But where does this data-driven competitive advantage begin? Many organizations say it starts with data preparation. In fact, in a 2017 Business Application Research Center (BARC) Survey of approximately 700 BI professionals across 50 countries, 60% of respondents say they have achieved improved data-driven decision making through their data prep initiatives, and 50% say they have achieved improved time to insights.

In its Data Preparation - Refining Raw Data into Value report, BARC, a leading enterprise software analyst and consulting firm, highlights seven hot spots of insight for any organization visiting, or revisiting, their data prep approach. Here’s a look at four of the findings:

  1. Data preparation is driven by real business needs, not just hype – and is already being widely practiced. Almost 70% of respondents say they already use data preparation, with 47% noting the most important driver for data preparation is the expectation of a tangible business impact and increased competitiveness through analytics.
  2. IT plays an important role in executing data preparation today, but business is increasingly playing the lead role. 53% say business departments are the thought leaders and drivers of data prep in their company; 48% say it’s the IT department.
  3. Organizations achieving the greatest benefit are those that have made data prep a shared task between IT and business departments. For 25% of the surveyed companies, the preparation of data for analysis is handled jointly by business departments and IT, and this is delivering noticeable benefits. Where data preparation is collaborative between business users and IT, 68% report improved data-driven decision making, compared to 56% in non-collaborative environments. In addition, 45% say their ability to react to changing business conditions has improved, compared to just 27% in a non-collaborative setting.
  4. Most organizations setting up data preparation initiatives are experiencing challenges. Only 4% of respondents note smooth sailing for data prep. For everyone else, time, resources and skills are in demand. Over half of the participants in the BARC survey (53%) believe business users lack the necessary knowledge and skills; 39% note the need for budget or resources is holding their efforts back.

No matter where organizations stand in their proficiency, practically all agree that data preparation plays a key role in their future success. 76% note that data preparation for data discovery and advanced analytics is either important, very important or critical to their company today – and 94% say it will be in the future.