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Big data: Getting a better read on performance


The benefits match those of earlier technology cycles, but companies must scale up their data-analytics skills to reap the gains.

Over the past several years, many companies have avidly pursued the promised benefits of big data and advanced analytics. In a recent McKinsey survey of executives in this field, nearly all of them said that their organizations had made significant investments, from data warehouses to analytics programs. But practitioners have raised questions about the magnitude and timing of the returns on such investments. In 2014, for example, we conducted a poll of senior executives and found that they had seen only modest revenue and cost improvements from them in the previous year.

Our latest research investigated the returns on big data investments for a random sample of 714 companies around the world, encompassing a mix of industries and company sizes typical of most advanced economies. Our findings paint a more nuanced picture of data analytics. When we evaluated its profitability and value-added productivity benefits, we found that they appear to be substantial—similar, in fact, to those experienced during earlier periods of intense IT investment. Our results indicated that to produce these significant returns, companies need to invest substantially in data-analytics talent and in big data IT capabilities...


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