Executives at large U.S. companies report that investments in “big data” are helping them achieve measurable results and business benefits, but they also express concerns about the potential disruptions to business that can arise from the adoption of big data technologies and the cultural challenges associated with using big data, according to the results of a survey conducted by business consultancy NewVantage Partners.

The findings of the survey of executives from 50 Fortune 1000 companies published in January 2017 found that 80.7% of respondents characterize their firm’s big data investments as successful, and that 48.4% believe their company has realized measurable benefits as a result of their big data initiatives. Moreover, 21% of the executives surveyed said that big data has been disruptive or transformational for their firm.

The survey also showed, however, 52.5% of the respondents believe that lingering organizational impediments prevent the realization of the broad business adoption of big data initiatives. The leading impediments identified by the respondents include a lack of organizational alignment, business and/or technology resistance, and a lack of middle management adoption.

When asked about the ways in which their company is using big data, 69.4% of the executives polled said their firm is striving to establish a data-driven culture, 64.5% said their company is attempting to create new avenues for innovation and disruption and to accelerate the speed with which new capabilities and services are deployed, 62.9% reported that their company is using big data in launching new product and service offerings, 54.8% said their firm is attempting to monetize big data through increased revenues and new revenue sources, and 51.6% indicated that their company is using big data to transform and reposition their business for the future.

Researchers emphasized, however, that the leading reason for using big data reported by the executives surveyed is to cut costs: 72.6% of respondents said they are seeking to decrease expenses through operational cost efficiencies, with 49.2% reporting that their big data investments have already resulted in reduced costs.

The survey also found that 55.9% of respondents indicated that their company has appointed a chief data officer (CDO). When asked what role they believe the CDO is currently playing or could play in the future, 56% of respondents said they see the current role as largely defensive and reactive in scope, driven mainly by regulatory and compliance requirements; 48.3% said they believe the primary role of the CDO should be to drive innovation and establish a data culture; and 41.4% said the role of the CDO should be to manage and leverage data as an enterprise business asset.

The results further showed that the executives surveyed fear that technological disruption is looming on the immediate horizon: 46.6% of the respondents expressed the view that their firm may be at risk of major disruption in the coming decade, and envision a future in which “change is coming fast” and companies will have to “transform or die.” The respondents said they see disruption coming from a range of emerging capabilities, including artificial intelligence and machine learning (88.5%), digital technologies (75.4%), cloud computing (65.6%), block chain technology (62.3%), and financial technology solutions (57.4%).

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 2

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