A large majority (87%) of executives worldwide agree that data is the most important competitive differentiator in the business landscape today. Many companies, however, still struggle to extract value from data and use it to drive strategic decision-making. What challenges and opportunities do companies have in using data to get ahead, and how are they planning and managing their data strategies in response? 

This question is the focus of a series of reports based on a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Snowflake. Survey results reflect the views of 914 executives from eight industries across 13 countries worldwide and explore the current state of corporate data use, as well as executive hopes for the future. Each report focuses on how executives in a particular industry, region, or country are adapting their data strategies, engaging with the broader data ecosystem, and converting data insights into growth and performance.

Here are some of the insights from the survey:

  • 32% of survey respondents say that they have gaps in their data staffing, even though they believe that data is the most important competitive differentiator
  • 34% cite increasing customer satisfaction and improving the customer experience as the biggest opportunities for optimizing data-driven insights
  • 50% frequently share data with third parties to drive innovation in products and services
  • 64% admit that their organization struggles to integrate data from varied sources
  • 83% agree that organizations in their industry will routinely use AI to process data in the next five years 
  • 40% cite digital transformation as the most critical priority to their organization’s success over the next three years
  • 86% agree that the winners in their industry will be those organizations that can use data to create innovative products and services

The survey responses revealed that executives know the importance of mobilizing data flow inside their organization, as well as enabling seamless data sharing with third-party business partners and customers in ways that could lead to the next big opportunity. For companies looking to unlock the value of data, the survey results reveal several strategies to pursue:

  • Establish a mandate that prioritizes data strategy 
  • Align and govern data practices to accelerate organizational priorities such as customer experience, new business development, and revenue growth
  • Build the strategy and capability for data collaboration with third parties 
  • Tackle infrastructure shortcomings and increase skills internally 
  • Invest in AI and machine learning to draw insights from data, improve marketing and sales campaigns, detect cyberthreats, and develop new products and services

The survey shows regional differences. For example, Asia-Pacific companies plan to advance their already-leading global positions in the realms of data exchange, development, and investment. Meanwhile in Europe and the Middle East, firms must navigate complex relationships between public protection and business aims amid a cautious regulatory landscape that prizes consumer privacy. 

For more details on the survey and its insights, visit our main survey site, Data’s Evolution in the Cloud. You can download the Global Summary Executive Report, access the regional reports for Europe & the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, or view the industry reports for Healthcare & Life Sciences, Retail & CPG, Financial Services, Media & Entertainment, and Manufacturing.