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7/17/2012
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Oracle Big Data Study Shows Longtime Pain

C-level execs say they're collecting more data than ever, but 93% also say they can't take full advantage of that information.

Data professionals have been talking about delivering the right information to the right people at the right time for more than a decade, but gaps in access, data management and data governance have always plagued enterprises.

You'd think things would be getting better now that we're entering the big data era, but according to “From Overload to Impact: An Industry Scorecard on Big Data Business Challenges,” a report released by Oracle on Tuesday, things haven't changed all that much.

Based on interviews with 333 C-level executives from U.S. and Canadian enterprises conducted in March and April, the report revealed that 38% of respondents say that they don't have the right systems in place to gather the information they need, and 36% report that they can't give business managers access to pertinent information and need to rely on IT to compile and analyze information. What's more, 29% of these senior execs say their systems are not designed to meet the specific needs of their particular industries.

These sound like the kind of complaints that were lodged five years ago. They persist despite the fact that 94% of respondents say their firms are collecting more information than they were two years ago--86% more on average. Is it really big data? That's open to question.

[ Want more on data quality in a big data context? Read How To Manage Big Data. ]

Oracle's survey defined data in terms of "volume, variety, velocity, and value"--the "four Vs" associated with emerging, high-volume sources such as Internet clickstreams, social data, log files, sensor data, and other emerging forms of data. These types of sources weren't singled out, but they might be showing up within the leading categories of data growth that respondents identified, namely customer information (48%), operations (34%), and sales and marketing (33%).

"Customer information might include not only what might come out of a CRM or order-management system, but also new data available on social networks or Internet Web logs," Rod Johnson, VP of industry strategy at Oracle, told InformationWeek.

The study's report-card-style scorecard revealed that only 8% of respondents gave their organization an A grade and 32% a B on "preparedness for a data deluge." Meanwhile, 48% of respondents gave their organization a C or below on "translating information into actionable information," 47% said they deserved a C or less on "distributing timely information," and 39% said they deserved a C or less on "reporting on information."

Grades varied by industry, with consumer goods, communications, and financial services executives giving their firms the highest grades, and public sector, healthcare, and utility companies reporting the lowest grades.

Executives also put a dollar value behind data-management foibles, with 93% believing their organization is losing revenue--14 percent of revenue, on average--by not being able to use the information they collect. Private-sector organizations with revenue of $1 billion or more reported that they are wasting approximately 13% of their annual budget ($130 million) as a result of not being able to fully take advantage of their information.

Public sector agencies can see "significant revenue integrity opportunities" by better capturing, aggregating and analyzing information, said Johnson, and healthcare organizations can actually improve patient outcomes by pulling together all the streams of patient and clinical data into well-governed systems and processes, he said.

Better technology infrastructure can help in improving data-management systems, processes, and practices, Johnson said. But he added that Oracle believes industry knowledge, industry applications, and industry-specific content is what's really needed to improve the state of data management.

"The problems that you're going to solve for an airline versus a hospital versus a consumer goods company are going to be radically different, and the revenue/cost equation is going to be very dependent upon the dynamics of those industries," he concluded.

Everyone agrees that initiatives such as master data management, data governance, and data stewardship are sorely needed, but those initiatives have tended to fail because the projects have been siloed and the business side has failed to take ownership, according to Johnson. The payoff for those initiatives also tends to be long term. Johnson sees hope in the fact that business analytics, the impetus for many of the latest projects, promises more immediate benefits.

"If you're a homeowner, you don't want to fix the foundation unless you have to; you'd rather build a new kitchen," he said. "The business side likes to see a direct, visible benefit."

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