New, national survey data from Square Root, developers of enterprise store relationship management (SRM) software, CoEFFICIENT®, revealed that despite growing investments in data, more than 40% of today’s companies still struggle to turn information into real action. The State of Data survey serves as a follow up from Square Root’s 2016 study, The Data Chaser Challenge.

The survey of more than 500 employees examined the state of data in business today—from tools and technology to action and communication—evaluating employee motivations and behavior as they pertain to data collection, analysis, reporting and use, and included responses from individuals across more than eight industries, including retail, technology, and healthcare.

“When used productively, data can be a powerful tool for driving positive change in business. But many companies still focus too much on volume, which too often results in decision paralysis, wasted resources, and halted productivity,” said Chris Taylor, CEO of Square Root. “It’s clear that the key to data success in 2017 will be to focus heavily on actionable, timely intelligence—and that the right tools and training will ultimately determine data success.”

The importance of data is undisputed.

In 2015 alone, companies spent an average of $7.4 million on data-related initiatives. And the investments keep growing—today’s employees spend up to 23 hours a week on data efforts, and near-unanimously believe that data has driven significant improvements in their respective industries, and that data alongside the necessary tools are one of the most valuable investments a company can make for long-term success.

Companies fail to turn information into improvements.

Despite a united understanding of the critical role data plays in business’ success, 40% of today’s companies struggle to take effective action on data—and the retail industry at-large cited having no available tools for acting on the data. Overall, this lack of action can be largely attributed to a people problem—32% of respondents said they struggle personally to understand how to convert data into actionable improvements, citing the main driver for collecting and compiling data is simply because “someone told me to”. What’s more, companies within these industries still rely on manual tools like spreadsheets, word processors, and PowerPoint decks as the primary tool for every data function—causing a major delay in driving change to the data sets.

Tools and training: waste not, want not.

Misguided data efforts caused by a lack of understanding in how to drive change out of data are two major contributors to the amount of time employees waste on inefficient data processing protocols. 44% of employees across the retail, healthcare, and technology industries believe these manual programs and outdated data processing tools are causing a lot of company time to be wasted. Additional culprits include too many or unclear data requests from managers (29%) and superfluous use of the data—citing that their company requires data to make decisions that could likely be made without (43%). A lack of proper tools and training leaves employees ambivalent about driving change; 25% of respondents said a lot of time is wasted on data efforts in general, while 37% believing the time they spend on data efforts could be better spent elsewhere. So what would help? At the top of employees’ wish lists is better data training (52%), updated, user-friendly data tools (49%), and one consistent view of data across the entire organization (37%).

For more information about the Data Chasers Challenge survey results, review our blog post.

About Square Root:

Square Root, an Austin-based Software as a Service (SaaS) company, creates technology solutions that power data-driven decision making for leading automotive and retail enterprises. Built for companies with distributed retail networks, Square Root’s store relationship management platform, CoEFFICIENT, delivers actionable data insights to align organizations, increase transparency, encourage collaboration, and improve store performance. Founded in 2006, Square Root has been bootstrapped to success, and serves as a trusted partner to many of the most well-known and complex enterprises in the world.