetary value; Gartner predicts that 30 per cent of businesses will be monetising their information assets directly by 2016. The analysts are even arguing that organisations will be turning their own information into revenue and that a new breed of information providers will emerge in the not too distant future.

The first stage of the ‘information age’ is well underway, with businesses leveraging data to make internal operations more effective and efficient. However, soon we will see the dawn of the second stage: information as a business strategy and data as a line of business.

So, now is the time to really take ‘big data’ seriously as a revenue-generating line of business. To do this, companies must assess the skills within their business to turn this into a reality. A recent Forbes article focussed specifically on this issue, emphasising the significant shortage of skilled professionals who can evaluate business needs and impact, write the algorithms and programme platforms. Fortunately, companies are on the lookout for trained ‘data scientists’ (as well as training up their existing staff) indicating a real commitment to investing in data, and recognition of its genuine revenue-generating potential.

This trend along with Gartner’s findings, serve to reinforce the message that effective data management really can correlate to revenue. Whether that means making your information assets a separate line of business, training staff to become ‘data scientists’ or optimising data which is currently lying unused in costly storage. Now is the time to think long and hard about what data you are storing, where you are storing it, and for what business purpose. Managed correctly, data can provide a real money making opportunity and the business value is becoming far too lucrative to ignore.

Adrian Simpson, Chief Innovation Officer for SAP UKI ,has been at SAP for over ten years working on the rollout of new technologies within SAP, within the partner ecosystem, and ultimately to SAP customers. This has included managing teams within SAP Portals, the Global NetWeaver Initiative, Customer SOA Advisory Office as well as the Technology and Innovation solution architects.