• Big data projects are not just for the enterprise: Survey shows midmarket companies see early success as they proactively take on big data to make better data-driven decisions
  • 96 percent of organizations surveyed are in flight with an existing project, or plan to start one in the near term
  • Budgets for big data projects are expected rise to an average of $6 million over the next two years

The subject of a meteoric hype cycle, big data has been considered the domain of enterprise organizations and not necessarily a relevant challenge or opportunity for midmarket companies. A Dell Software survey of big data initiatives in the midmarket, however, reveals just the opposite. Big data initiatives, enabled by new analytics tools and strengthening ties between business and IT leaders, are helping midsize organizations achieve the improved product quality and decision making once reserved for large enterprises.

To find out what drives midmarket adoption of big data projects, Dell Software commissioned Competitive Edge Research Reports to conduct a global survey[i] of midmarket executives. Focused exclusively on midmarket organizations, the survey indicates that big data projects have made a significant shift from their enterprise roots, and have become a critical decision-making factor for midmarket companies across the globe. Survey findings also show midmarket organizations today overwhelmingly believe in the potential of big data projects to help them solve tangible business problems, and they are backing up that belief with action.

Survey Results Paint a Robust Picture of Big Data Initiatives in the Midmarket
The survey’s most significant finding is that 41 percent of respondents have one or more big data projects already in place, with another 55 percent planning to start one the foreseeable future. Further results show that more midmarket firms plan to use big data analysis to grow their businesses, rather than just find ways to cut costs. Additional findings include:

  • 80 percent of survey respondents agree that they need to better analyze their rapidly expanding data collections. Among their top goals: Improve product quality, seize business opportunities and speed decision-making.
  • 89 percent of respondents with a big data initiative in progress report significant improvements in company decision making.
  • Encouraged by early success, respondents expect big data budgets to rise from between $2 million and $5 million up to an average of $6 million in the next two years as companies invest more in hardware, software and trainingi.
  • The biggest drivers of big data project success are IT/business collaboration, proper skills, and performance management to gauge the effects of big data initiatives.
  • The most influential departments in big data projects are IT and sales/marketing.
  • The most valuable technologies for midmarket companies running big data initiatives are real-time data processing, predictive analytics and data visualization tools.

A host of key drivers are pushing midmarket companies to embrace and invest in big data initiatives. Survey respondents’ report that their top three project goals are to provide better quality products and services, take advantage of new business opportunities, and improve the quality and speed of decision-making. Those goals are followed closely by gaining a better understanding of customer needs, having the ability to respond quickly to competitive threats, and improving the effectiveness of their marketing programs.

Early Results Show an Immediate Impact
Although many midmarket companies are just now getting started with big data projects, the early results show those projects have had an immediate and overwhelmingly positive impact on their organization’s productivity and success. According to the survey, organizations with big data projects in flight report far greater levels of satisfaction with productivity and decision making than those still in the planning phase. For example:

  • 50 percent of organizations with a big data initiative in flight are satisfied with the quality and speed of their decision making, compared to just 23 percent among those yet to kick off a big data project.
  • 49 percent of organizations with a big data project in progress are satisfied with their ability to improve product quality, compared to just 32 percent of those organizations still in the planning phase.
  • 47 percent of organizations in production with a big data initiative are satisfied with their ability to identify and take advantage of new business opportunities, compared to 24 percent of those organizations whose initial big data project is still in developmenti.

Key Success Factors
A well-known but often-ignored best practice for big data projects among enterprise organizations, c ollaboration between IT and business units is the most often cited prerequisite of midmarket project success documented in the Dell survey, with 41 percent of respondents indicating that strong cooperation between the two groups is needed in order for an initiative to succeed. Other commonly cited success factors include:

  • A strong connection between data analytics and performance management in the organization, cited by 37 percent of respondents.
  • The availability of required skills – such as those possessed by data scientists – within the organization, cited by 33 percent of respondents.
  • The documentation of complete and accurate business requirements, cited by 32 percent of respondentsi.

Midmarket Shows Success, but Room to Grow Remains
While the early results have been stellar for the majority of organizations, there still is room for growth. Managing data complexity remains the most significant obstacle midmarket companies face as they look to fully embrace the potential benefits of a data-driven approach. According to the survey, 40 percent of organizations consider the need to manage a wide variety of new data types and structures to be a significant challenge, while 24 percent are similarly challenged by what they perceive to be a lack of easy-to-use, cost-effective data cleansing toolsi. In addition, most midmarket organizations still have not yet incorporated social media and other big data sources into their analytics mix, meaning a potentially significant source of analytic insight remains largely untapped.

While the cost and complexity of the required technology have kept some areas of opportunity as yet unexplored, technology keeps improving and budgets for big data-related projects are on the rise. The Dell survey results show there is no reason midmarket organizations can’t benefit from better analysis of their data, and more importantly, they now know it.

“ Dell’s survey shows once again why ‘big’ data is relative term. Being an enterprise organization with large, complex data sets is not a prerequisite to benefiting from a data-driven mindset. When organizations of any size focus on improving the quality of their business processes by becoming more analytical and data-driven, the potential benefits are limitless. The early success midmarket companies are seeing with their big data initiatives will encourage more growth and investment, and additional returns on that investment will be achieved as they dive further into different datasets and embrace ever-improving analytic capabilities. That’s why Dell has assembled a broad set of solutions spanning software, hardware and services to help companies of all sizes leverage data and information to make better, faster and more informed decisions. ”
Darin Bartik, executive director, product management, information management, Dell Software

About the Survey
Dell Software commissioned Competitive Edge Research to survey 300 IT decision makers in midmarket organizations across the globe. Respondent were made up of a cross-section of director-, manager-, vice president- or C-level executives, with a mixture of both IT and line of business roles. Midmarket was defined as organizations have between 2,000 and 5,000 employees. The survey took place in November 2013 across the United State, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific regions. Both the private and public sectors were interviewedi.

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[1] Competitive Edge Research Reports, “Roadblocks Crumbling: Midmarket Companies See Early Success with Big Data,” April 2014