• Big Data
  • Experfy Editor
  • JUN 17, 2014

Democratization of Big Data Outcomes

“70% say a positive outcome resulted from their last major decision in which data played a pivotal role, while 45% say more big data would have helped.” 

—Excerpt from Big data and the democratisation of decisions, a research report by The Economist Intelligence Unit

Turning the Wheels of Fortune at Dell 

About six years ago, the top management at Dell informed their global executives to share their data corporate-wide, across all business units. Initially, resistance brewed throughout the enterprise as the executives were not prepared to share valuable, proprietary data accumulated with much labor.  Then, one day, the CEO, Michael Dell explained that providing “autonomy to employees to leverage big data for better decision-making” can lead to business gains. Dell took two bold steps: He enforced the executives to share data and submit reports; and he also planted data scientists in each business unit to decentralize data access and processing.

Rob D Schmidt, executive director for business intelligence in the CIO’s office, recalled:

“We had to break down barriers around data ownership [and] technology and define a common model. Only when Michael [Dell] required everyone to standardize on a single reporting format did we get there. Now we are very much aligned.”

According to Mr. Schmidt, the company has made rapid strides in revenue and efficiency gains totaling millions of dollars—as a result of this unifying big-data processing efforts.

The big data crunch across business functions

Literally, billions of sensor output, transactional data, web clicks, smart phone buzzes, or social-media tweets create a “data swell” that is hard to control. Add to that the cheap commodity servers data storage and affordable supercomputers, machine learning, and visualization tools, globally, all enterprises are mesmerized by the magical wisdom of technologies that deliver actionable intelligence and strategic insights. As data volume and advanced data crunching technology—both continue to grow—more and more, large, medium, or small organizations will leverage big data to extract value from fresh insights.

Surprisingly, in spite of the latest big data boom and the technological advancements, big data analytics faces severe constraints, which are described in the following graphic:

economist survey 1

Teamwork in big data drives 

Marcia Tal, a former Citi executive charged with developing the company’s global decision-management system, recommends building cross-functional teams to foster collaborative analytics and participatory decision making in business. Tal’s suggestion echos the industry-wide demand for democratization of big data outcomes.

The Economist Intelligence Unit survey 

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted a survey sponsored by Alteryx in August 2012. For this survey, 241 global executives were invited as survey participants to provide their perceptions of big data adoption. A high 53% of these respondents were either board members or C-suite executives, which included 66 CEOs, presidents or managing directors. A balanced proportion of demographics have been represented in the survey; read the full report for details.  50% of respondents work for companies with revenue higher than US$500 million; the respondents collectively represent 18 industry sectors and 14 functional roles.

The results of this survey were published in a report titled big data and the democratisation of decision, which you may access through the link provided below. The most significant results of the survey are listed here. The results have also been visually represented in the info-graphic following the results section.

EIU Survey results

  1. About 48% (almost half) of the respondents claimed someone other than the CIO drives big-data processes in their organizations.
  2. 77% of the respondents claimed that businesses should empower more employees for big data access and decision making.
  3. 63% of survey respondents believe that enabling more workers with big data will help organizations make “better and faster decisions.”
  4. 45%  of survey respondents believe that enabling more workers with big data will help organizations to quickly uncover business opportunities not previously apparent
  5. 37% of survey respondents believe that enabling more workers with big data will help organizations to identify and capture business opportunities more efficiently.
  1. 48% of the respondents believe their organizations have sufficient infrastructure for big data collection and analysis; while 41% believe they are  somewhat inadequate.
  1. 66% of survey respondents believe that big data can aid decision-making related to capturing new market opportunities.
  2. 55% of survey respondents believe that big data can aid decision-making related to customer retention.
  3. 41% of survey respondents believe that big data can aid decision-making related to competitive intelligence.
  4. 35% of survey respondents believe that big data can aid decision-making related to financial performance. 
  1. The survey respondents’ ranking of the most beneficial big data types are as follows: Internal data (61%); external website content (50%); and social media content (39%).
Source: Alteryx

Source: Alteryx


Although the need for data-driven decision making is rising, the availability of skilled data scientists is still limited. As high as 77% of survey respondents claim that businesses should empower more employees with data access and participatory decision making. Forty percent of respondents believe that their organizations have the necessary infrastructure to collect and analyze big data; while 41% feel they may be somewhat inadequate!

Survey responses establish that big data can decision-making related to detecting and capturing market opportunities (66%), customer retention (55%), accurate product or service mix delivery (44%), competitive intelligence (41%) and financial performance (35%). Internal data was proclaimed to be the most valuable type of business data.

The general trend in the EIU survey demonstrates that the fragmented control points of business data and the supremacy of data specialists are gradually melting down. Now, cross-functional, power teams from many departments are collectively harnessing the power of big data to make better judgments and business decisions.

Download full report here: Big data and the democratization of decisions

The Harvard Innovation Lab

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The Harvard Innovation Lab


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