That is the stark conclusion of a new study by data science and marketing services company Profusion, which analysed the role of the chief data officer (CDO) and discovered that only 2% of FTSE 100 companies had such a position on the board with just 5% sitting at C-Suite level.
It also exposes a major disconnect between how companies view data and what they do about it, pointing to a separate IDC study which showed that 77% of FTSE 100 executives say data and analytics is the most important tech trend of the next three years.
The report, The Chief Data Officer: Today, Tomorrow, Always?, was compiled through extensive interviews with CEOs, directors and CDOs from organisations including the Cooperative Group, Zaizi, Guardian News and Media, IAB UK and Zonefox.
Alongside in-depth research, the report uncovers a stark divergence in the understanding, remit and empowerment of the role underlying how UK companies are struggling to manage and use data.
Among the key findings is the fact that "datafication" demands new ways of thinking and working, including hypothesis driven enquiry and evidence based decision making to get the data to the right people at the right time and in the right way.
However, it also highlights the fact that there is no 'off-the-shelf' model for businesses to use data effectively; each company needs to develop its own approach and processes moving towards a data driven culture.
There is also a crisis of trust and confidence among the British public which requires data processing companies to develop more robust processes for using and analysing data, the study says, adding that key attributes of a CDO will need to include diplomatic and political skills, as well as awareness.
Profusion head of market engagement Michael Brennan said: "When it comes to successfully using data, UK companies are at a crossroads. Businesses big and small need to urgently put in place effective organisational structures and processes to deliver on the opportunity data offers.
"Failure to do so will lead to the UK falling further behind our competitors, more security breaches, potentially harmful mistakes and, possibly, substantial fines for breaching legislation such as GDPR.
"It's important to note that GDPR and Open Banking are nothing to be feared, they are designed to increase transparency and empower people."