A KPMG study out today reveals that less than ten percent of businesses believe they are in a position to make use of the information they have on customer preferences, behaviour and demands.

Some 85 percent of the 144 CFOs and CIOs questioned for the “Going beyond the data” report said that they don’t know how to analyse the data they have already collected.

Meanwhile, 54 percent said their greatest barrier to success was an inability to identify the data worth collecting.

“Most organisations are unable to connect the dots because they do not fully understand how data and analytics can transform their business,” said Alwin Magimay, head of digital and analytics for KPMG UK.

“The problem is a little like asking the Wright brothers how they planned to land their plane on an aircraft carrier when they were still struggling to keep it in the air for an extra foot.  In other words, unless businesses tackle the problem of data collection and analysis one step at a time they run the risk of crashing and burning.”

The report suggests that some progress has been made since big data emerged as a potential business development tool, with  56 percent of respondents claiming they have changed their business strategy to meet the challenges presented by big data and approximately two-thirds expecting to uncover insights that would have gone undetected. 

However, the report suggests that few businesses are in a position to adapt to big data demands, with only 39 percent  of those interviewed saying they have trained their analysts to cope with the  new approach to business and 40 percent of executives citing the integration of data analytics into existing systems as their greatest challenge.

The report highlights a number of case studies showing that businesses taking an early lead in harnessing and exploiting social media data are already demonstrating the value that outside data can add. In one example, a car manufacturer had been developing campaigns based on four key ‘characteristics’ believed to be vital to customers. The information was obtained from internal data, but once social media was used it became clear that only one of their selected characteristics actually mattered to their customers. In the process, two ‘new’ characteristics were also identified and validated.

 “In the past, decision making was largely driven by intuition and experience; whoever had the best ‘gut feel’ would win. Today, the winners are defined by who has the more insightful grasp of their data,” said Magimay.

The questioning also revealed that many executives accept greater investment in data and analytics is vital, with 71 percent saying they plan to spend more than five percent of their sales on data and analytics over the next two years – up from the 69 percent claiming to have spent a similar amount over the past 12 months.

“Few organisations fully understand the huge potential residing within their data. Fewer still are making the right changes to their business strategy to take advantage of that potential,” said Magimay.

“The fact is that zeroing in on the business problems and identifying key hypotheses may not be the easiest thing to achieve up front, but it is far more efficient and effective in the longer term.  If they are to succeed businesses need to accept that throwing all available data into a pot and hoping for a tasty stew of insights will rarely – if ever – deliver meaningful results.”