Posted by Robert Half on 08 May 2014
In an increasingly digital world, technology is becoming ever-more fundamental to a host of business processes. Organisations are gathering huge volumes of data relating to all manner of different functions, and this information can be used to support effective decision-making at all levels.
Yet despite the availability of big data and the potential benefits it can offer to organisations, relatively few are fully capitalising on the information they collect. The numbers alone mean very little to businesses - they need to be actively interpreting this information in order to derive intelligence from it. Research conducted by Robert Half suggests just 26% of organisations have established a capability to use analytics to support decision making.
A further two in five (40%) have introduced an analytics function, but are struggling to use this across their whole business. A quarter (24%) of IT directors surveyed said they have the ability to access data to drive strategy, but are yet to implement the process. And another 8% do not collect data for analytical purposes, despite having the ability to do so.
How this affects business decision-making
The upshot of this is that many organisations are making key decisions without sufficiently consulting their data. By analysing and interpreting the information they collect on a daily basis, they can learn more about customers, partners, the competition and their industry sector as a whole. This can help make more insightful business decisions, those which have a solid grounding in quantitative information. Ultimately, this can lead to more predictable and favourable outcomes, having a positive effect on the bottom line.
Despite the availability of business intelligence solutions, and professional analysts who are capable of drawing insight from data, too many organisations are relying on previously acquired knowledge - which may or may not still be relevant - and the hunches of their key decision makers. Using big data can potentially alleviate the risk of pursuing the wrong course of action, by identifying potential flashpoints at an early stage. But businesses are failing to put the systems and processes they need in place to fully capitalise on the data they own.
Why is data being overlooked?
So why are organisations failing to maximise the value of information? When questioned by Robert Half, the vast majority of respondents said the implementation of data analytics and mining initiatives are 'somewhat challenging' or 'very challenging' - meaning only 4% have experienced no degree of difficulty. Whether due to cost or complexity, many organisations have experienced real problems getting started with big data analysis.
Based upon the research, the biggest barrier to the effective use of analytics is the lack of data available through existing resources, which was cited by 38% of respondents. Skills shortages within the IT department (18%) were also reported by IT directors, highlighting a potential need for funding for additional data analyst jobs. Other challenges identified by survey respondents included too much data and an inability to identify the right information (17%); a lack of management support (17%); and insufficient budgetary resources (9%).
IT teams have clearly been put under pressure by rising data management demands, with 95% of IT directors reporting an increase in workload. More than a quarter (28%) said their workload has increased by between 6% and 10%, while 23% reported an 11-20% rise. And without additional employees to take some of the strain, these departments have found themselves stretched to the limit.
Businesses need additional capacity
Charlie Grubb, associate director for Robert Half Technology, said nobody can argue with the contention that data analytics will be "one of the main engines of growth" for UK businesses over the next decade and beyond. "Leveraging insights from data allows organisations to understand what customers are buying and why, what new products should be launched and even why employees join or leave the business," he stated. As such, organisations cannot afford to simply ignore this area, and carry on as they have before.
The reality is that businesses need to find additional finances to support the data analysis function if they want to capitalise on big data and make more effective information-led decisions. Mr Grubb said the right platforms need to be in place before insights can be delivered. And this means businesses need to hire innovative IT candidates to help implement them.
"The shortage of skilled data professionals is leading to retention concerns and businesses are paying a premium to attract and retain these vital skills," he noted. "Hiring a combination of permanent and contract employees to address rising workloads and business demands is an effective and efficient way to alleviate pressure and prevent employee burnout.”