Big data technology on the agenda as firms target business intelligence

Tuesday 1 October 2013

In the digital age, businesses are using IT for an increasing range of tasks and functions. This, in turn, has seen an exponential rise in the amount of data they generate. When properly integrated and analysed, this information has the potential to add valuable insight to companies. But given the sheer volumes of data being produced, businesses face a challenge managing this information effectively.

The rise of big data is inspiring further technology investment, it seems, as organisations look to adopt solutions which can help them manage large sets and volumes. According to IT analyst Gartner, 64 per cent of organisations are either investing in big data technology at present, or plan to do so during 2013-14. This represents a significant rise from the 58 per cent of businesses which expressed investment intentions 12 months ago.

'Real substance behind the hype'

Gartner found that 30 per cent of the 720 businesses surveyed around the world had already deployed big data technology, while 19 per cent plan to invest within the next 12 months. A further 15 per cent of businesses are also planning big data deployments, although they are slightly further behind in their planning and expect to introduce such solutions within a two-year timeframe.

"The hype around big data continues to drive increased investment and attention, but there is real substance behind the hype," said Lisa Kart, research director at Gartner. "Our survey underlines the fact that organisations across industries and geographies see 'opportunity' and real business value rather than the 'smoke and mirrors' with which hypes usually come."

Who is investing in big data technologies?

According to the report, businesses across multiple sectors are recognising the potential benefits of big data technology. Businesses operating in the media and communications, banking, and services industries were found to be among the greatest advocates of the technology. Some 39 per cent of media and communications organisations said they have already invested in big data, followed by 34 per cent of banking businesses and 32 per cent of services firms.

Businesses operating in the transportation, healthcare and insurance sectors have shown particular desire to adopt solutions capable of making sense of big data, and delivering business intelligence to end-users. Some 50 per cent of transport businesses, along with 41 per cent of healthcare and 40 per cent of insurance operators are actively planning a big data technology deployment.

"Different industries have different priorities when it comes to big data," Ms Kart noted. "Industries that are driving the customer experience priority are retail, insurance, media and communications, and banking," she added. Ms Kart claimed that process efficiency is "a top priority" for manufacturing, government, education, healthcare and transportation organisations.

The road to technology deployment

According to Gartner, investment typically has different stages that organisations go through. First of all, there is a period of knowledge gathering, where budget holders learn about the technology and its potential benefits for their organisation. Next, business leaders sit down to agree a strategy for investment and deployment. Gartner says this stage is typically followed by an experiment or proof of concept trial, and then a limited deployment.

Assuming the pilot works well, and the big data technologies can be seen to add value, organisations are then committing to a wider rollout across their operations. At this point, the investment curve rises, according to Gartner. "Over time, business operations start to rely on the deployments, and the investments move from implementing systems to managing them," the analyst said.

Among those businesses which have invested in big data technologies, 70 per cent have moved past the early knowledge-gathering and strategy formation phases, Gartner found. The firm said that 44 per cent are piloting solutions while 25 per cent are now committed to a rollout. Among those planning to invest during the next two years, 80 per cent are in the knowledge gathering or strategy phase.

The future for big data technology

Frank Buytendijk, research vice-president at Gartner, suggested that, for big data, 2013 is "the year of experimentation and early deployment". He said that while businesses are piloting and experimenting with the technology, relatively few have carried out a full rollout as yet. But in the coming months and years, the number of organisations doing so will surely only rise.

Organisations have vast amounts of data available to them, relating to all different aspects of their operations. But the question is, how are they going to use it? With data volumes rising exponentially, businesses are recognising the need for new approaches to manage and draw insight from information. Big data solutions have the ability to integrate and process millions of fields of information and offer statistical support for strategic decision making - and this can be extremely valuable in the modern world of business.

Microsoft business intelligence solutions such as Power BI, PowerPivot and Power Query can help your organisation make more sense of its data.

Posted by Dan Smith