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ESADE study: Companies expect to triple their big data staff in the next three years

According to the report, 55% of companies do not yet have a culture of data-based decision-making

Link to study: Adoption and Impact of Big Data and Advanced Analytics in Spain

Companies expect to triple the size of their big data staff in the next three years. This was one of the main conclusions of Adoption and Impact of Big Data and Advanced Analytics in Spain, a new study presented at the 2018 Data + Decisions conference at ESADE. According to the report, companies with an annual turnover of more than €200 million spend an average of €1.8 million of their annual budget on data management.

The researchers analysed the status of analytical transformation in the business world by conducting surveys and interviews with representatives of 106 Spanish companies from various sectors (more than 60% of which had an annual turnover of more than €200 million). Seven years after the advent of big data and advanced analytics (BDAA), 55% of the companies surveyed said that they do not yet have a culture of data-based decision-making and 40% acknowledged that they do not have a specific leadership role for this area or that they created such a role less than one year ago. A minority of respondents – around 25% – said they have a consolidated leadership position for this area (created three or more years ago). The study was carried out by the newly created ESADE Institute for Data-Driven Decisions and the ESADE MBA, with the support of Arcvi.

“It’s important to emphasise that the more analytical a company’s culture is, the greater its success and the larger the return it gets on its projects,” commented Manu Carricano, Director of the ESADE Institute for Data-Driven Decisions. The study shows that 78% of companies that describe their culture as very analytical – i.e. they make data-based decisions by monitoring results and carrying out advanced analysis – believe that the impact of their BDAA projects is high or very high.

Analytical profiles: scarce and highly sought-after

BDAA professionals fall into two main categories: 1) data scientists, who carry out advanced analyses; and 2) data managers, who provide a business vision in order to orient and lead the analyses conducted by data scientists and draw conclusions to guide decision-making. According to the survey respondents, BDAA teams tend to have between 5 and 20 members, depending on whether the company is small/medium-sized (up to €200 million in annual turnover) or a large corporation. The respondents said that this type of talent is scarce and hard to find in Spain. They rated the difficulty of finding data scientists at 7.7 on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (very difficult); for data managers, the average figure was 7.6. The study also found that companies expect to increase the size of their analytical staff considerably, tripling the number of data scientists and multiplying the number of data managers by a factor of 2.5. over the next three years.

Big data and improvements in customer relations

Asked about their vision of BDAA and the contributions they expect from these professionals, a majority of the surveyed companies (68%) cited a desire to improve customer relations. This vision was shared transversally by companies in all sectors. The participating companies also cited other important factors related to the incorporation of BDAA: reducing costs, optimising processes, and improving and innovating in products and services.

Main barriers: difficulty of obtaining data and lack of analytical culture

Despite the recognised impact and the cross-cutting benefits of data management, the surveyed companies said they have faced certain problems in converting their projects into concrete business results. Two factors in particular were cited by around 60% of companies: 1) the difficulty of obtaining data and guaranteeing their quality, and 2) the lack of a deeply rooted analytical culture that would enable the company to understand analytical models. Other barriers mentioned by the respondents included the integration of new models, tools and processes with the systems already in place and the need to guarantee data integrity and minimise operational risks. However, among companies that created a BDAA unit more than three years ago, this last barrier was mentioned less frequently (19% of respondents).

A new institute to promote data-based decision-making

The report was presented at the first annual Data + Decisions conference, which doubled as the debut of the ESADE Institute for Data-Driven Decisions, a new centre that aims to help business leaders and executives increase their companies’ chances of success through data-based decision-making. The conference brought together high-profile speakers and business leaders to discuss the latest advances in data-based decision-making in the business world, including Dan Goldstein, Principal Researcher at Microsoft; Michael Feindt, Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor at Blue Yonder, Inventor of #NeuroBayes at CERN; Richard Benjamins, Data and AI Ambassador at Telefónica; Raul Cruces Global Senior Data Manager at Banco Santander; Marta Baches, Instant Ink Manager at HP Printing; Clara Palau, Technology Lead at the UNICEF Innovation Office; and Albert Mercadal, Director of Big Data and Analytics at Fujitsu EMEIA. Also present were the directors of the study: Luis Vives, Associate Dean of the Full-Time MBA at ESADE; and Manu Carricano, Director of the ESADE Institute for Data-Driven Decisions.

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