Only a quarter of EU organisations have built a business case for big data, finds survey

81% of European organisations have or are planning to evaluate the business benefits of big data according to a new survey carried out by Vanson Bourne and Interxion, a leading provider of carrier-neutral colocation data centre services.

The report ‘Big Data – Beyond the Hype’ reveals that although big data solutions are being widely considered, only a quarter of European organisations have already built a business case for the use of big data.

Interestingly, companies where the IT strategy is aligned with the business plan are much more likely to have explored the possibilities of big data: more than nine in ten organisations where the IT strategy is closely mapped to the business plan have already explored the potential benefits.

Where the IT strategy is not aligned to the business plan, either because it does not plan that far ahead or is designed to fulfil other goals, fewer than six in ten organisations have explored big data. This drops even further to 40% in those businesses where the long term strategic plan has not been shared with IT.

“These results clearly demonstrate that those forward-thinking companies who are working in sync with their IT departments are more alert to the opportunities presented by the application of emerging technologies,” said Ian McVey, Interxion’s Director of Marketing for Enterprise & SI.

“For these firms, it’s incredibly important for the IT department to think ahead and lay the foundations for any future applications of big data that may provide the business with competitive advantage,”

Commissioned by Interxion, Vanson Bourne surveyed 750 senior IT decision makers at companies with more than 500 employees in November and December 2012. There were 150 respondents from the UK and Ireland, and 100 each from Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland, Benelux and the Nordics.

The struggle to take a strategic view

The time constraints faced by European IT departments is a major contributing factor to this lack of long term planning: 99% of respondents said they spend at least some of their time fighting fires rather than carrying out proactive, strategically important work that would benefit the company, with an average 37% of time spent in this way.

What is your opinion on "My department struggles to take a proactive and long-term strategic view?"

Given this background, it comes as little surprise that, when asked why they are struggling to take a long-term view, the most common answer from respondents was that they always have to deal with short-term reactive business requirements (80%). This was closely followed by budgets getting tighter (69%)

Where challenge meets opportunity

The survey shows that big data is seen as both an opportunity and a challenge for the business and the IT department, but it is small companies where the challenge is most keenly felt.

Interestingly, 79% of businesses with between 501 and 1000 employees say their IT departments see big data as a significant challenge, compared with only 55% of organisations with more than 3000 employees.

To what extent is big data percieved as a challenge by your organisations business and IT?

Expected benefits

Irrespective of the challenges presented by big data, the study's respondents also recognised that big data was capable of delivering a broad range of business benefits: better decision making (57%), improved customer satisfaction (54%), more cross-selling (47%), bringing new products and services to market more quickly (46%) and  innovation (46%) all scored highly.

If money and resources presented no barriers, what benefits do you believe the strategic and effective use of big data could bring to your organisation?

A growing priority

Although only 7% of respondents believe that big data is already a priority for their organisation, this is set to change dramatically, with a further 62% convinced that it will become a priority within the next 3 years.

Would you say that big data is/will be a priority for your organisation in the next...?

This study has unearthed some very interesting perspectives. Looking at the data, pan-European stories quickly emerge. A large number of organisations struggle to take a long-term strategic view and to align IT strategy with business objectives. Organisations in the EU spend an alarming amount of their time fire-fighting rather than on strategic, proactive work. It’s also true that IT budgets are being cut across the spectrum, although some are suffering more than others. In markets large and small, many organisations across the continent are facing the same challenges.

But while there are important areas of similarity across Europe, the survey reveals areas of stark contrast. It appears that the size of the market that businesses operate in makes a great difference not only to whether they perceive big data as an opportunity or a challenge, but also to which applications are driving their big data needs, and where they foresee most investment in building their own big data solutions. We trust you will get as much from its findings as we have.

Download the full report here.