The Big Deal in Big Data is a Big Opportunity

Big data was big news in 2012 and probably in 2013 too. The Harvard Business Review talks about it as The Management Revolution. The Wall Street Journal says Meet the New Boss: Big Data, and Big Data is on the Rise, Bringing Big Questions. Given big data’s popularity in the press, you might think that the technology vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiesmarket is only about big data and how companies use the vast and growing amount of data now available to organizations. While this technology can provide a significant opportunity, the reality is that just having big data does not provide an organization with the intelligence to be more efficient or grow market share. It can provide the foundation on which organizations can assemble technologies and applications that can help realize these opportunities, but organizations need to focus on the big picture, which encompasses additional layers of technology that work together with big data. Our recent benchmark research on business technology innovation found that big data is not the top priority for business or IT; analytics, collaboration, mobile and cloud computing are all more important. Organizations do believe that big data is very important (25%), but if they were pushed to prioritize technologies, it would not top the list.

The majority of the big data hyperbole focuses on the velocity, volume and variety of big data, which are important technology attributes for IT to deal with but deliver little to help business gain any opportunity for improvement. My colleague Tony Cosentino articulated this well in his blog (see Transforming Three Vs of Big Data into Three Ws of Business Analytics), which placed the pivotal value on the So What, Now What and Then What aspects of what business expects in time-to-value (TTV) aspects of big data. These factors are what business cares about in terms of analytic and information value from big data. Business is not concerned with the criteria IT uses to evaluate or determine which big data approach it is taking. Technology evaluations have fixated around the Vs of big data with no context of the Ws and no involvement from analysts who have to apply analytics or ensure the right information is made available in their business processes. That means IT organizations may be wasting their businesses’ time and resources. Our research into business technology innovation finds that lack of resources is the largest barrier (51%), and having IT expend significant quantities of time and resources on big data without a strong business context is a recipe for failure. Thankfully for many organizations, planning approaches for technology such as specialized DBMS (45%), in-memory databases (40%), data warehouse appliances (37%) and Hadoop (36%) requires a solid business case to move to full evaluation and deployment mode. If you hear the V pitch on big data, just ask about the W’s to get the conversation back to the business value.

When it comes to getting value from analyzing big data, our research found the three primary benefits organizations want were access and retention of data for analytics (29%), reducing the time required for analyzing data (13%) and increasing revenue (12%), which are more specific than benefits such as better communication, better management and tracking of initiatives and better organizational alignment. Those latter benefits are important, but organizations could also derive them from using business analytics. Ensuring you get the analytics value from big data also ensures you can mine or analyze big data for predictive analytics, forecasting and discovery, which, along with supporting taking action based on analytics, are the most critical business analytics needs in organizations today. With only a little more than half of organizations satisfied with their analytic processes, and 44 percent of organizations indicating the most time-consuming part of the analytics process is data-related tasks, IT must guarantee that business priorities of analysts who are held accountable for the information and metrics are included from the beginning.

Organizations must make sure to get business and IT together to determinevr_bti_br_whats_driving_change_to_technology_selection whether they are getting the most value from the existing data stored in the organization. If you scale up the amount of data, is your organization prepared to take advantage of it and deliver business value in reduced time periods? Our research finds the most important change agents for selecting technology are a strong business improvement initiative (60%), drive to improve the quality of business process (57%) and operational efficiency and cost savings initiative (39%). Nothing should be different for big data, except that you should ensure you can use your IT resources efficiently and not build new silos of proprietary technology that require specialized resources that might not be aligned to the business value you expect to gain from the technology.

Big data can deliver big value if properly assessed and strategically applied, but like the data warehouse hype from almost 20 years ago, it will take time to ensure it can be properly applied for business and not just serve as a new technology initiative. For my final thoughts on the hyperbole of the Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal, they should use research and facts on what business and IT are doing today and what they need for working together to find value from big data since that is really the big deal.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Product Information Management is for Business

To maximize the potential of their investments, businesses must manage product information, yet for many businesses product information is scattered and duplicated in many systems, which leads to duplication of effort, incorrect information about product descriptions and prices and improper tracking of products, all of which increase costs and waste time. At the same time, for marketing products and streamlining their distribution through sales channels, making product information accessible to consumers through smartphones and tablets is essential.

These factors indicate an expanded need for product informationvr_productinfomanagement_top_benefits_of_dedicated_pim management, which we define as the process, information, applications and technology that let people establish a single, reliable view of products that can be used in an enterprise by customers, partners and suppliers to promote efficiency in business processes, which in turn can improve the value of the products to the market. Our recent research into product information management found that the top benefits of a dedicated approach include the elimination of errors (47%) and improved cross-sell and up-sell potential. We also learned that only a quarter (27%) of organizations trust their PIM processes completely. The largest factor causing dissatisfaction is that the product information is too unreliable, according to almost three-quarters (71%) of organizations. This should be no surprise, as almost half of organizations (45%) use a manual process to maintain product information using varied methods and technology. Spreadsheets are heavily or moderately used in 94 percent of organizations, despite the fact that one-fifth find major errors in them frequently and another quarter find them occasionally.

vr_productinfomanagement_assembling_the_business_caseThere is a better approach to managing your product information. An investment in dedicated technology that uses well-defined processes to impose quality and consistency can pay large dividends. Our research finds the top factors in a business case for PIM investment are customer satisfaction (53%) and getting better business intelligence and analytics about the products (47%), though factors vary depending on the industry and the state of each organization’s maturity and competency.

We found more than a third of organizations we researched taking a dedicated approach to PIM, with more than a quarter (28%) planning to put a system  in place over the next 18 months, and a sixth (16%) developing a strategy. Some organizations are also looking to connect their PIM applications to master data management, which is typically managed by IT organizations but implemented in only a little more than a quarter (28%) of organizations. Our research found that organizations that use PIM and MDM together get the highest value from their investments. While these technologies have distinctly different approaches to helping their respective audiences, organizations that make the necessary investments reap the rewards.

PIM technology is not MDM, and MDM technology is not PIM, despite the pronouncements of some IT industry analyst firms that confuse the two as one. Ensure you understand what systems you need to meet the needs of your marketing, sales, commerce, operations, manufacturing and supply chain organizations who work with PIM applications across a multitude of business processes. They need access to a common definition, and must be able to use descriptions, attributes, images, videos and prices – information that is critical to business – and not just underlying data such as product name and codes to track sales or inventory for reports that could use it for looking at sales by customer or region.

IT should help facilitate access and data integration to existing content and data across the enterprise, but should not try to impose data-centric governance or an MDM project by itself to address PIM, as these efforts are not designed to help empower business to manage the entirety of product information.

The investment into PIM is happening primarily through business efforts vr_productinfomanagement_how_is_pim_technology_fundedwhere almost half of organizations (48%) fund PIM efforts through their business technology budgets, followed by the general IT budget (28%) and then smaller amounts in shared service and overall business budget. But just getting the business case and budget approved is not sufficient; getting the resources to implement PIM is the top barrier in more than a third of organizations (37%).

It is encouraging to see that more than half of organizations (57%) plan to change the way they manage product information. Organizations can gain significant benefits by adopting PIM applications and technology through business improvement initiatives or through a joint effort across business and IT.


Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer