Mobility and the cloud have changed how employees work—and where they work, in the case of those who use smartphones and other devices to log into work systems from home or while on the road. But could mobility and the cloud, along with IT administrators’ increasing acceptance of technologies built for consumers as workplace tools, also complicate businesses’ ability to handle Big Data? According to a much-circulated report by consulting firm Avanade, the answer to that question seems to be a qualified “yes.” According to its surveys of business and IT executives, the combination of mobile devices, cloud computing and social networking has unleashed a tide of structured and unstructured data into business databases. “A consistent majority of respondents reported that employee mobility (73 percent), cloud computing (65 percent) and social networking (61 percent) are all causing their company to rethink its data management strategy,” read the report, which cited data from an April 2012 survey of 569 C-level executives, “business unit leaders” and “IT decision-makers” in 18 countries. “Very few companies are making tangible investments in mobile data access and management tools,” it added. “Currently, a mere 24 percent of companies are using such tools. Among companies that do not have these tools, only 11 percent plan to invest in these tools in the next 12 months.” Around 91 percent of companies reported the use of business-intelligence tools to manage and analyze data; however, a nearly equal number (85 percent) also noted obstacles in terms of both managing and analyzing data. Part of the issue of managing voluminous amounts of data stems from a shortage of workers trained to handle it. McKinsey & Company’s Business Technology Office predicted in 2011 that demand for analytical talent would exceed supply by 50 to 60 percent in 2018. That’s presumably in spite of IT vendors designing B.I. platforms more easily used by workers with only a modicum of training. Companies have demonstrated an increased willingness to spend more money on B.I. tools, and presumably the need for data workers will spark an increased interest in training courses of all types. But Avanade’s numbers demonstrate that, despite the increase in tools and budgets, other business trends ensure the amount of data at issue will only rise in years ahead—potentially becoming a problem just as much as a solution.   Image: John T. Takai/