Big data is becoming more than just a trendy term in the Nordics. A recent survey by SAS Institute claims most large companies in the region have an increasing need for big data analytics – but the road from need to implementation can be rocky.
“Even though the US seems to be one or two years ahead of the Nordics, we see more and more companies in the region initiating big-data related business programmes,” said Flemming Bagger, head of strategy and architecture at the Nordic centre of excellence at the SAS Institute.
“Nordic companies are increasingly adopting and leveraging big data across all kind of industries and public sector. The primary business use cases are in customer and market intelligence, as well as innovation and R&D.”
The Nordic countries may lag behind rates of big data adoption elsewhere, but are catching up fast. More than 80% of respondents answered positively to the SAS Institute’s survey when asked whether they had an increasing need to collect and analyse data. In addition 92% believed analysis of greater quantities of data could give their company a competitive advantage.
While the need for data analytics is clear, its deployment can be far from easy. The main concern in the survey was the complex nature of data. Not only are data volumes growing, but the wide variety of data types, both structured and unstructured, and the growing speeds required to process it, pose their own challenges to data management and integration.
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About half of Nordic companies (49%) didn’t feel confident in their ability to handle the demands of these new data types. Finns were the most dubious, with only 37% of respondents believing in the capabilities of their existing datacentre infrastructure. At the other end of the spectrum was Denmark, where 60% of respondents felt confident with their current infrastructure. Almost half (44%) of all respondents thought either upgrading existing infrastructure or adding more computing power was necessary to achieve the required processing speeds.
Still Rasmus Nygaard Andersen CEO of Danish software company Comiit and founder of the ‘Big Data Denmark’ community, isn’t convinced infrastructure is the biggest issue. He said many big data technologies can run on cheaper commodity hardware and can scale.
“The challenge for companies is definitely knowledge. Big data is a difficult area and much harder than, for example, app development. Most developers can sit down with their Android handset or iPhone and make an app. Big data on the other hand consists of two difficult areas: distributed computing and analysis,” said Andersen.
“All of this is also made worse by the buzz and misconceptions that surrounds big data. Especially as Denmark and, I guess, the whole Nordic region has been so far behind.”
Anders points out companies are moving in the right direction as they pick up the necessary knowledge. Bagger said Nordic companies now see the need to collect and analyse more data and new types of data to stay competitive.
“Nordic companies have been advanced in working with data for many years and when they solve some of the concerns around governance, organizational structure, security and data privacy I don’t see why they can’t catch up [to the US] quickly,” said Andersen.
The SAS Institute interviewed more than 300 IT managers in large companies in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden for its survey.