The cost of a missed opportunity can have a monumental impact on a business. I am not overstating when I say that it can be make or break. Just look at Apple.
While Steve Jobs is hailed as the driving force behind Apple’s innovation and success, one of his greatest - and ultimately lucrative - skills was his ability to identify the next big thing. The original idea for the iPod was first pitched to RealNetworks by its then-employee, Tony Fadell. After his proposal for a sleeker MP3 player was rejected, he resigned and pitched the idea to Jobs. Just two months after its roll-out in 2001, Apple had sold nearly 125,000 devices - arguably transforming both the music industry and Apple’s business.
Not every decision will change the fortune of a company as the iPod did. But every single one will either positively or negatively impact a business outcome. It is therefore unsurprising that in recent years, with the explosion in big data, we have seen massive investments in data analytics and business intelligence software - a trend continuing through the accelerated adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Organisations are essentially creating an armoury that will help them make better decisions, every time.
However, while companies are amassing more and more data and adopting ever-more sophisticated data solutions, many are still struggling to convert this investment into tangible business outcomes. The data is not translating into better decision-making – and this is where the great divide in business value creation lies.
New research from Qlik, in partnership with IDC, revealed that organisations with data pipelines that support the best decision-making capabilities are experiencing the greatest improvements in business value, achieving over two-times more than those with the worst decision-making capabilities (38% v 15% respectively).
While organisations have continued to invest in new solutions that promise to harness the full value of their data, what many often do not realise is that there is only so much data analytics can do. There is a finite value that can be achieved from data - if you’re not putting enough or the right data into your data pipeline, you are significantly limiting the outcomes you can achieve from it.
Introducing more valuable data into their data pipeline is something that nearly all businesses are grabbling with. Among global business leaders, 96% report that identifying new data sources is challenging for their organisation. This is consistent across every industry and most regions - only companies in Japan and Germany reported a lower rate (89% respectively).
In fact, just over half (57%) of global businesses believe they have identified and captured most (70+%) of the potentially valuable data across their organisation. Business leaders report facing both technical issues of having the resources to search for and invest in the technology to create valuable data, and challenges in understanding its validity and assessing the potential ROI. It is therefore little surprise that, when asked which area of their data pipeline would receive the greatest investment over the coming 12 months, one quarter of business leaders (25%) reported focusing on identifying new data sources.
One way to support individuals in identifying the valuable data in their organisation that can be used to inform decision-making is to use a data catalogue. Data cataloguing establishes a single repository of all the data a business has available for analytics so that anyone - from data engineers to business users - can identify and access it.
An important consideration when investing in a data catalogue must be its accessibility for non-technical users. Functionalities like keyword search, which enable users to find potentially relevant data sets that can be exported into visualisations or analytics dashboards, are important so they are empowered to find the information relevant to their decision. Of course, this cannot be at the cost of privacy, so should be balanced against a common framework of security, governance, and metadata capabilities that protect data, manage user access privileges and track their activity.
Without the right information, it’s tough to spot trends, identify new opportunities and, most of all, be confident that you’re making the right decision in going for them. This means many companies will find themselves either missing out or placing wild bets and relying on potluck.
It’s time that organisations recognise the benefits of investing in the beginning, as well as the end of their data pipelines. Because what you get out of it depends entirely on what you put in.
Joe DosSantos is chief data officer at Qlik