By Mark Dexter
20th April 2015

Among the most surprising findings from our recent ‘State of Data’ survey was the response to the first question: ‘How well do you feel your organisation uses the data it generates?’ Overall, 25% of respondents answered ‘fairly or extremely poorly.’

Even more surprising? When we looked at the replies from senior level respondents –those with such job titles as CIO, IT Director, Head of BI or Head of Data – that number jumped to 31%.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect happening. Whilst increasing numbers of companies are identifying themselves as ‘data-driven’, and unprecedented amounts of data are being gathered, there’s still a pervasive perception that we haven’t mastered how to apply it effectively. And this gap between the ‘potential’ and the ‘reality’ of data is most keenly felt among senior-level information management professionals.

What are the obstacles to successful data application?

A number of strong themes emerged from the comments made by survey respondents.

  • Quality

Many comments spoke to the concern that data is not sufficiently clean, robust, or reliable, or that security and governance are either too strict or too lax. The problems seemed not to focus on technological capabilities, but the quality assurance processes put in place around data gathering.

  • Strategy

What is the data’s purpose? Many respondents noted that the sheer volume of data was in itself problematic. As one commenter remarked, ‘We have so much data we can’t see the wood for the trees’. What’s missing is the map provided by clear business objectives, linking purpose to content.

  • Culture

One of the most commonly cited obstacles to successful data application was a lack of buy-in from management. IT, Information Management, and the C-suite must all be on the same page for a truly robust data strategy to take hold and deliver results.

Are IT Directors more pessimistic? Or do they simply see untapped potential?

So why do our senior-level respondents perceive performance to be even less satisfactory than the group at large? We’d suggest part of the reason is that they have a 360-degree view of the obstacles listed above. Their job functions enable them to have a look in at the process end, but they also have a hand in shaping strategy – or should do.

Their dissatisfaction could speak to a disconnect between business objectives and the data function, one that they would be well placed to repair. They’re also more likely to be at the frontlines of persuading the executive suite on the value of data and securing budgets, and finding frustration there as well.

We’re inclined to think they’re not so much pessimistic about data, but are actually more likely to have a cohesive vision of what a successful data strategy should look like. Understanding the untapped and limitless potential of data has perhaps set the bar just that bit higher for them.

Whatever the reason, this remains the most critical issue the world of data is currently facing. Without meaningful analytics and application, data exists in a vacuum and will not help an organisation make better business decisions. Companies will struggle to quantify the value data adds, whilst the executive suite will lose confidence in KPI reports and business cases.

The world of data is at a tipping point. Never before have we had such technical power to gather, process, and store data. The clear next step is making sense of it all, but to do this, Information Management and the executive suite must be aligned in their objectives.

Is your organisation using data well? If not, what are the obstacles? Why might those in a senior role take a dimmer view? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

To learn more about the state of data in 2015, download our Whitepaper here

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