Lack of skills, commitment waste power of big data analytics

An organization's ability to leverage big data often is hampered by a lack of technical knowledge from the C-suite on down, according to a new study from the IBM Institute for Business Value.

The study, "Analytics: A Blueprint for Value," found significant gaps in the factors essential to advancing business analytics within organizations: sponsorship, trust and skills, according to an announcement from the business value group.

"In order to unlock the value of data, organizations need to identify different C-suite champions to get fully behind the use of analytics. Emerging roles like the Chief Data Officer and the Chief Analytics Officer are helping companies build an enterprise-wide data strategy to gain competitive advantage," said Fred Balboni, global leader and partner in the business analytics and optimization practice.

The study found a high incidence of "political or executive resistance" to the use of business analytics, even among the highest-performing organizations, according to IBM.

More than two-thirds of respondents are using business analytics to support revenue generation versus cost containment, according to the report, and nearly 50 percent report a return on investment within six months of adopting analytics.

But only 24 percent of all chief executive officers and chief operating officers act as lead advocates for using analytic insights, according to the findings. That's up 10 percent from 2012, "but still far from the pervasive leadership required to spark widespread change," IBM said.

The study also found that the demand for big data and analytics talent far exceeds supply, with one-third of respondents saying their efforts to better utilize value analytics was hampered by a lack of skills to analyze and interpret the data. The biggest deficit was among analysts who understand the business as well as the analytics, with 36 percent of respondents citing that as their organization's most urgent skills gap.

Healthcare experiences the same challenges. At this summer's Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum in Washington, D.C., analytics experts said healthcare systems are challenged to better understand the data they collect and use it to improve care. 

"We have the data points [to be more predictive], we just have to do a better job of getting our hands around the data and understanding it better," said Chris Belmont, CIO of Ochsner Health System in New Orleans.

Budget problems and the skills gap are largely to blame, according to another recent survey and report on the state of healthcare analytics by healthcare informatics consulting firm CIC Advisory.

That survey found most healthcare organizations do not have dedicated analytics or business intelligence teams, echoing the IBM findings. As a result, many hire consultants to analyze their big data.

For more information:
- download the study (.pdf) 
- see the executive summary (.pdf)
- read the announcement
- here are supplemental materials