Harnessing data effectively is a key attribute of the world’s leading companies, giving them a competitive advantage through the ability to quickly gain insights and advance innovation. But new research commissioned by Lenovo has found that in fact, only a minority (15%) of organizations currently meet the criteria to be considered a ‘Data Leader’.
The ‘Data for Humanity’ report polled senior executives in organizations with revenues of $500 million or more across five countries to explore how the world’s largest businesses are harnessing data, and where they see opportunities to use it to meet their goals and draw advantage in a competitive landscape.
The Data Leaders are an elite group identified through the research that has enacted successful strategies across three key pillars of Data Management, Data Analytics, and Data Security, enabling them to use data more effectively across business functions. These data-centered organizations have consequently seen a myriad of benefits, and in the past 12 months have successfully increased revenue (78%) and improved customer satisfaction (70%). The Data Leaders are also far less likely to have experienced the effects of poor employee productivity (13%) and reduced innovation (10%).
The Three Data Pillars
Despite just a minority falling into the Data Leaders category, the key pillars of Data Management, Data Analytics, and Data Security feature prominently in all organizations’ future plans. Business leaders state that over the next five years, they are most likely to invest in:
- Cybersecurity tools (59%)
- Artificial intelligence (AI) tools (58%)
- Data analytics tools (57%)
- Data storage (55%)
Other aspects seen as vital to extracting data capabilities include increasing automation of data management and/or analysis (89%) and improving the use of different types of data, such as external and unstructured data (88%). Organisations are currently seeing success across some areas. Most leaders feel that their data solution is scalable (58%), highly automated (57%), and simple for employees to use (55%). Many also feel that their current tools and technologies improve visibility, helping to provide a single view of all the data across the business (54%) and have the majority of their data stored in the cloud (52%).
Yet only half (52%) are happy with their current data platform, and almost a quarter (23%) feel that they are lagging behind competitors in this space. Security and skills are both cited as key areas holding businesses back, in addition to struggles with internal communication and data integration. Over half (56%) also struggle to access their data from anywhere, an increasingly important factor in the hybrid working era.
“With the three key data pillars playing a prominent role in future IT investment, it’s only a matter of time before we see more organizations become Data Leaders as they continue to harness new tools and solutions,” comments Giovanni Di Filippo, EMEA President, Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions Group. “Every business is at a different phase of its data journey – some have only just begun, while others are at a more mature stage along the way. Our research suggests much of the same when it comes to Data Management and Analytics; organizations have laid the foundations by storing the majority of their data in the cloud and implementing solutions that bring scalability, simplicity, and visibility. But there is scope to go much further, particularly when it comes to making data more accessible and giving it the means to inform or make decisions. To achieve this, organizations need support from technology providers, and partners must work together to enable the most optimal solutions.”
Data Security: A pillar of focus
Almost all (91%) of business leaders say that improving cybersecurity solutions will be important or essential to enabling their organization to unlock the value of its data. But while most (57%) have the assurance that their data is secure, the remainder (43%) do not feel confident about this.
Additionally, when it comes to sharing data with external partners and organizations for purposes such as supporting environmental and healthcare initiatives, improving education, or encouraging innovation, security is a key factor holding organizations back. Security concerns are cited as the biggest barrier to data sharing (89%), ahead of legacy systems and technical debt (88%), cost (87%), and concerns around competitiveness (86%). Many (84%) also feel that a lack of usable data is holding them back. Almost a third (31%) admit to having experienced cyber risks as a consequence of not improving their ability to manage and analyse data.
“Data Security is regarded by leaders as the pillar that requires the most development, which is unsurprising as threats continue to evolve and the landscape becomes more complex,” says Marco Pozzoni, Director of EMEA Storage Sales, Lenovo. “Security strategies must be ongoing, not isolated. As the amount of data businesses holds continues to grow exponentially, propelled further by increased adoption of AI and analytics, security capabilities must expand in tandem. And with a greater emphasis on security solutions rather than products, combined with difficulties finding the right security personnel, organizations are looking for unified, autonomous solutions to empower them to safeguard their data.
Fundamentally, without Security, neither Data Management nor Analytics will be able to reach their full potential either. The three pillars rely on one another for organizations to function effectively.”
Data Culture: The unseen fourth pillar
Businesses clearly want to do more with data and are beginning to enact plans to be able to achieve this. But a limited data-driven culture may be holding some of them back. Most business leaders are looking internally to implement data strategies that include plans to upskill employees on how to use data effectively (89%) and train them to analyze and manage data (88%). Appointing a single role responsible for improving the integration and use of data, such as a Chief Data Officer, is also regarded as important (90%), although only a fifth (21%) state that they have already done this.
While the majority (88%) see recruiting the right talent as an important or essential part of their data strategy, more than three-quarters (79%) regard the skills shortage as a threat to their business over the next three years, and only a third (35%) feel they currently have the relevant skills and capabilities within their organization to deliver on their plans. Many feel that data is the solution to improving their performance in solving talent challenges (88%). And a quarter (23%) feel that they have had difficulty sourcing and retaining talent as a consequence of not improving their ability to manage and analyze data.
But most business leaders agree that embedding a data-centered culture throughout their organization will be one of the most important elements in their data strategy over the next few years (88%). In line with this, two-fifths (40%) of those identified as Data Leaders say their IT team works in partnership with the business to deliver data-led initiatives, compared with just a quarter (24%) of those considered Data Followers.
“When it comes to data, talent should not be siloed within the IT team: all employees should be empowered to use data effectively, and it begins with embedding the right culture,” comments Di Filippo. “While enacting plans across the three data pillars, organizations must not forget the unseen fourth: data skills. Armed with the solutions that enable Data Management, Data Analytics and Data Security, employees must then be able to use and apply these to their roles in order to achieve better business outcomes. Putting the onus on business leaders to give staff more opportunities to develop tech skills beyond their traditional roles will create a generation of ‘Business Technologists’ who are well-equipped to harness the full potential of data. By doing so, organizations can reap the benefits of higher productivity, increased customer loyalty, and improved revenues, as evidenced by the Data Leaders.”