(From the Editor: Xerox recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct an independent study on how organizations in Europe are using Big Data and data analytics today. This article was prepared by Forrester Consulting, and it shares some highlights from the study, “Big Data In Western Europe Today.”)

Your customers have unprecedented access to information and expect answers to their questions anytime, anywhere. At the same time, the increasingly globally-distributed workforce requires insights to address these customers’ issues. So, how do firms help their employees help customers, ensuring the business remains competitive?

The answer lies in the adoption and embracing of Big Data solutions and analytics.

ICT Priorities 2015

Big Data isn’t a new phenomenon. So should you believe the hype? Well, Forrester found that 72 percent of respondents agreed that insights from Big Data improve competitive advantage. Moreover, 39 percent believe the market leaders three years from now will be those that use data analytics to provide truly novel services.  Over half of organizations also expect Big Data to empower closer engagement with engagement with customers. This level of confidence directly correlates to where the organizations are on the Big Data maturity journey. Surveyed organizations were segmented into three groups:

  • Datarati: These organizations showed strong competence in Big Data in all disciplines approaches. The Datarati were the most optimistic about Big Data, with over 80 percent agreeing that it will improve their competitive advantage.
  • Data-explorers: These organizations showed sophistication in some of the Big Data disciplines surveyed. Seventy-four percent of these organizations agreed that Big Data improves their competitive advantage.
  • Data-Laggards: Organizations that lack the Big Data competence across most of the categories studied. Only 62 percent of Data-Laggards agreed that Big Data improves their competitive advantage.

Organizations have wide ambitions in relation to the use of Big Data. They are putting Big Data to use in a variety different ways, specific to their lines of business. The use cases highlighted ranged from IT analytics, inventory management, customer segmentation, product development through to fraud prevention, predictive analytics, and customer experience optimization.

Deep Seeded Issues Block Big Data’s Promise

Despite these use cases, our study uncovered some of deep seeded issues that prevent enterprises from realizing the promise of their Big Data initiatives.  Organizations highlighted a myriad of challenges including inadequate internal skills, training and expertise to utilize Big Data insights, the growth in data volume, and fast-changing analytics and reporting requirements. Two challenges stood head and shoulders above the rest:

  • Data security and privacy. Somewhat expectedly, data security and privacy was the number one challenge that organizations face when implementing their Big Data strategy. More than a third of respondents rated data security and privacy as the major challenge they face.
  • Poor data quality. Although less of an issue for the Datarati, 55 percent of the all respondents surveyed lacked strong enough processes to ensure data quality. Only less than a third of organizations could confidently state that they rarely (or never) find inaccurate information in their data sets. The result?  Executives are skeptical about the Big Data’s value in decision making.

Trusted approaches when making executive decisioins

Leaders Express Optimism in Their Big Data Capabilities

Despite the challenges, leaders of the surveyed organizations are confident. They expect to make more and more executive decisions based on quantitative analysis, with almost three quarters expecting to see a positive return on Big Data investments within the next 12 months.

As you evaluate your current approach, you should consider the value of Big Bata strategically in terms of the potential business value it can deliver. Develop the right skills and expertise to fully utilize the insights gleaned, and prepare your organization for the operational and cultural transformations that will allow you to effectively respond to these insights.

And don’t be afraid to seek help – almost a quarter of your peers are already using third party organizations for Big Data projects, and a further 30 percent are planning to do so in the next 12 months.

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Big Data In Western Europe Today is the result of a study that Xerox commissioned. It was conducted by Forrester Consulting in January 2015, and included a detailed online survey of 300 senior decision makers (C-level and heads of departments) at medium to large organizations with at least 500 employees. These organizations are located in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.Big Data in Western Europe Today,