Exploring The Future Of Data

The Evolving Impact Of Data In Business

Data is as important to businesses as air is to people. Our 2019 report: The Past, Present and Future of Data was testament to this focus, with a majority of business leaders stating how data has grown in significance for their operations.

Fast-forward to 2021, however, and the pandemic has dramatically shifted the relationship between business and data, impacting its timeliness, availability and the methods in which businesses use it to draw insight. In some ways, the environment is changing faster than the data which we use to understand it.

Up-to-date information is now critical to navigating the volatile economic landscape. Businesses who find themselves struggling with data analytics are facing growing challenges. Because of this struggle, a rigorous data strategy and digital transformation is no longer a commercial advantage, but an operational necessity.

To better understand the data landscape post-pandemic, our latest report The Future of Data sets out to reveal how businesses surveyed across Europe view data in their organisation: from the impact of COVID-19 to the skills and technologies businesses need to process data, and ultimately the opportunities and outlook for the future. 

The impact of the pandemic

Businesses all over the world are still experiencing the impact of the pandemic. Yet, amidst all of this disruption, there’s a growing appreciation of the importance of high-quality, relevant data that businesses can rely on and use to manage the extreme uncertainties during this period of rapid change.

In our survey, 64% of business leaders agree that data is now more important for their organisation to identify new markets to work with and 62% are convinced that it’s crucial for targeting new customers. In addition, 65% say they now use it to assess risk, while 62% use it to monitor procurement and supply chains.

As a result of these rapid changes, many businesses without robust data management in place have suffered the negative consequences, further highlighting the importance of accuracy and timeliness of information. For example, 17% of businesses say they developed a “badly thought out” service and 19% failed to sign a new contract with a customer due to inaccurate information about a customer or supplier.

The pandemic caused a change in commercial data like we have never seen before. The difference in the progression of pandemic-impact around the world meant our whole system was changing faster than the data we had to describe it – creating significant challenges for decision makers in governments and businesses alike.

Now, what businesses need is data that’s fit for purpose. 

The skills and solution shortage

To capitalise on data in the future, businesses must implement the right technology, people and processes. Companies of today however face a number of operational issues when it comes to data management.

Some of the biggest data-led challenges facing organisations are effective data management (25%), combatting fraud (22%) and having the right technology to utilise data (21%). As a result, 27% of projects fail to meet requirements on average.

On top of this, the difficulty in finding the right talent to analyse data and apply insights to business decisions is a major concern for over a quarter (27%) of organisations looking to improve their data literacy.

Furthermore, more than three quarters (77%) of leaders say human biases negatively impact the production, analysis and use of data in the business.

There is visibly a strong need to upskill the workforce. Two thirds (67%) of business leaders surveyed believe that businesses must offer more training and resources for employees, so they can better understand data-driven decision making. And seven in ten (69%) leaders believe that having this understanding of the power and value of data is crucial to be a good business leader.

The key to developing a successful long-term strategy will be equipping everyone in the organisation with a better understanding of data management. 

Creating a strong strategy

The challenges that businesses have encountered in the last year-and-a-half has demonstrated the need for leaders to prioritise data planning and integrate it into the overall business strategy. Seven in ten (69%) leaders agree that data quality is critical for making the right decisions and 73% believe effective data management can offer a competitive advantage.

To create a robust strategy, businesses must first establish their best practices for data management. On top of this, ensuring that employees have the right skills and impetus to use data insights to inform their decisions is equally important.

However, security is a significant issue for leaders, as shown by the just over half (52%) who believe their reliance on data will make their business vulnerable to cyberattacks. While a further 44% are concerned their organisation will be unable to protect its data in the future and a quarter point to data regulation and legal procedures as a source of risk.

Although some of these issues may appear daunting, it’s crucial that leaders incorporate the potential vulnerabilities into their planning today, to better manage these risks for the future.

However, businesses don’t have to do it alone. Partnering with data specialists will be an invaluable measure to ensure they continue to focus on their business objectives. 

To conclude

Having a standard strategy is no longer enough. If anything, the pandemic has demonstrated the absolute importance flexibility, and a focus on the role of data quality in an organisation’s future success.

Undoubtedly, there will be many more hurdles to overcome with respect to finding and understanding the most relevant data in a disrupted economy, but by shoring up the skills and solutions needed to lay the foundations for a data-driven future, businesses can stay ahead of the curve as we tread through uncharted times.

Click here to read the full report on the future of data.