Big data expected to drive good ROI, but there are problems ahead says Xerox

Poor data quality and a lack of data expertise is hindering the business transformation that big data solutions offer.

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Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of European organisations expect intelligence gleaned from big data to produce a positive return on investment within 12 months, according to research from Xerox.

The research, among 330 top level business executives across Western European countries – including the UK - shows more than half of firms are already experiencing business benefits from big data. But the study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, also found that poor data quality and a lack of data expertise is hindering the business transformation that big data solutions offer.

“Executives see the potential of data-driven intelligence taking route, but the soil is still quite rocky in spots,” said Craig Saunders, director of the Analytics Resource Centre at Xerox Consulting and Analytics Services. “The ecosystem is full of challenges”, he said. 

Three fifths (61 percent) of organisations said decisions made during the next year are likely to be based more on data-driven intelligence than factors such as gut feeling, opinion or experience. But 70 percent of organisations are still encountering inaccurate data in their systems, and 46 percent believe it's impacting negatively on their business, requiring re-calculation or producing totally unusable data sets. 

Only 37 percent of respondents rated data security and privacy as one of their biggest challenges when implementing big data strategies. In the UK, 36 percent feel the lack of user training will impact their ability to implement their big data strategy. 

Other research published this week shows that it isn't a lack of big data technology hindering firms' data strategies but a lack of talent. The research from MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS surveyed 2,500 business executives globally and most said that “attracting, rewarding and integrating analytics talent into the organisation was crucial for analytics success”. 

The study found that those companies that have a “data scientist” role in their organisations are more than twice as likely to clearly prioritise data projects, and two-and-a-half times as likely to have a formal data strategy.

“Taken together, the human resource practices of analytically mature companies have all the hallmarks of a plan,” said David Kiron, executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review. “Companies that are less successful with analytics tend not to have a plan - their approach to analytics talent is scattered and inconsistent.”

Xerox held a Big Data Tech Day at its Xerox Research Centre Europe in Grenoble this week, as part of its continuing drive to demonstrate it isn't simply a copier company, but a major consulting firm around big data and other technologies. The company showed off big data technologies it is selling into the market around contact centres, social media analytics, transportation, legal document discovery and healthcare.

Xerox demonstrated, for instance, a US federal government subsidised parking scheme in Los Angeles, which allows the transportation department there to efficiently manage parking spaces in the downtown area of the city, using big data from sensors in the ground. Xerox said the technology was now going to be adopted by the transportation department in Washington DC.     

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