Data has become the real currency of the 21st Century, and some organisations undoubtedly feel that stockpiling it may underwrite their ambitions in hyper-completive markets.
But big data ought to mean big business value. Merely accumulating data that is assessed in terms of its volume, variety and velocity - the so-called ‘three Vs' - serves little purpose unless business leaders can slice and dice it to extract meaningful insights into potential opportunities.
To date, much of the focus of the information age has been on customers, and how analytics in the cloud can help organisations identify new demographic groups, buying habits, market trends, emerging opportunities, and/or changing financial behaviour.
In this way, the enterprise can become more dynamic and responsive, by not only reacting to new opportunities swiftly, effectively, and appropriately (thanks to their data insights), but also by being able to anticipate and even predict them.
This is especially true in markets that are characterised by a lack of brand loyalty: today's buyers look for fast, gratifying, low-friction experiences. Customers want their goods and services delivered yesterday - with the minimum fuss.
The extended enterprise of partners and suppliers has also been a key focus, as decision-makers look to remove bottlenecks and unnecessary costs, and so build more efficient, cost-effective supply chains.
In the years ahead, sensors and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) promise even greater insights into the wider organisation and its partners, by creating new sources of real-time operational data.
However, this combination of big data plus analytics in the cloud can also unlock the potential of organisations' most critical asset: the skilled, talented human resources in which they have already invested money, time, and trust.
To reach that point is a strategic goal and an operational challenge, both of which can be aided by adopting a platform technology approach.
Using data to open windows into the internal organisation itself - in the same way it analyses its customers - should offer decision-makers insights into how well the workforce is using and managing its time. After all, increasing productivity is a major challenge for the UK economy.
In turn, this can enable positive change - both in teams' performance and efficiency, and in employees themselves, by helping them identify and reach professional development goals.
This could spur greater loyalty to the organisation, because if staff believe that their employers are helping them become better at their jobs and more employable in the long term, then they are more likely to invest their time and energy in supporting the enterprise and forging a career path into the future.
Employee engagement via a cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) system can go a long way to achieving this, but it demands data visibility across the entire organisation. A well-designed HRMS should allow users to share feedback, and interact and engage with training and development opportunities.
However, a Computing research survey of over 150 data and IT decision-makers found that only 41 percent of respondents believe they have an HRMS that offers this depth of employee engagement. This is a missed opportunity to maximise the value of the organisation's human resources - and their individual potential.
An HCM platform that is constantly filled with accurate, real-time data from across the enterprise can empower managers to see where skills gaps are, and work with those employees to implement positive change programmes. In turn, this could lead to reduced staff churn, improved morale, and more skilled and efficient employees.
Computing also found that organisations' data analysts are spending far too much of their valuable time on mundane tasks such as data collection and preparation:
over three-quarters of such employees (78 percent) spend between 21 and 100 per cent of their time on these tasks. These issues are explored in a separate report.
Researchers found that only one-quarter of survey respondents are based in organisations where non-analyst users are empowered by being able to access, visualise, and analyse all the data they need from across the organisation, and so draw business insights from it.
This is mainly because the data is locked in departmental silos and disparate legacy applications, rather than accessible from anywhere and from all devices. Organisational cultures have grown up around these applications and working methods, which makes it difficult to break down departmental barriers.
This is why change needs to be led from the top; it is not just a matter of throwing technology at a problem and expecting instant change. After all, managers can't expect the same level of instant gratification as their disloyal customers.