Big data is no longer an over-hyped trend on the horizon. It's very real, and it's definitely here to stay. According to a recent Forbes study, 90 percent of businesses have at least a "moderate" investment in analytics technologies, talent, infrastructure and processes. Some organizations cite cultural challenges to reshaping their businesses; however, the vast majority (59 percent) of executives believe big data is critical for achieving competitive advantage today and in the years to come.

Big Data Is a Competitive Advantage

Big data plays an integral role in developing a competitive advantage in most any industry. According to the Ivey Business Journal, "data is now woven into every sector and function in the global economy." According to their research, big data is an important tool for organizational efficiency due to the following:

•Increased informational transparency

•Improved managerial decision-making

•Narrower customer segmentation

•Risk minimization

•New product development

From decision making to innovation, virtually every area of corporate operations can be improved significantly through analytics adoption.

Why Leaders Must Be Big Data Visionaries

IBM's Big Data Evangelist James Kobelius has predicted the role of data scientist will be "commoditized" in the not-so-distant future. As organizations need to crunch more data more efficiently, they'll bring on staff whose technology talent may outweigh their strategic capabilities.

Tomorrow's leaders will take a role in shaping and directing big data projects. Even if they lack the skills to personally perform sophisticated analyses, they'll need sufficient understanding to map available data assets to business needs. If you haven't yet become a big data enthusiast or evangelist, remember, the time is now.

How to Become Data-Driven

Research by Heidrick & Struggles indicates that newly hired C-level leadership is more likely to possess a strong background in analytics. Current and aspiring leadership should take steps to develop a solid groundwork in strategic big data applications, such as attending one of the newly designed big data education programs for executive leadership.

According to Heidrick, MBA program coursework has also become more quantitative to support a technology-driven future. Technologies change rapidly, but leadership should be aware of existing solutions to assist them in driving strategic advantage.

It has become clear that big data isn't hype -- it's a meaningful tool for competitive advantage. By realizing the importance of analytics and developing a quantitative groundwork, tomorrow's leaders can prepare to help their companies win with big data.

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