Big Data Study: Research Approach and Survey Demographics
The topic of Big Data is a fast-moving one. So for years to come, there will always be something new to explore with Big Data. Consider also that the technologies for Big Data — for collecting, storing, processing, analyzing and presenting enormous volumes and types of digitized data in formats that inform – are evolving rapidly. That’s in no small part due to the venture capital that has rushed to startup companies, which has totaled $3.5 billion since 2010 in the US alone. And the subject is constantly evolving as companies become increasingly sophisticated with Big Data, using it to inform a growing number of business decisions: from who they should and shouldn’t sell to, to uncovering the sources of supply chain bottlenecks. Here, we explain our research approach and the survey demographics used for the Big Data Study.
The challenge for us in embarking on this study was saying something that hadn’t already been said in the dozens of studies that appeared in 2012 alone. To explore new
ground, we pored through these studies in November 2012, looking for the ’white space’ – ground that other research had covered insufficiently or not at all, in our view. We had identified six overriding issues that we believe remained fertile and important ground for exploration:
- How much are companies investing in Big Data? How big a financial return are they expecting from their investments? Where in the organizations do they see the greatest returns on investments coming from?
- Just how advanced are they with Big Data? More precisely, what are companies and industries doing with their Big Data investments – that is, in which business activities and decisions are they focusing those investments?
- What kinds of data are they finding to be the most important (including structured vs. unstructured, and internal vs. external)?
- How are they organizing the professionals who process and analyze Big Data (especially by function), and what are the pros and cons of those reporting relationships?
- What are the biggest challenges of turning all this data (along with the technology and the people who use it) into information that changes the way the company makes decisions?
- What is the state of the technology today, where is it heading, and what opportunities will that bring to businesses?
How We Collected Our Data?
In December 2012, we designed the instruments through which we collected our data:
- Online survey: We developed an extensive 23-question online survey of the Big Data practices at hundreds of companies around the world.
- Best-practice interviews: We constructed an interview guide to structure one-hour phone discussions with executives who are leading Big Data initiatives in their companies (12 in all), as well as executives at technology companies and professors who are at the leading edge of Big Data technology.
- Secondary research: We created a document that guided our secondary researchers on where to look for examples of companies using Big Data. Specifically, our literature searchers looked in business, industry, and technology publications for companies that had been profiled for their Big Data initiatives; we also looked at conference presentations found online that were delivered by managers who are leading Big Data projects in their organizations.
By December 2012 and January 2013, our quantitative data collection, the online survey, was fielded in four regions and nine countries around the world: North America (the US), Europe (UK, Germany, and Netherlands), Asia-Pacific (India, Australia and Japan) and Latin America (Mexico and Brazil). Research Now, a major research panel provider reaching 6.5 million people (including executives across numerous industries) in 38 countries, fielded the survey. Research Now closed the survey by the end of January after collecting more than 1,200 total responses.
Our research partner Bloom Group LLC secured and conducted 11 one-hour phone interviews with companies it determined were ‘best practice’ examples. Bloom Group
found most of these companies through articles that had been published about them or conference presentations the companies had delivered. Three of the 11 interviews were with executives who participated in the online survey and were willing to participate in followup phone discussions. Two other interviews were secured by TCS.
To obtain these interviews and encourage these executives to share frank insights, most of these interviewees’ and their companies’ names are not mentioned. Additionally, we mention the names of companies found through secondary research. Throughout this document, we provide the sources of this publicly available information.