Big data investments in 2013 continue to rise, with 64% of organizations investing or planning to invest in big data technology compared with 58% in 2012, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. However, less than 8% of survey respondents have actually deployed.
"The hype around big data continues to drive increased investment and attention, but there is real substance behind the hype," says Lisa Kart, research director at Gartner. "Our survey underlines the fact that organizations across industries and geographies see 'opportunity' and real business value rather than the 'smoke and mirrors' with which hypes usually come."
The Gartner survey of 720 Gartner Research Circle members worldwide, which was conducted in June 2013, was designed to examine organizations' technology investment plans around big data, stages of big data adoption, business problems solved, data, technology, and challenges.
The survey found that of the 64% of organizations investing or planning to invest in big data technology in 2013, 30% have already done so, 19% plan to invest within the next year, and an additional 15% plan to invest within two years.
Industries leading big data investments in 2013 are media and communications, banking, and services. Thirty-nine percent of media and communications organizations said that they have already invested in big data, followed by 34% of banking organizations and 32% of services firms. Planned investments during the next two years are highest for transportation (50%), healthcare (41%), and insurance (40%). However, every vertical industry again shows big data investment and planned investment.
From a regional point of view, North America continues to lead investments with 38% of organizations surveyed saying that they have invested in technology specifically designed to address the big data challenge. Asia/Pacific organizations were notably ambitious with 45% indicating that they plan to invest during the next two years. Consistent with Gartner experience, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America tend to lag in technology adoption, for which big data is no different.
Regardless of geography, investment typically has different stages that organizations go through. It starts with knowledge gathering, followed by strategy setting. The investment is small, and mostly consists of time. Then it is typically followed by an experiment or proof of concept. Still, the investment is small and tentative. Then, after completing a successful pilot, the first deployments take place. Here the investment curve rises. Over time, business operations start to rely on the deployments, and the investments move from implementing systems to managing them.
"For big data, 2013 is the year of experimentation and early deployment," says Frank Buytendijk, research vice president at Gartner. "Adoption is still at the early stages with less than 8% of all respondents indicating their organization has deployed big data solutions. Twenty percent are piloting and experimenting, 18% are developing a strategy, 19% are knowledge gathering, while the remainder has no plans or don't know."
Looking at big data adoption for those organizations that have made investments, 70% have moved past the early knowledge gathering and strategy formation phases and into piloting (44%) and deployment (25%). Among those planning to invest during the next two years, 80% are in the earlier stages (knowledge gathering and strategy phase).
The survey revealed that there is a wide range of business problems being addressed using big data, although there are some clear patterns. In Gartner's 2012 and 2013 studies, business cases that improve process efficiency and business cases around customer experience dominate big data wish lists. In the 2013 survey, 55% of organizations said that they are currently addressing enhanced customer experience using big data, while 49% are using big data to address process efficiency.
Some of the big data activities are incremental to current business practices; for example, better understanding customer needs, making processes more efficient, further reducing costs, or better detecting risks. These make up the majority of the use cases today. Some organizations are engaging in more "game-changing" activities; for example, 42% are developing new products and business models, and 23% are monetizing information directly. This is encouraging, as Gartner believes that the big opportunities lie mostly in these areas.
"While there are many areas companies would like to address, a slightly different picture emerges when we ask about the priority of these categories," says Kart. "Different industries have different priorities when it comes to big data. Industries that are driving the customer experience priority are retail, insurance, media and communications, and banking, while process efficiency is a top priority for manufacturing, government, education, healthcare and transportation organizations."
Just as big data priorities are changing, Gartner has observed that big data challenges shift with organizational maturity in information management, especially handling big data. Organizations are struggling most this year with knowing how to get value from big data, compared with last year's top challenge of governance issues. This is followed by difficulties in defining a strategy while obtaining skills; it also remains a critical issue for one-third of organizations.
"It is interesting to note that understanding 'what is big data' is the top challenge for 15% of organizations," says Nick Huedecker, research director at Gartner. "Perhaps unsurprisingly, this concern came mainly from respondents with no plans to invest. Organizations should be sure they are educated about big data opportunities in their industry to ensure they are not missing the boat."