Corporate leaders offer 8 valuable lessons on big data and artificial intelligence

April 30, 2019 by Sam Hemmant

What does it take to build a data-driven culture? The NewVantage Partners Big Data and AI Executive Survey gathers insights from C-suite executives at nearly 65 Fortune 1000 business and technology companies about how they are using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Here are the lessons to be learned:

1) Firms are investing more in big data and AI

This will not come as a surprise to readers who have noticed data scientists turning up at management meetings. But the survey shows overwhelmingly that companies are diverting more money towards this growing area. 92 percent of executives said the pace of investment in big data and AI is increasing, and 88 percent said they feel there is a greater urgency in their firm to invest.

2) Data gives a competitive advantage

Cynics might say that this is just money being thrown at the latest fad. But the survey reveals evidence that big data and AI are starting to give a return on investment. 62 percent of executives said they have already seen measurable results from their investment in big data and AI, and 47 percent said they are using big data and AI principally as a “business asset”.

3) Executives are data-positive

Many firms have reported that using big data, AI and tools that automate operations have created efficiency savings in business areas like risk and compliance processes. But interestingly, this is a relatively small driver of why firms are rushing to adopt big data technologies.
Only 5 percent of interviewees cited efficiency as the reason why big data and AI are on their company’s agenda. Yet 92 percent said it is driven by a desire to transform the business, to be more agile, or to beat the competition. Making a positive case for big data and AI is more likely to persuade a board and shareholders of the need to adopt them.

4) Change is slow

Investing in big data and AI is one thing. Implementing it in your company’s operations and culture is quite another, and this survey shows most firms are struggling with the latter. Only 31 percent of executives say their firm has created a data driven organization—this is a fall from 37 percent in 2017.
The lesson for firms is that simply investing more in tools and technologies is not enough. “Many leading companies are progressing slowly in pursuing their commitment to data-driven transformation,” wrote the report’s author, Randy Bean.


5) Opportunity knocks

The flip side of this is that there is a real opportunity for companies to steal an advantage over their competitors by embedding a culture of big data across the organization. 72 percent of Fortune 1000 firms interviewed said they have yet to forge a “data culture”. Those who are first to succeed will surely be more attractive to investors and customers.

6) Big data will make some firms obsolete

At present, most firms are not using data and AI to anything like its full potential. But the aspirations of the executives surveyed suggests that more firms will improve their use of data and technology in the next few years. They clearly believe that data and AI will be the next paradigm shift in how businesses operate.

Those who fail to adapt and embrace the opportunities offered by tools like predictive analytics risk becoming obsolete. The report’s authors warned firms not to be complacent about big data and AI. “Even the strongest of companies with the greatest longevity should not fall prey to complacency,” they wrote.

7) Big data drives innovation

60 percent of interviewees said their firms’ main use of big data and AI has been to drive innovation. This hints at one of big data’s most promising possibilities: many companies are already using big data and AI to spot trends which might offer opportunities in new and existing markets, and to develop new products.

8) Leaders must promote big data and AI

The survey identified the biggest challenges to a company’s attempt to embed a culture of big data and AI. 40 percent said lack of organizational alignment or agility was the main obstacle to the adoption of AI, and 24 percent said cultural resistance was the primary difficulty.

Both problems are best overcome by the CEO and his or her senior leaders introducing organisational reform and providing staff with information and training on big data and AI. The survey suggests they might be pushing against an open door—fewer than 14 percent of executives said they were being held back by a lack of understanding that data is an asset.

So, open the door, and let big data in.

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