Posted by Datawatch on February 17, 2016

The good news: we’ve got more data than ever before to help us make better business decisions. The bad news: we’re drowning in that data and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to use it effectively.

According to a new study from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), decision making in many businesses could be fundamentally improved, but the majority of business leaders struggle in this area, in part due to the sheer volume of the existing data that’s being generated. Sound familiar? We thought so. What’s more, the study also revealed that:

  • 72% of companies have had at least one strategic initiative fail in the last three years due to delayed decision making, and
  • 42% of companies lost competitive advantage to their more agile competitors

 It’s a case of too much data, too little time, and too many lost opportunities.

Five Common Roadblocks to Managing High-volume Data

Unfortunately, high volume isn’t the only data challenge. There are numerous obstacles that can impede data analysis. Many organizations have been “limping along” dealing with these challenges manually or using workarounds that simply aren’t scalable. But growing volumes exacerbate the problem and turn these data speed bumps into roadblocks. Here are five common roadblocks to watch out for:

1. Static reporting data: Chances are, your organization has millions of documents – from purchase orders to patient files to inventory records – packed with intelligence you can’t use. Why? Because this type of data lacks context and interactivity, which decreases your ability to provide comparisons and drive improvement.

2. Data extraction and manipulation: Having to rely solely on your IT staff to access data limits you and puts pressure on them. What’s more, you then need to put your data into a logical order – hopefully without error. Getting access to the underlying data you need from existing reports, web pages and PDF documents in a timely fashion is critical in order to stay competitive.

3. Integration of disparate data:  Providing a unified view of your data from a range of sources – including PDFs, HTML, text documents and Excel files – is a typically laborious, time consuming exercise. (Just ask any of your IT staff.) Consolidating from so many sources can also cause unintentional errors. You need to be able to generate clean reports and assess their contents in order to make important and impactful decisions.

4. Information and distribution challenges:  If you can’t share valuable insights from sources such as annual sales report stats or warehouse inventory projections, what good is having the data in the first place? If you have bandwidth or network issues, you’re likely suffering from inefficient data delivery. Users need to be able to quickly access, manipulate and blend any type of data.

5. Business intelligence (BI) challenges: From complexity to poor quality data to difficult-to-use data tools, the BI challenges are plentiful. If your everyday business staff don’t know how to use the systems you have in place, they simply won’t use them at all. Did we mention that BI challenges can lead to lost competitive advantage?

Falling victim to these roadblocks could introduce risks to your organization. For instance, by the time most businesses integrate disparate data, there’s a chance it will be out of date when used – leading to poor decision making. For companies that struggle to order their data logically, an inability to identify trends – good or bad – could lead to a host of lost opportunities to capitalize on strengths or improve problem areas.

New Solutions through Self-service Data Preparation

Thankfully, there’s hope when it comes to reining in and using your data. Focusing on having the right information at the right time is critical – and this can be achieved through self-service data preparation. Think cost-effective, scalable and comprehensive. This approach uses reporting data as the main source of information, which means more immediate ROI opportunities and shorter reporting turnaround times. And your overworked IT resources will thank you for providing them much needed relief.

If self-service data preparation sounds good to you, you’ll want to explore how non-IT staff can use it to acquire data, automate tasks, develop reports, analytics and dashboards on their own, providing data that is both easily accessible and useable. Before you know it, you’ll be making more strategic decisions in less time, and your company will soon become the envy of your less-agile competitors.

To learn more about self-service data preparation, watch this webinar: Forrester’s View on Accelerating Analytics and Insights with Data Prep

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