Big Data’s big potential threatened by weak governance

Although Big Data has the potential to provide powerful competitive advantages, many companies are struggling to provide effective governance and manage privacy in connection with their data initiatives.

Almost half (46%) of IT professionals participating in a global survey by international IT trade association ISACA said Big Data has added – or has the potential to add – significant value to their organisation.

But managing Big Data is a problem for many companies, according to the survey:

  • About one-third (32%) of respondents said their enterprise has a policy regarding how it manages Big Data.
  • Just 26% said their organisations are adequately or extremely prepared to provide effective governance and manage privacy related to Big Data. Almost half (46%) said their organisations are just somewhat prepared.
  • Respondents said the general public’s biggest concerns related to internet-connected devices should be that people don’t know who has access to information collected by these devices (44%) and people don’t know how the information collected by these devices will be used (29%).

“Internet-connected devices are already delivering powerful business and lifestyle benefits, but organisations using these need to proceed with transparency and with the consumer at the forefront of their decisions,” Jeff Spivey, ISACA international vice president, said in a news release.

A CGMA survey report on leveraging Big Data came to similar conclusions. Almost nine in ten (87%) finance professionals surveyed said Big Data holds the potential to change the way business is done, according to the survey report, From Insight to Impact: Unlocking Opportunities in Big Data.

But 86% of the finance professionals surveyed in the CGMA report said their businesses are struggling to get valuable information from the data. Hurdles to maximising Big Data’s value include organisational data silos, challenges related to data quality, and lack of ability to work with unfamiliar, non-financial data.

Overcoming these hurdles is essential. More than half (54%) of finance professionals surveyed strongly agree that organisations that do not harness the power of Big Data or advanced data analytics will be at a competitive disadvantage over the next ten years. But 48% of CGMA respondents said concerns regarding security, privacy and data protection cause at least slight reluctance in their organisations to use new technologies such as cloud computing and advanced analytics to gain insights from data.

Top challenges enterprises face related to Big Data, according to the ISACA report, include:

  • Large-volume data management and storage (identified as the top challenge by 26% of respondents).
  • Lack of analytics capabilities or skills (22%).
  • Compliance requirements (13%).

Just 10% of respondents said their organisations are not facing any challenges related to Big Data.
“The deep concerns about privacy and security … show that enterprises need to establish and openly communicate policies around use of personal data to preserve trust in information,” Spivey said.

ISACA recommends that enterprises take five steps to be agile with respect to Big Data in an era of widespread internet connectivity:

  • Act quickly; do not be reactive.
  • Govern initiatives to ensure that data remain secure and risks are managed.
  • Identify expected benefits and how to measure them.
  • Leverage an internal technology steering committee to communicate benefits to the board.
  • Embrace creativity and encourage innovation.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.