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Data analysis ranks as top IT initiative for companies

Rachel Wheeler Archive

The importance of ensuring data quality can not be understated. In today's business climate, analytics have rapidly become one of the most significant driving forces behind the improvement of information technology, and data analysis is doomed to failure unless firms address the initial problem of making their data as accurate as possible.

The era of making business decisions based on intuition and guesswork is over. Companies today act upon facts, and plenty of them. In order to guarantee that their decision-making is sound, however, corporate IT officials must use software tools that mine their data for inaccuracies and distil it so that only verifiable information is used. Email address verification, along with other quality-checking procedures such as screening phone numbers and zip codes, must be used to purify data.

If these steps aren't taken, then companies lose one of the most powerful weapons at their disposal. Information Management recently published survey data from Ventana Research showing just how important data analysis to corporate IT officials. Among Ventana's respondents, 39 percent tabbed data analytics as the No. 1 priority in business technology innovation today. That figure dwarfed those who named business collaboration (16 percent), mobile technology (15 percent), cloud computing (13 percent) and big data (11 percent) as their main objectives. An overwhelming number of those polled thought analytics ranked among the top three tech priorities - 20 percent named it second and 15 percent third.

Mark Smith, chief executive officer and executive vice president of research at Ventana, said that companies must make the most of the information gathered in the data discovery process.

"In business the knowledge gathered by individuals engaged in discovery is critical to provide context," Smith wrote for Information Management. "Typically those people are analysts responsible for the organization's analytics or increasingly are business professionals competent to delve into the discovery process; for either, analytic technology should provide meaningful information in dynamic fashion. Done right, discovery produces intelligence, and analytic tools have improved the usability that enables more people to discover insights using this class of technology."

How to act on big data?
It's nearly universally accepted that big data is the way of the future in business, and no corporation will be able to get ahead without superior tools for gathering, purifying and acting upon data. Some companies, however, struggle with the question of how to execute a concrete plan, according to Wired.

The news source explains that there are four major phases to acting upon big data - educating, exploring, engaging and executing - and a study conducted by Oxford and IBM reveals that many businesses struggle early in the process. Specifically, 24 percent are still in the education phase, and 47 percent are still exploring.

Wired recommends a few tips for getting ahead in the data game. One key tactic is investing in what the magazine calls "data geeks." By finding talented analysts who are able to break down data and extract real, actionable conclusions, businesses can get a leg up on the competition. Having elite workers in this department is a significant element of business success, so managers should be aggressive to optimize personnel, being willing to hire, fire, promote, outsource and reorganize whenever necessary.

Smith says there are four main ways to uncover data for business analytics - event discovery, data discovery, information discovery and visual discovery. Each has its benefits, but before beginning any of them, companies must have the right resources in place. Ventana's research found that 51 percent still lack the resources to invest in data analysis, and 43 percent still haven't performed the necessary background research.

Eventually, though, everyone will have to come around. Data analysis is the future of business, and corporations everywhere must embrace this growing trend.