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digital business transformationA lot of hype has been generated about the need to turn data into a strategic business asset as part of a digital business transformation. But, it turns out that the biggest impediment to realizing that vision is reliance on legacy data preparation techniques that require lots of manual intervention on the part of IT professionals.

A survey of nearly 300 data analysts (116) and IT professionals (179) conducted by Trifacta, a provider of data preparation tools, finds 60 percent of IT professionals spend at least half their time at work on data quality assurance, cleanup, or preparation tasks. Worse yet, 59 percent of both the data analysts and IT professionals say most of the data analysts in their organization are dependent on IT resources to prepare or access data. A full 82 percent of the data analysts say they would be able to drive increased business value if they could decrease their dependency on IT. Three-quarters (75 percent) of the data analysts say they regularly go back to IT with new requirements.

Data management inefficiencies

Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the IT professionals say they spend at least half of the time preparing data just on revising or reworking data requirements. Data analysts are also spending too much time preparing data. A full 92 percent would choose to focus on another analytic activity rather than data preparation, yet 65 percent are spending at least half their time preparing data for analytic use.

The truly sad thing is 59 percent of the data analysts believe that the overall time spent on data quality assurance or data cleansing costs their organization more money than it delivers in terms of business value. To add insult to injury, most IT professionals (60 percent) consider themselves overqualified to be spending a large percentage of their time on data preparation.

At the root of the problem, of course, is overreliance on spreadsheets. More than a third of data analysts (37 percent) and just under a third of IT professionals (30 percent) says they rely on Microsoft Excel more than any other tools to prepare data.

Opportunities beyond data protection

This level of inefficiency when it comes to managing data has been a dirty little IT secret for years. But, as more organizations look to exploit the value of the data they collect, light is finally starting to be thrown on data management practices. The truth is most organizations are not very good at managing data. Any serious effort to first clean data up and then turn it into a business asset that can be consistently tapped will require external expertise. That presents managed service providers with a unique opportunity to build a practice specifically focused on data management that goes well beyond mere data protection.

A lot of money is being allocated to drive digital business transformation projects. MSPs would be well advised to ask the organizations they serve to identify their most important initiatives. Chances are those that don’t have at least one or two may not be around in a few years. The rest, however, probably don’t realize how much the success of any digital business transformation project hinges on the quality of the data they collect. But, once an MSP brings that issue to their attention, there’s a high probability that the customer will turn to them to finally bring some order to their data management chaos.

Photo: Yuganov Konstantin/

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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