Trucks at Work

It’s the slow lane for “big data” deployment

The growing use of “big data” to boost trucking efficiency and profits is a theme I’ve touched on in this space before (go here and here for examples) and it’s a trend many think will continue to deliver big positives for the industry in the years to come, especially in terms of bottom line benefits.

Alas, though, it seems that deploying “big data” schemes in the business world as a whole, not to mention trucking’s small slice of it, seems to be stuck in the slow lane for now.

Take a look at a survey conducted by information technology (IT) consulting firm Gartner Inc. back in June this year. That study – dubbed Big Data Investment Grows but Deployments Remain Scarce in 2014 – discerned a number of striking contradictions in terms of how businesses plan on deploying “big data” efforts.

On the one hand, Gartner found that investment in big data technologies continues to expand, with 73% of the 302 respondents to its global noting they’ve invested or plan to invest in big data over the next two years, up from 64%in 2013.

The firm’s survey also indicates organizations are starting to get off the fence about their big data investment as the number of companies that said they have no plans for big data investment fell from 31% in 2013 to 24% in 2014.

Yet contrast that with this finding: such increased investment isn’t leading to an associated increase in organizations reporting deployed big data projects. Like 2013, much of the work today revolves around strategy development and the creation of big data pilots and experimental projects.

"Last year, we said 2013 was big data's year of experimentation and early deployment," said Nick Heudecker (at left), research director at Gartner.

Yet so is 2014, it seems. “In 2013, only 8% of organizations reported having big data projects deployed to production,” he noted. “This has increased to 13% percent in 2014, and while still relatively small, represents a sizeable increase.”

Yet organizations that said they are still gathering knowledge about big data declined 6%, though the 7% increase in pilots and experiments indicate that organizations are evolving in their understanding and willingness to explore big data opportunities, Heudecker pointed out.

And that’s despite the “big benefits” most experts believe tapping more heavily into “big data” can provide.

"Big data can help address a wide range of business problems across many industries and for the third year in our study, both enhancing the customer experience and improving process efficiency are the top areas to address," noted Lisa Kart (at right), research director at Gartner.

"The most dramatic changes are in enhancing customer experience, especially in transportation, healthcare, insurance, media and communications, retail, and banking,” she said. “Another area where we see an increase is using big data to develop information products, where organizations are looking to monetize their data. This is especially true among IT vendors, government and manufacturing.”

Yet different survey – this one by global business-to-business research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions – found that while analytics-driven goals and capabilities continue to be important within the business community, they are not quite at the level that they should be.

The firm’s Analytics Proficiency Survey polled more than 200 organizations to determine the current state of analytics proficiency across six key areas, including skills, tools, planning, process, data and culture, as SiriusDecisions indicates that an effective analytics strategy requires balanced capabilities across these six areas of proficiency.

But while some 63% of its poll respondents reported that they can access, validate, transform and secure the data that they have, only 13% are equipped to handle the growing data volumes of the future.

Here are some other details from this SiriusDecisions survey:

  • Corporate goals and objectives are largely not being driven by data as 69% of organizations surveyed have defined performance objectives, but only 15% of those surveyed are using analytics to drive those objectives.
  • In terms of making data a cultural priority only 70% of respondents said they are open to data-driven decision making, while just 15% actually drive their analytics efforts based on line-of-business requests.
  • Finally, organizations are not fostering enough analytics expertise as 59% of those participating in this poll said their companies possess basic analytical skills, while only 13% said they have access to “big data” experts.

“For many organizations, the value of analytics capabilities is understood, but proficiencies are not where they should be,” noted Bruce Brien, VP of business analytics and technology at SiriusDecisions.

“It’s important for organizations to understand the current state of the market and that while data alone cannot necessarily pull an organization forward, it can hold one back at every level,” he stressed.

Something to ponder as the data and information needs in trucking are only poised to grow larger in the years ahead.

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