Big Data is one of the most important drivers of digital transformation but data alone is no guarantee for success.

Many UK companies are still finding their way around Big Data, testing technologies, use cases and tools, as well as new operational models.

Global IT services and consulting company WHISHWORKS has conducted a survey among Big Data strategists, architects and users and has consolidated the findings in its latest report, The State of Big Data in the UK 2017/2018.

The survey looks at the biggest business and technology challenges companies face with Big Data, how successful initiatives have been so far, the best approach to implementation and the solutions available.

According to the survey, only 18 percent of companies in the UK have fully implemented Big Data.

“As companies gain more understanding of how they can benefit from Big Data, the rate of adoption is going to increase exponentially,” said Edward Davies, sales director at WHISHWORKS.

“In 2018, we expect to see companies process more of their data with Big Data technologies and start implementing more complex and/or impactful use cases.

“It is also going to be interesting to see how different industries will evolve taking advantage of the new opportunities Big Data presents, and what new ‘disruptors’ will surface.”

Many companies are still at the ‘experimentation stage’ according to the report, which found 76 per cent are actively investigating (29 per cent) or have tentatively started (47 per cent) Big Data initiatives.

The sectors leading the way are media and entertainment (with over 75 per cent of the data being processed by a Big Data solution), followed by telecommunications and financial services, which have both been using Big Data successfully for over three years.

70 per cent of the companies that have started implementing Big Data said their initiatives have been ‘somewhat successful’ so far, while another 30 per cent deems their projects to be ‘very successful’ – encouragingly, none of them have failed or been unsuccessful.

IDC has recently predicted that the Big Data technology and services market is expected to reach $58.9 billion in 2020, whereas Burning Glass, a jobs analytics firm, found that Big Data skills saw the biggest increase in demand (3977 per cent) between 2011 and 2017.

With such record growth, a surge in demand for data processing and analysis talent should be expected. This is evident in the results of the survey, where lack of skillset was cited as the biggest challenge to businesses in implementing Big Data (71 per cent).

On the business side, the majority of respondents (65 per cent) highlighted limited understanding across the organisation as the number one challenge they are facing.

Companies are using Big Data for projects relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning (53 per cent), followed by digital technologies such as mobile and social media (20 per cent) and cloud computing and Internet of Things both with 14 per cent.

The survey also shows that the business areas where Big Data is expected to bring the most value are product marketing, revenue from current activities, process optimisation and business transformation.

Business leaders and IT managers should review the corporate objectives and commercial requirements, as well as the technology available, to devise a strategy to implement the correct solution for digital transformation.

The research questioned 100 Big Data professionals, strategists, architects and users from medium and large companies in a range of sectors in the UK and globally.