Can You Deliver on Customer Expectations?

Though there are still plenty of enterprises out there that have yet to realize the benefits that data analysis can bring, it's certainly becoming a more accepted way to make your business more efficient, or to discover aspects of it that need improvement. However, the tradeoff is that expectations for what the analytics can do for a business are on the rise. Depending on a lot of factors, those expectations can be problematic.

BSA, the Software Alliance recently revealed the results of a study that questioned 1,500 senior executives and decision makers in US and EU businesses about how analytics applies to their companies. In that study, 33% of those in the US and 24% in Europe said they believed analytics would generate 10% (or more) of the growth in their business over the past 12 months. This trend of confidence is expected to increase; 58% of the US executives expect to share that belief by 2019.

Of course, that means great things for analytics companies, since there will be plenty of business to go around. But the question is whether your firm can deliver on that 10%. That might be a simple thing to achieve in an SME, but if you're working for a multinational conglomerate with that same double-digit growth thinking, suddenly you could find yourself fighting a losing battle.

That's not something we want to see happen. As it stands, confidence in the technology is high, and companies believe it is important to their business, but if it continues to grow, there could be a crash in the future, with company heads feeling that they had the wool pulled over their eyes. In reality, their expectations of what analytics can achieve may have been simply unreachable in the first place.

Right now, though, things are pretty rosy. As part of the survey, the business movers and shakers were asked the aspects of their firms where they felt analytics was important. In both the US and Europe, around 80% of responders said it can help them serve their customers' needs.

They also see it as something that can drive jobs. Around 60% of respondents said analytics can lead to expansion and new positions opening up at their companies. And 70% said that data analysis can lead to new products and business innovations, which can help them expand into new markets. More data from the study is available in the charts below.

That's a lot to lay at the feet of anyone, let alone a third-party analytics firm that may not yet be entirely familiar with the business they're helping with an analytics strategy. But maybe I'm not giving your company enough credit. As the people on the front lines of the world's analytical industry, do you feel industry executives' expectations are warranted? And, perhaps more importantly, can you fulfill them?

Jon Martindale, Technology Journalist

Jon Martindale is a technology journalist and hardware reviewer, having been covering new developments in the field for most of his professional career. In that time he's tested the latest and greatest releases from the big hardware companies of the world, as well as writing about new software releases, industry movements,and Internet activism.

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Re: Any movement of the needle
  • 12/19/2014 3:16:55 PM

@Terry. Good point about 2-3% improvement on business results being a win. Given the way the past 10 years have gone, anything that isn't a loss is a real win.

Re: Glass more than half full
  • 12/19/2014 3:14:15 PM

I wonder how much of this "X technology has to deliver Y% return for us to fund/use it" is coming from the "C" suite, where the ugly business of ROI analysis and cost justification get done. The people surveyed in this sample may just be parroting the company line they've gotten from senior executives when they've tried to get approvals for things like analytics packages.

Any movement of the needle
  • 12/19/2014 3:07:46 PM

I wouldn't get too stuck on the 10% figure. If I'm a line of business manager for a major multi-national and an analytics initiative results in even a 2-3% gain in revenue or new customers, I'm going to take that as a major win, especially in the current economy and the spending climate being what it is.

Re: Glass more than half full
  • 12/19/2014 1:12:49 PM

@kq4ym. To be fair, outlandish executive expectations for technology aren't limited to big data. Big data is just the latest. It's funny but tech people can provide execs with an early look at technology coming down the road and how it can be used. But that conversation doesn't take off until the exec sees a case study for another company or reads about the tech in the Wall Street Journal. Then they want the system generating results, yesterday.

Re: Glass more than half full
  • 12/19/2014 12:54:43 PM

It may be common for the exec to be optimistic when answering questions and surveys but how that translates into putting those words and opinions into action may  be a different story. It will take a while to sort out if the expectations can be met, or if those expectations were a bit high to begin with.

Glass more than half full
  • 12/17/2014 8:58:58 AM

I wonder if the business executives who were surveyed may have been a bit on the optimistic side. Maybe they have been reading too many business magazines with the case studies of companies that are winning at analytics and not listening to what may be carefully worded caveats from their IT/analytics teams. Or, maybe it's the analytics teams that are too optimistic.

As with any technology project, analytics takes a few years of hard work and goes through some hits and some misses. I hope those project teams are careful in managing expectations.