data insight leaders survey
July 25, 2017

Results of survey for Data Insight Leaders Survey 2017

By Paul Laughlin

During our month focussed on research, it seems appropriate to share with you my latest research for Data Insight Leaders survey 2017.

This annual survey is the second of its kind and is published as part of the run-up, to the Data Insight Leaders Summit 2017, in Barcelona on 18-19 October.  A great conference that I will again have the privilege of chairing this year; you may recall my brief reflections on benefits of event last year.

Following on from the success of the report published by Worldwide Business Research (WBR) in 2016, this survey also provides comparison with last year’s results. I was honoured to be asked to provide the expert commentary, on the implications of survey findings, for leaders working in this area.

As this is now published, I am going to share with you both the free download available and an overview of my findings.

The full report has graphs and comprehensive results.But, for now, let’s share a quick overview of what research told us about the successes & challenges of Data Insight Leaders in 2017.

Data Insight Leaders – who was surveyed?

Conducted in partnership with WBR, our survey asked over 100 data & analytics leaders, from across eight industry sectors, 13 key questions. Although 40% of answers are from leaders based in the UK, input from other leaders across USA, France, Spain, Nordics & the DACH region, help confirm the international applicability of lessons learnt.

The Data Insight Leaders surveyed came from the 8 commercial sectors making most use of data insights today:

  • Telecommunications
  • FMCG
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Retail
  • Pharma
  • Media
  • Travel
  • Technology

Those 13 questions covered the areas of:

  • Data challenges and Organisational Structure
  • Growth and Investment
  • Talent Acquisition and GDPR

The findings provide a fascinating insight into how their role, investment focus & challenges are changing. Highlighting a greater focus on deployment & integration with frontline systems, as well as cultural challenges and the need to prepare for GDPR. It reveals recruitment challenges, different levels of support & challenge within organisations and positive progress in measuring an ROI.

I’m not going to replicate all the commentary and smart presentation that you will find when you download the report. But let me share a brief overview of the key themes I took away from this debrief.

Data challenges and Organisational Structure

In the first section we asked those 100 leaders about:

  • How is data currently generating value for your business? (73% answered through retaining & increasing customer base)
  • What were their key challenges? (Most popular ‘biggest challenge’, at 26%, was achieving a mind-set shift across the business, to be data-led)
  • Whether their data function was centralised or de-centralised? (Pretty even, but 59% were now centralised)
  • Where does their data function sit in organisational structure? (Vast majority, 51% now reported within the IT line)

Reflecting on the full details of those answers, I share more detail in that report on these thoughts:

  1. It’s encouraging that the vast majority of leaders are generating value for their businesses through using data, especially improving margins or retaining more customers. The proportion able to measure an ROI or commercial impact is significantly improved from last year.
  2. Top challenges are now either securing funding from their Boards, or making their insights accessible to all employees. This is a positive development from just producing analytics; moving on to the challenges of deploying models and growing capability to meet demand.
  3. Businesses continue to wrestle with the best organisational design (centralised or decentralised team structures). Centralised data teams come out on top this year, but my own experience is that either model can be made to work. The real question is what your business needs at the present time.
  4. Over half of those teams that are still decentralised sit within IT, a model that is of concern. I explain in this report my concerns that this is another sign of insight being reduced to coding, as the Data Science movement runs the risk of taking analytics out of the business and into more ‘back room‘ IT roles.

Growth and Investment

In this section we asked those 100 leaders about:

  • Which types of data technology they would invest in for 2017? (84% chose analytics tools and 75% stated ‘applications’)
  • Whether they were planning to increase investment in data function? (73% confirmed they were, over the coming year)
  • How easy they find it to communicate importance of being data-driven? (53% have problems with specific departments)
  • Whether or not they have active backing from their board? (85% confirmed that they did)

Reflecting on the full details of those answers, I share more detail in that report on these thoughts:

  1. More leaders are investing, but their focus is expanding from just analytics software to also include wider infrastructure spend.
  2. Almost all leaders are either planning to allocate more resources to their data teams, or are actively exploring if this is needed.
  3. High resistance to data-driven strategies has reduced significantly, leaders’ challenges now focus on specific departments or stakeholders.
  4. The vast majority of data insight leaders have active backing from their Board, but will now have to prove ROI during this ‘window of opportunity‘.

Talent Acquisition and GDPR

In this final section we asked those 100 leaders about:

  • Do they struggle to find the Data Science talent they need? (55% did struggle with this recruitment challenge)
  • Are they planning to grow their Data Science team this year? (47% planned to grow by 3-6 analysts, 26% by more than that)
  • Do they rely on an in-house team or use third-party providers? (60% now use a combination of both)
  • Are they still experiencing problems with legacy systems? (69% are still hampered when trying to run analytics)
  • What do they still need to prepare for GDPR deadline? (Several challenges, but 59% still wrestling with consent/legitimate interest)

Reflecting on the full details of those answers, I share more detail in that report on these thoughts:

  1. I was actually encouraged with leaders now reporting recruiting challenge. Further progress in using data in their businesses has inevitably led to most leaders struggling to recruit the data talent they need.
  2. The rapid growth of teams also indicates current continued growth phase for analytics teams. But, these analysts will need to be capable of making a difference quickly.
  3. In light of resourcing challenges and the scale of investment being made, it is not surprising to nd most businesses making use of a combination of in-house & external expertise.
  4. Among the barriers that continue to plague data insight leaders, its disappointing but not surprising to hear the majority still cite legacy systems.
  5. GDPR readiness, with less than a year to go, is a key challenge, as you might expect. A range of issues are still to be overcome, especially deciding on basis for consent & processing. I find most firms could still, do with thinking through the issues I raised in posts on GDPR.

Data Insight Leaders Survey 2017 – free download

So, enough build-up already. How can you download your own copy to see the detailed results and graphs?

To download your own free copy, please complete the form by clicking on this link:

The information in this survey, together with analysis/commentary from Paul Laughlin, will also form an input to this year’s Data Insight Leaders Summit in Barcelona.

I hope that post & the report are useful for you in your role. Perhaps I’ll see you at Data Insight Leaders Summit 2017? If you are interested in attending, but need a discount, please contact me.