Forget big data: what businesses really want is simple and easy

A survey of senior business executives has revealed a desire for less hi-tech and more prosaic solutions when it comes to data analytics

Big data has become big business for software vendors and a top-of-mind issue for IT decision makers. This is despite reports claiming that in many cases businesses are still failing to draw value from this new technology trend.

However, when you drill into the detail, businesses have many varied definitions for big data – from valuable information held within the organisation, through to taking an analytical perspective using big data’ insights to drive changes in the way businesses operate.

Whatever the specific meaning that is held within a company, what is clear is that the majority of businesses are sitting on a wealth of data and are simply not able to extract the value from it.

What are the implications of this? At the most simple level, real businesses are not able to address their real management information needs. Are people in danger of getting distracted by the focus on big data and ignoring what is really important for successful business operations? Should organisations be forgetting big data and focusing on what key information is required for business decisions makers?

In a 12-month research project carried out by cloud business intelligence vendor Matillion, over 10,000 CFOs, CIOs, IT directors and line of business decision makers were asked: What is your biggest management information challenge?

By a considerable margin, the most frequently cited management information challenge reported by respondents was delivering self-service reporting and analysis (35.8%), followed by reporting and analysing across multiple systems (27.4%) and unlocking data buried in systems 16%.

Perhaps surprisingly, there was considerable commonality of the biggest information challenges from across different job functions. The statistically significant sample size of 10,857 participants can be considered representative of the broader business world, both in terms of geographic reach and functional responsibilities. When results were analysed and cross-checked against responsibility, there was an overwhelming agreement in the information challenges that were faced.

The results show that real businesses want real management information. Companies see the importance of data in gaining an edge in an increasingly competitive environment, but the findings reveal frustration amongst executives, suggesting their existing management reporting systems aren’t delivering the functionality they really need.

Added to this, the findings show the more senior the job role of the individual respondent, the more likely they were to regard the ability to carry out self-service reporting and analysis as their major challenge.

This was juxtaposed with interest in areas such as mobile business intelligence. In fact, for every business expressing the view that mobile business intelligence was a priority, there were nine other businesses instead that rated self-service reporting and analysis as a more pressing issue.

Where there’s cliché, there’s often truth.  The potentially hackneyed term of a ‘single version of the truth’ remains high on the business agenda. Respondents revealed that the inability to pull together and analyse information across diverse business systems – from multiple ERPs, CRM databases and line-of-business applications – remains the second highest frustration.

Clearly, many businesses still don’t have this capability. Backed up by anecdotal feedback from what customers reveal on the ground, this can perhaps be attributed to both the cost and complexity of traditional business intelligence systems. The danger of this is that consequently, so many still rely on manually produced spreadsheets for management information, wasting time and effort in what should be straightforward, automated processes.

Big data, big hype?

The research demonstrates that what businesses really want from business intelligence isn’t at the ‘high end, hi-tech, hype’ end of the spectrum, but is instead much more prosaic: self-serve reporting and analytics, ideally coupled with the ability to pull together and analyse information drawn from multiple systems.

So for all the talk of big data, mobile BI, predictive analytics and data visualisation, the evidence is that the real management information needs of most executives are far more down-to-earth: fast, easy, self-service access to data for the people that need it, and from whichever data sources are relevant.

Source – Information-age.com