For six consecutive years NewVantage Partners has conducted an annual survey on how executives in large corporations view data. Each year the response rate increases, and the reported urgency of making effective use of data increases as well. This year the results are both more encouraging and more worrisome than in the past.
Six years ago, the primary focus of questions and answers in the survey was big data, which was relatively new on the business scene. In the 2018 survey, the primary attention has moved to artificial intelligence. AI is now a well-established focus at these large, sophisticated firms. There is both a stronger feeling that big data and AI projects deliver value and a greater concern that established firms will be disrupted by startups.
The survey includes senior executives from 57 large corporations. The industry group with the most firms represented in the survey is one of the most data-intensive: financial services. Companies from the life sciences, manufacturing, telecom, and online industries also participated. The actual respondents are changing somewhat from the first surveys: It has always involved a high proportion of C-level executives responsible for data, but this year chief data officers are 56% of the respondents, up from 32% last year. Only 12% of firms in the 2012 survey had even appointed a chief data officer.
While AI gets the headlines here and elsewhere in the world, the survey addresses both big data and AI. Terminology comes and goes, but the constant is a data explosion and the need to make sense of it. Big data and AI projects have become virtually indistinguishable, particularly given that machine learning is one of the most popular techniques for dealing with large volumes of fast-moving data. It’s also the case that statistical approaches to AI — deep learning, for example — are increasingly popular. Therefore, we view traditional data analytics, big data, and AI as being on a continuum. Virtually all of the respondents (97%) say they are investing in these types of projects.
Perhaps the best news in this survey is that companies continue to believe they are getting value from their big data and AI projects. 73% of respondents said they have already received measurable value from these initiatives. That number is half again higher than in the 2017 survey, which suggests that more value is being achieved as companies grow familiar with the technologies. (Read More...)