Customer understanding drives investment in big data analytics

Better customer understanding is the main motivation for big data programmes, survey finds

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Gaining a better understanding of customers is the main motivation for big data programmes. 

This is one finding from a SearchDataManagementUK survey of 184 UK and continental European IT and business professionals who are primarily engaged with data matters.

The survey, carried out from July to September 2012, indicates the state of big data technology adoption, but also brings out the business drivers for big data programmes.

The survey ranged beyond big data, and revealed that organisations are investing significantly in data management and business intelligence more widely. 

Some 56% expect to spend more on business intelligence (BI) and analytics over the next year, and 43% are keen to spend more on data warehousing and analytical databases. 

Nevertheless, a 27% planned increase in big data technologies is noteworthy, given these are still in the early days of adoption. Some 23% of respondents already have big data programmes, of whatever stage, in development.

Business growth, organic or by acquisition, emerged as the main driver in the growth of data volumes. Gaining better customer understanding is expressed as the main motivation for big data programmes (50%), and organisations see big data as way to gain competitive advantage (48%).


Social media data, much discussed in big data circles, is important, according to respondents. Some 33% are looking to track sentiment towards their organisations on social networks. But more important still is machine data, with 38% seeking to make better use of sensor and log data to improve operations.

Although the survey shows that big data is for real, advanced technologies that pre-date the big data hype of recent years, such as data mining and predictive analytics, are still ahead in adoption. 

Currently 63% of respondents carry out data mining, 62% use predictive analytics, and 48% use big data analytics.

For more on big data programmes

  • Big data analytics: hype or for real?
  • Wayne Eckerson video: 'Big data' analytics a mix of the old and new
  • Advanced analytics skills shortage stymies big data programmes

Moreover, the days of relational database technologies are far from over. 

Only 20% of respondents said they find existing relational databases and data warehousing to be inadequate for dealing with new forms of data, such as video, images and social media data. 

Structured data emerges as critical still. Its importance has not been eclipsed by unstructured data, commonly said to comprise 80% of any organisation’s data.

Image: iStockphoto/Thinkstock


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