The Big Data Conundrum

Companies must examine their business processes, to get the full benefit of the power of Big Data, says Ricoh Europe’s Carsten Bruhn

The huge volume of information flowing through organisations is increasing at an alarming rate. Dubbed ‘big data,’ this trend presents both challenges and opportunities for companies.

According to the McKinsey Big Data report, published in May 2011, “the increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media….will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.” It also suggests that “as organisations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days, and therefore expose variability and boost performance.”

Adopting the right approach can give you the edge

In my view, the capability to manage the big data explosion will be the defining factor in European businesses’ ability to maintain a competitive advantage. In preparing to manage the data, it is essential to think about the critical business processes that will convert the data into knowledge, enable it to be shared efficiently between employees across the organisation, and converted into action as a result.

By doing so, C-level executives will have unprecedented access to a data rich landscape to support or drive future decisions. By adopting the right approach to big data they can gain unique insights into their organisation and their customers, improve efficiencies and ultimately add value to the bottom line.

These benefits of increased productivity and profitability are applicable to the public and private sectors. When we speak to public sector organisations, they tell us that breaking down big data is high on their list of priorities, in particular, to ensure they remain compliant with the regulations in place to protect confidential documents and manage records.

However, the June 2011 Ricoh Process Efficiency Index, conducted by Coleman Parkes Research,  shows that the majority of individuals in public sector organisations continue to receive and manage their own documents directly without collaboration or notification to other departments. This is true, for 41 percent of organisations in the education sector and 34 percent in healthcare.

This approach means that the overall value of the data cannot be realised by the entire organisation, duplication of efforts is likely and the benefits of fast, access to valuable information are not being realised.  What’s more it leaves them susceptible to compliance breaches as information is difficult to track and manage. But there are success stories, like one European company in the Healthcare sector who identified the need to transform and streamline the HR and Accounts processes to maximise productivity and compliance. Since introducing more efficient automated processes the HR department, it has experienced a reduction in finding a single piece of information from 6.7 minutes to 30 seconds.  At the same time the accounts department reduced search process time from 4 minutes to 30 seconds per document, saving the company approximately €345,000 (£300,000) annually.

 43 percent still rely on hard copy

The situation isn’t exclusive to the public sector.  Across Europe, 43 percent of all those surveyed by Coleman Parkes stated that they were still relying on hard copy methods for their business critical document processes with just 22 percent of organisations using a fully automated workflow.  In the heavily regulated financial services industry, less than half of European organisations (45 percent) confirmed that they have the ability to conduct audit trails for all confidential business critical documents and 20 percent said that they have no audit processes in place at all. These figures are significant and could put companies at odds with compliance regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which mandates that organisations must ensure that business critical documents are not altered, destroyed or misplaced.

As well as compliance breaches, another big data conundrum faced by organisations across Europe is how to reduce the time and money they spend on managing it. Approximately 362 million man hours are spent across Europe every year to manage business critical documents alone and the employees responsible, admit there is significant room for improvement, citing that just a 10 percent improvement in efficiency would generate a potential profit increase of €46 billion (£40bn) across Europe. It is therefore essential that business leaders act now to address the situation within their own organisations and uncover the process inefficiencies that exist.

By taking a closer look at the overall business processes, including those that are associated with the management of documents and information, businesses can fully harness the benefits of big data. It doesn’t have to be about problems – with the right systems in place it can be about profitability.  Conundrum solved.

Read also : The Value of Data