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A research report published at this week’s Big Data London conference suggests the UK will see a productivity uplift post-Brexit if companies invest in data skills.
Billed as a “fourth industrial revolution” report, the research surveyed how 250 UK organisations are planning to deal with Brexit in the context of increased competition from “data-savvy competitors globally”.
The research was sponsored by Hadoop distributor Hortonworks, and draws attention to the British leadership of the first, steam-driven, industrial revolution and its prominent role in what is conventionally seen as the second – chemicals and automotive-based – and the third, characterised by computerisation and electronics.
The survey was carried out by market research firm Coleman Parkes for Big Data LDN and Hortonworks. They interviewed 250 people from three sectors chosen for their strong interests in capitalising on data – media, banking and retail.
Respondents were asked about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s role in the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The survey found that only 10% see their organisation becoming less competitive globally. But, 38% said UK organisations will have less access to data from European partners.
44% believed Brexit will boost innovation in their organisation’s data usage and nearly a third (32%) believed the UK can create its own world-class legislation.
However, the report found data use to be more weighted towards customer analytics than new product development. Four times as many (58%) use data to analyse customer engagement and loyalty as to develop new products (13%).
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While almost all have a data strategy, the majority of organisations (48%) have only been delivering against it for the last 12 months. Most organisations intend to grow their own data talent: 60% said they will identify and redeploy staff with transferable skills, and only 2% will outsource.
Between a quarter and a third were investing in what the report calls “strategic” data management technologies. Enterprise Information Management (29%), self-service data preparation (27%) and cloud (25%) all figured.
Mike Ferguson, an analyst at Intelligent Business Strategies, said the balance towards internal capability was “a real eye opener” when speaking during a panel about the research at the Big Data London conference. He has written an in-depth report that further analyses the survey findings, and added, when speaking on the panel, that it has only been in the last few years that analytics has become a serious matter for boardroom attention, despite being spoken of as such for decades.
“The fourth industrial revolution survey has revealed data and analytics in the UK are now strategically important, with CEOs appointing CDOs [chief data officers] to organise and put data and analytics at the centre of the enterprise to use everywhere,” he said.
“The focus on customer centricity, fraud and operational optimisation is clearly aimed at using analytics and insights for customer retention and growth while also trying to widen profit margins. Also, UK companies are trying to recruit from within, bring in new permanent staff and upskill to keep expertise in the company rather that outsource. This is further evidence that data and analytics are core to future business success.”
Big Data LDN founder Bill Hammond said of the findings: “They lay bare the challenge facing the UK if we aspire to lead the charge in the fourth industrial revolution, as we have with every other. Britain’s data leaders are – perhaps overly – confident they can redeploy talent and build data-driven businesses which turn Brexit and GDPR into global sales advantages.
“If we can guard against complacency, stay at the forefront of technical advances and, critically, muster the human resources required, there seems genuine cause for optimism for the UK in the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
In the same press statement, Abhas Ricky, director of strategy and innovation at Hortonworks, said: “There is a clear gap between data strategies and the investment needed to achieve those objectives. Big data is raising the bar for competitiveness on a global scale, therefore businesses can no longer afford to rely on legacy infrastructures to remain lean and innovative.”
Alan Mak, Conservative MP for Havant and chairman of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on the fourth industrial revolution, said: “I welcome this research looking at how Britain can use data to drive economic growth. This report draws much needed attention to how British businesses can use data for product design and process innovation, adding value in new ways, lowering costs, and giving more choice to the consumer.
“Data will be as important to the British economy in this century as oil was in the previous one, so it is vital that as we prepare for Brexit we invest wisely in the skills and new technologies needed to harness the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution,” he said,