The industrial revolution driven by data

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ

The United Kingdom is in the midst of its fourth industrial revolution, powered by data and the value it creates. The results of canvassing 250 people from the retail, banking, and media and entertainment industries on this issue revealed that many companies are well on their way to having mature strategies and internal redeployment is the favoured method of filling data roles.

Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy maturityIt was revealed that 72% of media and entertainment companies, 80% of retail companies and 85% of banking firms have a data and analytics strategy which has been delivered against for at least the last 12 months or more.

"Because they are so reliant on click stream and ad serving, media and entertainment firms really had to be early adopters."

The results were presented by Mike Ferguson, managing director of Intelligent Business Strategies, at the Big Data LDN conference, where he told an audience that having had a closer look at the figures, he was able to see differences by size of business.

“Over 80% of large media and entertainment firms had a data strategy beyond 12 months. Because they are so reliant on click stream and ad serving, they really had to be early adopters.”

Fourth industrial revolution survey results obtaining data talentThe survey also showed that firms in these three sectors have a lot of faith in their own employees when it comes to finding talent to implement their data strategies and that a very small number will resort to outsourcing. Six out of ten will look to identify and redeploy transferable skills as a way of getting the necessary data skills in a constricted market.

Peter Jackson, who became the chief data officer at Southern Water eigth months ago, has used this strategy himself as he said those who are already in the company “are the people who understand the data and have been in the job for many years, keeping the business running.”

He said that he found a general desire to upskill and learn new techniques and methodologies among the existing people at the workplace.

“Data and analytics is strategically important [if] they are investing in their own employees.”

For Ferguson, a willingness to recruit internally highlights the fact that data and analytics is seen as strategically important by those in the board room, evidenced by the will to invest in their own employees, keep skills in-house and upskill people.

“It’s very clear the business is saying, ‘we own this, we think it’s strategic, we want the skills in-house, we do not want these people to leave because they are important to us.' The complete balance is in favour of internal skills, than going to the outside world,” he said.

Who the most important person in charge of data reports to is an indication of a firm's leadership structure as well as its maturity. For over half of respondents, this person is the CDO who reports to the CEO.

According to Abhas Ricky, director of strategy and innovation at Hortonworks, the most successful companies are those that have a hybrid structure, where the CDO reports to the CEO but also has a “dotted line” to the CIO.

“That allows the CDO the autonomy to go after futuristic projects where they don’t have the cost pressures. And because they have the dotted line to the CIO, they can leverage the IT organisation without having to build everything from scratch so that allows for economies of scale,” Ricky said.

The location within the company of the most important data person is an indicator of which department gets the most value from data, according to Jason Foster, founder and director of strategy consultancy Cynozure, which seems to stand to reason.

He said, for example, that the most data value would be extracted by the marketing department if a company’s agenda were all about loyalty, customer insight and engagement and therefore the CMO would be the most senior data person.

"Whilst there is a need to get the foundations in place, you'll find a CDO reporting very high up in an organisation."

Panel at Big Data LDN discussing Fourth Industrial Revolution surveyFor Jackson, the reporting pipeline going from a CDO to a CEO is indicative of a company that is new to having a data and analytics strategy.

“While there is a need to get the foundations in place, you’ll find a CDO reporting very high up in an organisation. Over time that may then shift into reporting elsewhere, possibly the CIO,” he said.

Ferguson added that the most popular reporting structure may be indicative of a CEO who wants to keep a close eye and tight rein on data in the early days of its adoption.

He said: “As the data and analytics strategy grows and is adopted more and becomes part of the foundation at that point, you see the CEO saying ‘I’m OK with this. I’ll let go and relinquish control’ but it is very clear very early on how heavily involved they are.”

The survey was conducted by Coleman Parkes for Big Data London and Hortonworks and is available to download.