NEW YORK: A majority of brand owners are placing greater emphasis on big data to drive their corporate strategies, a trend expected to accelerate going forwards, new figures show.

Capgemini, the consultancy, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research firm, polled 607 executives, 65% of which agreed growing numbers of business decisions now depend on "hard analytic information".

"Organisations are accustomed to analysing internal data - sales, shipments [and] inventory. Now they are increasingly analysing external data too, gaining new insights into customers, markets, supply chains and operations," said Paul Nannetti, global sales and portfolio director at Capgemini, said.

Indeed, 54% of interviewees reported that strategic choices based on "purely on intuition or experience" are today typically regarded as being "suspect". However, 55% also revealed big data is "not viewed strategically at senior levels" as yet.

More favourably, two-thirds of the panel described their company as "data driven", hitting 73% for the financial services sector, 75% for healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and 76% for energy and natural resources.

"A lot of people will say data is important to their business, but I think it's incredibly important to healthcare and it's probably getting more and more important," Lori Beer, executive vice president of executive enterprise services at WellPoint, the healthcare insurer, said.

A 69% share of the sample felt "business activity data" covering areas like sales, purchases and costs added the most value. Consumer goods specialists and retailers were the exception here, as 71% prioritised point of sale data over all other insights.

Nine out of ten respondents also thought data was an "essential factor" of production alongside labour, land and capital. On average, contributors stated that leveraging this information had improved performance levels by 26% in the last three years.

Looking forward over an equivalent period, it was predicted performance would be enhanced by another 41% thanks to the same processes.

"Because the problems we address are going to get more and more complex, we're going to solve more complex problems as a result," said Bill Ruh, VP, software, at General Electric, the conglomerate. "What we find is the more data we have, the more we get innovation in those analytics and we begin to do things we didn't think we could do."

Elsewhere, the survey found that, on average, big data is employed for decision support 58% of the time, and 29% of the time it is used for decision automation.

"If there is more data and you haven't kept up with automating, then the number of items you need to review manually will have increased, which means you need more resources and people to do so. This strengthens the business case for automation," said Michael Knorr, head of integration and data services at Citi, the financial services group.

Data sourced from Economist Intelligence Unit; additional content by Warc staff