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June 25, 2020

Sigma Research Finds Frustration, Embarrassment in the Corporate Data Language Barrier

Oliver Peckham

As data increasingly dominates the workplace, a strong relationship between data experts and business experts is critical to establishing an effective data-driven business strategy – but often, that perfect synergy is more difficult to achieve than one might hope. Now, cloud-native analytics and business intelligence firm Sigma Computing has released a new report (“The Data Language Barrier: Bridging the Gap between Data and Business Teams”) highlighting the numbers behind that frequent cultural disconnect. 

A couple of months ago, working with market research firm Atomik Research, Sigma ran a study of 801 data experts and 800 business domain experts from large companies (201-10,000 employees) in the United States. Out of the gate, 76% of respondents said that their companies were data-driven – but when 39% of the business domain experts said they weren’t “totally sure” what that meant, the problem began to reveal itself.

The data experts’ responses painted a picture of an uphill battle for data analysts trying to modernize their workplaces. A full 45% said that they struggled to interpret domain experts’ data questions or needs, and 36% believe that the domain experts don’t understand what is and isn’t possible with data. Data experts also reported long turnaround times for requests – and again, many blamed the bottleneck on a shortage of data analysts and a low priority on data activities from the executive team. 

Furthermore, 76% of data experts reported spending up to half their time preparing long reports for business teams – and even after that, 34% reported feeling that they had not conveyed the value of an analysis to the decisionmakers at hand.

The domain experts, on the other hand, want to improve (71% expressed a desire to improve their ability to understand and analyze data) – but nearly half (48%) said their companies did not make any kind of data training readily available, stymieing that impulse. 64% of domain experts (and 79% of data experts), however, do want to work together more closely.

“We can’t divorce data from people. The power that data holds for any organization is directly dependent upon the ability of analysts and domain experts alike to apply their unique expertise to the data exploration and analysis process,” said Mike Palmer, CEO of Sigma Computing. “In order for there to be meaningful data-driven progress and team cohesion, you can’t expect analysts to be experts in every business function – you have domain experts for that. BI tools should bring teams together – not divide them – and support a community-driven approach to discovering insights.” 

To that end, Sigma’s report recommends three key steps: building empathy between each group through workshops, team exercises, and more; taking a community-driven approach to data processes using modern business intelligence tools; and getting everyone to speak the same language and use the same tools.

“With organizations dispersed and millions of people working from home, communication issues and a lack of shared tools for data access may be aggravating the tensions we see highlighted in the report, not to mention increasing security and governance vulnerabilities,” Palmer said. “The only way to truly get the most out of data is to enable marketers, sales ops managers, and all domain experts to work alongside the data team in a single tool, driving the data agenda and aligning it with business priorities and goals.” 

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