The Big Data Conundrum

Big Data

The huge volume of information flowing through organisations is increasing at an alarming rate. Dubbed ‘big data,’ this trend presents both challenges and opportunities for companies. A recent analyst report states that, “the increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media….will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future”.

This growth can have a positive impact as the report goes on to observe: “as organisations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance.”

The capability to manage the big data explosion will be the defining factor in UK businesses’ ability to maintain a competitive advantage. From the outset, it is essential to think about the critical business processes that will convert the data into knowledge, enable it to be shared efficiently between employees across the organisation, and allow it to be converted into action as a result.

By doing so, C-level executives will have unprecedented access to a data- rich landscape that will provide the insights needed to rationalise or authorise future business decisions such as where to invest budget and where to cut costs. By adopting the right approach to big data, they can gain unique insights into their organisation and their customers, improve efficiencies and ultimately add value to the bottom line.

These benefits of increased productivity and profitability are applicable to both the public and private sectors. Increasingly, UK public sector organisations are declaring that breaking down big data is high on their list of priorities, in particular to ensure they remain compliant with the regulations in place to protect confidential documents and manage records.

What’s interesting, therefore, is a recent survey by Coleman Parkes Research which shows that the majority of individuals in public sector organisations actually continue to receive and manage their own documents directly without collaboration with or notification of other departments.

This approach means that the overall value of the data cannot be realised by the entire organisation; therefore, duplication of efforts is likely to be the result and the benefits of fast, access to valuable information are simply not being realised. What’s more, this leaves them susceptible to compliance breaches as information is difficult to track and manage.

Take, for example, HR departments which according to the survey could experience a reduction in finding a single piece of information from 6.7mins to 30 seconds with the introduction of efficient automated processes. At the same time, an Accounts department can reduce search process time from 4 minutes to 30 seconds per document, in turn generating annual cost savings of hundreds of thousand of pounds.

Beyond simply the public sector remit, the UK as a whole is lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to managing big data. The UK comes third from bottom when businesses declared the audit trail facilities available to them, with 22 per cent of UK companies stating that there was simply no audit trail facility. Belgium and France were in joint last place with 40 per cent of companies admitting this.

These figures are significant in that they could put companies at odds with compliance regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which mandates that organisations must ensure that business critical documents are not altered, destroyed or misplaced.

In addition to compliance breaches, another big data conundrum faced by organisations across UK is how to reduce the time and money they spend on managing it. Approximately 69 million man hours are spent across the UK every year to simply manage business critical documents, equating to over £24 billion of staff costs in the UK alone.

Also, 81 per cent of UK employees admit there is now significant room for improvement. It is therefore essential that business leaders act now to address the situation within their own organisations and uncover the process inefficiencies that exist.

By taking a closer look at the overall business processes, including those that are associated with the management of documents and information, businesses can fully harness the benefits of big data. Fundamentally, solving the big data conundrum doesn’t have to be about problems – with the right systems in place, it can be turned around to focus on the desired goals of profitability and competitive advantage for tomorrow’s business.

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Phil Keoghan, CEO of Ricoh UK, has 31 years' tenure at Ricoh and previously held the role of COO, where he oversaw the integration of IKON and Infotec. Prior to joining Ricoh, Phil was the UK President for IKON Office Solutions UK. His expertise includes leadership roles in the fields of service, sales, business development and general management.