​Big Data = Big Investment as companies open cheque books

“This year begins the shift of big data away from a topic unto itself, and toward standard practices."

Investment in big data continues to increase in 2015, with more than three-quarters of companies investing or planning to invest in big data in the next two years, a three percent increase over 2014.

While investment isn’t as rapid as in previous years, according to a recent survey of IT and business leaders by Gartner, organisations are continuing to write big data cheques across the world.

“This year begins the shift of big data away from a topic unto itself, and toward standard practices,” says Nick Heudecker, research director, Gartner.

“The topics that formerly defined big data, such as massive data volumes, disparate data sources and new technologies are becoming familiar as big data solutions become mainstream.

“For example, among companies that have invested in big data technology, 70 percent are analysing or planning to analyse location data, and 64 percent are analysing or planning to analyse free-form text.”

Heudecker says organisations typically have multiple goals for big data initiatives, such as enhancing the customer experience, streamlining existing processes, achieving more targeted marketing and reducing costs.

As in previous years, organisations are overwhelmingly targeting enhanced customer experience as the primary goal of big data projects (64 percent).

Process efficiency and more-targeted marketing are now tied at 47 percent.

For Heudecker, as data breaches continue to make headlines, enhanced security capabilities saw the largest increase, from 15 percent to 23 percent.

“As big data becomes the new normal, information and analytics leaders are shifting focus from hype to finding value,” adds Lisa Kart, research director, Gartner.

“While the perennial challenge of understanding value remains, the practical challenges of skills, governance, funding and return on investment (ROI) come to the fore.”

When asked about ROI for big data efforts, the majority of those companies with plans to invest in big data and those that have invested, expect a positive ROI.

However, a large proportion of companies (43 percent of those planning to invest and 38 percent of those that have already invested) don't know if their ROI will be positive or negative - this uncertainty highlights the challenges in determining the value of big data projects.

One of the more significant changes in this year's survey findings is the role within the organisation that initiates big data projects.

Last year, 37 percent of big data projects were initiated by the CIO, while 25 percent were initiated by business unit heads. In 2015, the roles are nearly tied, at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

“Business leaders are taking a more active role in information and analytics projects as awareness of the value of data-driven decision making grows,” Heudecker adds.

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