Manufacturers using less than two fifths of their ‘data brain’


Appsbroker & CTS, the Google Cloud-only consultants, has released a new report showing that manufacturers are still struggling to get full value from their ‘data brain’ – the data an organisation captures and analyses to drive business value.

Most (93%) of the 45 UK IT leaders within manufacturing surveyed said they have a specific mandate from their board or executive team to make their organisation more data-driven and data-centric. However, four in five (80%) still struggle to transform data into delivering significant business value. Key findings include:

  • Not firing on all cylinders: Manufacturers use less than two fifths (38%) of their data brain – with 69% admitting to hoarding data in data lakes and using just a fraction of it.
  • Data friction persists: 96% of manufacturers face hurdles to becoming data-driven, with over half (60%) struggling with IT complexity, while 36% struggle with legacy systems, lack of resources and data normalisation and cleansing. 
  • Data citizens left out in the cold: 90% of respondents think empowering citizen developers will help them overcome the data skills gap, but 87% lack the skills and know-how to enable data citizens.

This lack of access to timely and accurate data has serious ramifications for businesses. As far as they are aware, 31% have made decisions based on inaccurate data, and 40% have made inaccurate forecasts, and 20% have missed revenue opportunities - although the true amount could be even higher.  Furthermore, 29% have delayed product or service launches – with 38% having over or under spent on projects – while 31% have suffered customer complaints and 20% have missed reporting deadlines.

Matt Penton, Head of Data and Analytics at Appsbroker & CTS, comments: “Manufacturers are using data for big business-defining decisions, so they’d better be confident that information is right. Reporting bad numbers can have very serious and public repercussions and customer complaints can quickly lead to churn. Unless you’re selling grated unicorn horns, customers can and will go elsewhere. These are the tangible costs that can sink a business when data is used ineffectively.”

Manufacturing IT leaders reported using 32 different data sources on average. As the volume and complexity of data architecture increases, many businesses are struggling to keep pace:

  • Less than half (47%) of IT projects that rely on data run on time, within budget, and to the intended scope – a source of frustration, stress, and cost for internal teams.
  • Despite the move to more open technology stacks and APIs, 82% of manufacturing IT leaders say integration issues still plague the IT industry – with 84% lamenting that “it’s near impossible to get a single organisational view.”
  • 73% say the complexity of their data architecture is increasing exponentially. As a result, 91% say associated costs are increasing every year, and 69% say it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage.  

While complexity will inevitably continue to grow, Penton argues this doesn’t have to result in ballooning costs and confusion – simplification is the key: “Don’t try to boil the ocean – start with a smaller data set and then expand to ensure you are getting things right and doing it in a timely manner. Complexity isn’t going away, but automation, common tooling, low code, and no code can make it easier to manage data. By taking a structured and realistic approach, speaking with experts, and deploying the right tools, every organisation can unlock the power of their data brain.”

Survey methodology

Appsbroker and CTS worked with independent surveyor Sapio Research to survey 150 UK IT decision makers, working in organisations with 500+ employees. The interviews were conducted online by Sapio in September 2023, using an email invitation and an online survey.

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