Data-driven ‘just a slogan’ for half of businesses

A ‘dark data’ problem is leaving valuable insights out of arm’s reach for many businesses.
30 April 2019

Splunk was behind the research. Source: Shutterstock

Businesses continue to face a data deluge, to the extent that more than half of the potentially high-value data businesses gather, is left in the dark.

That’s according to a study by Californian data insights platform Splunk, which found that while business executives recognize the value of using all of their data, some 55 percent of it becomes “dark data”.

In other words, businesses either don’t know it exists or don’t how to find, prepare, analyze or use it— leading to 56 percent of businesses admitting that ‘data-driven’ is just a slogan in their organization.

The State of Dark Data Report was built on a survey of more than 1,300 global business managers and IT leaders investigating how they collect, manage and use data.

“In an era where data is connecting devices, systems, and people at unprecedented growth rates, the results show that while data is top of mind, action is often far behind,” read the report.

The dark data problem

Indeed, more than three-quarters of business executives across key global markets agreed that “the organization that has the most data is going to win”.

Despite this, nearly two-thirds said that more than half of the business’s data was ‘dark’, while one-third of respondents said that figure was closer to 75 percent.

With more channels, sources and touchpoints, and the methods to produce it than ever, the main obstacles for companies in undeniably the vast volumes of data they’re dealing with.

But other issues include a lack of necessary skills and resources required to break into their untapped data reserves and action the insights gleaned from them.

“Data is hard to work with because it’s growing at an alarming rate and is hard to structure and organize,” said Splunk’s chief technology officer, Tim Tully.

However, Tully was encouraged that while fewer than a third of those surveyed said they had the skills to turn data into action, there was overwhelming value placed on the opportunity of dark data by businesses.

“This presents a tremendous opportunity for motivated leaders, professionals and employers to learn new skills and reach a new level of results,” he added.

Worth taking seriously

There could be some big obstacles in unlocking that opportunity, though. In addition to lacking the expertise, staff or tools, Splunk claims senior leaders report being unmotivated to become ‘data-literate’ so close to retirement. That’s an attitude that trickles down to hamper efforts of more eager staff lower down.

Others simply don’t seem to take it as seriously as it deserves; more than two-thirds said they were content to keep doing what they’re doing, regardless of the impact on the business or their career.

And while more than one in 10 were “willing” to learn new data skills, it may come as no surprise that much fewer claim to be truly enthusiastic about working with more data.

Potential solutions that more proactive businesses could employ include training employees in data science and analytics, increasing funding for ‘data wrangling’, and deploying better analytics software.

These all require a concerted effort across the business, however, which will likely be difficult to muster. The answer, instead, could lay with artificial intelligence (AI) technology— at least according to respondents.

Some 71 percent of business executives saw the potential for AI to analyze data, while close to three-quarters believe these technologies can make up for a skills gap in IT.