Successful companies say data is
“extremely valuable” in creating competitive edge according to a report by
the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Companies today collect and access
more information than ever before. Wal-Mart’s data warehouse, for example, is
about 2.5 petabytes - - that’s equivalent to roughly half of all the letters
delivered by the US postal service in 2010, according to The Economist.
And Google processes about 1 petabyte of information each hour.
Around the world, executives agree
that data are key to gaining an edge on rivals, as evidenced in a new white
Levelling the Playing Field: How companies use data to create competitive
advantage. The report, which includes a survey of more than 600
executives worldwide, was produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and
sponsored by SAP, the German software giant.
Of the 38% of respondents who say
their company performs ahead of its peers, 74% say that data are “extremely
valuable” in achieving competitive advantage. The best corporate users of
data devote substantial time to figuring out what sort of information they
should track, and who within their companies needs it. They also invest in
technology and training to make sure individual workers are able to capitalise
on the data they have collected.
However, very few firms use
the majority of the information they collect. Only 17% say they utilise more
than 75% of their data, and only 27% of respondents say their firms do a better
job of using information than most of their competitors. The ability to turn
data into actionable insight can make or break firms over the next decade - -
Gartner, the technology research firm, estimates that
the volume of corporate data is growing by as much as 60% per year.
“The survey findings
indicate that executives need to consider how to make better use of the
information they collect from a strategic perspective,”
says Debra D’Agostino, managing editor of business research at the Economist
Intelligence Unit and editor of the report. “It’s not
enough to merely collect the data; companies need to create strategies to ensure
they can use information to get ahead of their competitors.”
The report offers several calls to
action to help executives at both large and small companies:
Focus on the right
data - - and consider which types of data may not be needed.
Many companies are hanging on to information they will never use. At best,
this could mean that firms are spending more than they need to on storage
and warehousing - - at worst, it can mean missed business opportunities that
Democratise data -
- and put them where employees will use them intuitively.
Firms that outperform their peers are more likely to have data policies
that allow access to a broad range of employees. Putting data where
employees can easily access and use it encourages everyone to think about
how data can create opportunities.
champions across the company, and promote their success.
Most workers don’t need encouragement to use corporate data once it has
helped them answer a tricky question, eliminate a needless cost, or win a
new customer account. Data champions can help promote such successes.