Big data: analytics' pot of gold

Inside the Enterprise: Can analytics boost the economy, and is IT ready to provide the resources to do so?

Dealing with larger volumes of data ranks highly on most IT directors' lists of priorities for the coming year. But research by economists suggests that big data could do more, and deliver a significant boost to the economy over the next five years.

There is little point in IT building sophisticated new analytics tools, if the business lacks the skills needed to interpret the results, and turn the data into decision making.

The report, from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (and funded by SAS, an analytics tool vendor), suggests that improved use of "big data" could boost the UK economy by £216 billion, and create some 58,000 jobs.

Calculations by the Cebr suggest that big data delivered economic benefits of £25.1 billion last year, with the contribution rising over the next few years as more firms adopt advanced analytics techniques. This would equate to a boost of about three per cent of GDP, something that will be very welcome given the UK economy's current fragility.

The idea behind the calculations is simple enough: if businesses have access to better information, they will be more efficient, and more profitable. The Cebr splits the benefits into three main areas: business creation, efficiency, and innovation.

Big data, for example, should help companies start up, because they will be better placed to identify and target their markets. Companies should become more efficient, for example through better customer intelligence, or streamlining the supply chain; these efficiency gains should contribute £149.5 billion to the economy by 2017.

And innovation should, the researchers suggest, also gain from big data, because it can improve research and development as well as the creation of new markets. Gains, the researchers say, will apply across all sectors of industry, and the public sector.