The enterprise increasingly understands the power of data. Businesses are not only seeking to become data-driven, but are investing more in the tools they need to achieve that goal. Despite so much interest — and investment — in enterprise data and analytics, researchers warn that companies are struggling to achieve their data-driven visions.

NewVantage Partners‘ 2018 survey on the topic found nearly every executive surveyed (98.6 percent) agrees that their businesses are actively working to become a data-driven enterprise — up from 85.5 percent only a year ago. When its “Big Data Executive Survey 2018” was released, NewVantage Partners’ Founder and CEO Randy Bean said the research highlighted executives’ growing interest in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) in pursuit of their data goals.

“As interesting and important as the embrace of AI and various forms of cognitive learning (machine learning, deep learning) by corporations, [so] is the role that Big Data has played in empowering AI,” he said. “Organizations now have ready access to meaningful volumes and sources of data, which are providing AI solutions with meaningful data to detect patterns and understand behaviors.”

Nearly all executives (97.2 percent) added that their companies are investing in Big Data and AI, a finding that separate research from Deloitte also found in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) community. More than half of the SMB executives surveyed by Deloitte agreed they plan to spend more on IT this year than last year, with one third planning to spend at least 5 percent of company revenue on IT projects, including hardware and software.

Unmet Goals

Unfortunately, the research suggests corporates are struggling to achieve their goals. NewVantage Partners found only 32.4 percent of executives reported success in achieving a data-driven business culture — a drop from 2017 figures.

In Devo‘s “What’s Data Got To Do With It?” report, researchers noted that despite the interest around data, 88 percent of IT and business decision-makers surveyed admitted that they are not always able to access the data they need. Reports in InformationWeek, which covered the findings from both NewVantage Partners’ and Devo’s surveys, noted that businesses continue to face obstacles in embracing data.

Interest in becoming a data-driven enterprise means businesses are looking toward technology to automate tasks and provide in-depth analysis that human talent cannot perform. Interestingly, research suggested, the key barriers to achieving these data-driven goals are linked to human capital.

For example, according to NewVantage Partners, businesses have embraced the emergence of the Chief Data Officer (CDO). However, professionals remain confused as to exactly how this role will be shaped within the enterprise. While nearly two thirds of businesses said they have a designated CDO within their firms, there are disagreements as to whether CDOs hold primary responsibility for their companies’ data strategies, whether these professionals should be an outsider or internal executive, and whether the CDO should have a seat on the executive committee.

Nearly half of executives surveyed by NewVantage Partners said the people within their own companies are the top barrier to becoming more data-driven (compared to 19.1 percent that said existing technology is the biggest roadblock).

Access to the right talent that can support businesses’ data goals is another human-related issue, research suggested. According to Deloitte’s report, nearly half of small business executives agreed that their IT initiatives must include hiring new staff, a difficult task for U.S. firms in today’s tight labor market. Separate research suggested that, for the staff currently in place, reluctance to change is a top concern.

“Increasingly, executives are coming to the realization that the greatest barriers to creating data-driven organizations and building a data culture within their firms are coming not from technology, but from issues relating to people and change,” NewVantage Partners stated. “People challenges loom large.”