By Claire West

A deluge of data is threatening to overcome executives, but they still seek faster access to more information, according to the findings of the global survey, “The Business Impact of Big Data,” by business technology services provider, Avanade.

The study, conducted by Kelton Research, reveals that big data is creating very real business challenges for executives. In fact, more than 65 per cent of UK C-level executives, IT decision makers and business unit leaders report they are overwhelmed by the amount of data their company manages — higher than the overall global average. Many also report they are often delayed in making important decisions as a result of too much information, or avoided working with colleagues because of the threat of additional data. Two in five (39 per cent) UK respondents reported that they ‘dread’ collaborating with people because of the amount of time and energy it wastes due to the data deluge.

“Data overload should not be an excuse for avoiding collaboration,” said Michael Isaac, UK Information and Collaboration Lead at Avanade. “Companies must develop a data culture where executives, employees and strategic partners are active participants in managing a meaningful data lifecycle — turning data into actionable business insights instead of overwhelming clutter.”

Data Addiction

Despite the challenges created by the proliferation of data, executives report they desire more data and they want it faster. Nearly a third of UK executives (29 per cent) believe access to even more sources of data would enable them to do their job better, while 55 per cent say they still want faster access to data.

According to the survey, this desire for more data and need for speed is driven by the ability to keep up with customer service expectations. In addition, newer sources of data are increasingly coming to the forefront, as 42 per cent of UK respondents reported that they were able to use instant messaging for business purposes, while just over a quarter (26 per cent) reported use of Facebook or equivalents for business purposes.

“Our research confirms what we hear from our customers related to managing the data challenge. Executives appear to be grasping for faster access to data to help them cope with information overload. While speed is important, context is absolutely essential in order to understand the full scope of the data to make the right business decisions at the right time,” continues Isaac.

Executives do recognise there is value in the data, from improved business forecasts to reduced uncertainty in decision-making and improved competitive positioning. Over half of UK respondents (52 per cent) believe the flood of data entering the enterprise leads to improved business forecasts and projections.

Struggle to Derive Business Value

The survey also reveals a big data disconnect. Despite the increasing volume of data, pressure to keep up with customer expectations and focus on technology investments, today’s companies are still struggling to see big data as a driver of real business value. On the one hand, executives surveyed say there is value in the data. On the other hand, less than half of UK respondents (39 per cent) view the available sources of data as a strategic differentiator for their organisation. Overall, the majority (61 per cent) consider data as a consequence of doing business.

Avanade’s enterprise collaboration, enterprise content management and enterprise search services enable social networking and collaboration capabilities for businesses, so they can better leverage information already existing within their organizations. Tools such as the recently launched Expert Source solution, which enables employees of a globally dispersed workforce to find the right person with the right data at the right time, close the gap between data overload and productivity.

“It’s clear many companies see huge potential in the growing amount of data shared amongst colleagues and partners, but they lack the basic measures to manage it,” said Julian Tomison, VP Services at Avanade. “Successful companies of the future will adopt creative technology solutions which manage the big data phenomenon by supporting the data lifecycle and developing a ‘data culture’ within the company.”

The “Business Impact of Big Data” survey was conducted by Kelton Research, an independent research firm, in August 2010, and surveyed 543 C-level executives, IT decision makers and business unit leaders at top companies located in 17 countries across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

For addition information or to download a copy of the executive summary, please visit http://www.avanade.com/BigData