How to reap the benefits of your organisation's dark data

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Despite the one-year anniversary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) this month, UK businesses continue to fall woefully short of realising the full potential of their data. 

In today’s digital world, every transaction is logged to give businesses endless amounts of functional data, which can be used to understand everything from customer preferences, to purchasing trends, and sector challenges. However, 63% of UK organisations admit more than half of their data is ‘dark’ – they either don’t know it exists or how to find, prepare, analyse, or use it. 

Aside from the obvious GDPR challenges, these organisations are sacrificing a major competitive advantage as industries invest more into data-driven business outcomes. So, how can companies unlock their untapped dark data to drive business performance? 

Transforming your business

Splunk’s recent ‘State of Dark Data’ report highlights the importance of acquiring data skills in an organisation – 70% of UK business leaders think this will be a critical component of future jobs. As we transition to become more data-driven, businesses need to start understanding what skills are relevant to the future of their organisation and adapt their recruitment strategies to make the most of their data assets.

There is undoubtedly a need for a more data literate workforce. In order to harness the full potential of data, investment in both new talent and training is essential. When recruiting for staff, businesses need to ensure that data skills are engrained in day-to-day responsibilities, and that candidates possess the skills and capabilities to handle those requirements. 

However, businesses also need to ensure existing workers are given the opportunity to develop their own data skills. Today, with the implementation of dedicated training programmes, employees will have the confidence and rich tapestry of skills to start leveraging data in their everyday roles. 

There is near-universal agreement that data insights will be integral to the success of businesses in the future. In fact, 76% of global business and IT executives agree that the “organisation that has the most data is going to win”. In anticipation of this, the transformation of recruitment and training strategies needs to start now.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Building a data culture 

As important as data skills are, they are of little value if senior figures within the company don’t make data strategy a key priority. 21% of businesses cite a lack of interest from leaders as being the primary reason behind the struggle to recover dark data, highlighting how integral leaders are to the data revolution of the future. 

In order to drive advocacy and foster a data culture, leaders need to be educated on the value of data and the insights they can bring. Often leaders understand the value of data, but leave the management and analysis aspect to employees, meaning they have little input in how it’s maximised for business gain. 

To address this, business leaders need to be held accountable for driving data strategies.  

Once a data culture is developed, there will be more power to realise its benefits and improve business operations. Data, like money, is an asset, and a business will benefit from keeping track of it and utilising it to its best advantage. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay (Image credit: Image Credit: Pixabay)

Leveraging AI

The significance of skills and culture in driving data insights is critical, but humans alone are unable to derive insights at the scale and speeds required to allow a business to quickly adapt to industry trends. For this reason, businesses also need to be looking at the application of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. 

Across the globe, just 10-15% of organisations are deploying AI for use cases such as operational efficiency, strategic decision making, human resources, and customer experience. The challenge with AI is that the technology remains very much in its infancy, and many businesses lack the understanding of how it can be successfully applied. 

As a result, dark data remains an untapped resource of information for many businesses. Employees simply lack the time to extract, categorise and apply the sheer volumes of data stockpiled across an organisation. But while such data proves suffocating for humans, it is an accelerant for AI. 

As industries become increasingly digital and data stacks continue to increase, businesses need to start experimenting with AI solutions working alongside employees to crunch data and generate insights. The companies that can successfully deploy it within their organisation stand to unlock a huge advantage over their competition.

Turn off the lights

Traditionally, organisations have opted to take the quick and easy approach of hiring consultants in order to manage their dark data challenges, however such an approach is expensive and fails to solve the issues on a long-term basis. In fact, only 29% of respondents believe that consultants can solve their dark data problems.

With data-driven insights becoming increasingly important for business success, the focus has to be on developing in-house data capabilities. Organisations need to think now about how to bring dark data into the light and unlock the potential of dark data so they are on track for success. Untapped data represents a world of potential to understand customer behaviour and propel a business forward.

James Hodge, Chief Technical Advisor, EMEA at Splunk 

James Hodge
James Hodge is the Chief Technical Advisor, EMEA at Splunk.