While moving to cloud services was the major trend for enterprise IT from 2006 to 2012 or so, building big data analytics, automation and mobility applications into the workforce are the other megatrends since then.
However, even though investment in big data continues to increase in 2015, it's starting to level off a little. On Sept. 18, Gartner Research came out with a study of IT and business leaders that contends more than three-quarters of global companies are investing or planning to invest in big data analytics in the next two years.
This is a mere 3 percent increase over 2014, but so what? The fact that a full three-quarters of IT systems in global enterprises are—or will be—using regular analytics of business data is a pretty impressive metric. Safe to say that the category has officially gone mainstream.
The survey was conducted among 437 Gartner Research Circle Members in June 2015 and included global organizations across all industries—both Gartner clients and nonclients.
Big Data Solutions Now Mainstream
"This year begins the shift of big data away from a topic unto itself, and toward standard practices," said Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner. "The topics that formerly defined big data, such as massive data volumes, disparate data sources and new technologies are becoming familiar as big data solutions become mainstream.
"For example, among companies that have invested in big data technology, 70 percent are analyzing or planning to analyze location data, and 64 percent are analyzing or planning to analyze free-form text."
Organizations typically have multiple goals for big data initiatives, such as enhancing the customer experience, streamlining existing processes, achieving more targeted marketing and reducing costs, Gartner said. As in previous years, organizations are overwhelmingly targeting enhanced customer experiences as the primary goal of big data projects (64 percent). Process efficiency and more-targeted marketing are now tied at 47 percent.
Enhanced Security Initiatives Show Largest Jump
As data breaches and hacker exploits continue to make headlines, enhanced security capabilities saw the largest increase in future investment, from 15 percent to 23 percent.
"As big data becomes the new normal, information and analytics leaders are shifting focus from hype to finding value," said Lisa Kart, a research director at Gartner. "While the perennial challenge of understanding value remains, the practical challenges of skills, governance, funding and return on investment (ROI) come to the fore."
When asked about return on investment for big data efforts, the majority of those companies with plans to invest in big data and those that have invested naturally expect a positive return. However, a large proportion of companies (43 percent of those planning to invest and 38 percent of those that have already invested) don't know if their ROI will be positive or negative. This uncertainty highlights the challenges in determining the value of big data projects, Gartner said.
One of the more significant changes in this year's survey findings is the role within the organization that initiates big data projects. Last year, 37 percent of big data projects were initiated by the CIO while 25 percent were initiated by business unit heads. In 2015, the roles are nearly tied, at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Line-of-Business People Taking More Active Role
"Business leaders are taking a more active role in information and analytics projects as awareness of the value of data-driven decision making grows," Heudecker said.
More detailed analysis is available in the report "Survey Analysis: Practical Challenges Mount as Big Data Moves to Mainstream," available on the Gartner site.
Big data trends will be on the agenda at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015, Oct. 4-8 in Orlando, Fla.