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Can data solve the world’s most pressing challenges?

Image: Image: Adobe Stock / liliya

Macroeconomic issues are impacting businesses and the wider society, but less than half of organisations are taking actions to address the most pressing challenges.

Data has the potential to help. Leading companies are turning to data to tackle issues such as the energy crisis, climate change, income equality and a lack of resources for fast-growing populations. Data will also be beneficial to business performance, which is why organisations are aiming to increase their investment in data storage and AI tools over the next few years. 

Unlocking the value of data requires business leaders to invest in technology and focus on improving strategy and culture. These are vital for businesses to become data experts and fully harness it for good.

Understanding the challenges

Businesses today must navigate a world of disruption, facing challenges on both a business and humanitarian level.

According to Lenovo’s Data for Humanity report, business leaders identify the energy crisis as their biggest threat over the next three years: 71% expect it to have a moderate to severe impact on their business. They are also feeling the weight of other macro trends such as global warming, income inequality, pandemics, talent shortages, rising operational costs, and a move towards hybrid working.

UK businesses understand the challenges they face, but only a minority are actively preparing for them. For example, fewer than 40% are taking steps to address the challenges of the energy crisis in the next three years; this figure falls to 33% for global warming and to 18% for income equality.

As datasets and analytical capabilities grow, senior executives believe that a collaborative approach to data will be fundamental to improving global stability and security. While over the next three years, at least six in 10 expect data to be highly important in tackling global warming and the energy crisis. In terms of business performance, 69% say data will be important to improve the customer experience.

What is holding businesses back?

The biggest gulf between those who use data effectively against those who don’t is technology. The businesses that already use data successfully, dubbed the ‘data leaders’, are further ahead in their adoption of leading-edge technologies.

Private and public sector organisations clearly face a challenge when it comes to managing their data, now and into the future. They may not want to move entirely to the cloud, but still want to take advantage of it when necessary. This means their on-premise infrastructure needs to be cloud-friendly. But it also needs to offer them the security, resiliency, and manageability which was previously reserved for top tier on-premise enterprise storage systems.

UK firms need to improve synergy between teams and increase technology investment to unlock value from their data. More education and upskilling are also required so employees can learn how to use it effectively.

By allocating time to develop and implement a robust data strategy, businesses can strike a balance in which data can be used to benefit their customers, their communities and the planet.

Making the most of data

This has countless benefits. Data is already helping researchers make strides in genomics, thanks to the development of solutions like GOAST (Genomics Optimisation and Scalability Tool). This innovative software can efficiently analyse large volumes of data at high speeds, allowing scientists to process the human genome 188 times faster than before. This has rapidly reduced the waiting time for medical results which in turn speeds up the rate of scientific discovery.

Another area where data can address problems is in city planning. Barcelona, for instance, distributed edge servers on thousands of streets, spreading network capacity and boosting user connectivity. This decentralised network has allowed citizens and tourists to access real-time insights much more quickly than before, creating environments that are safer and easier to travel around.

Beyond these public benefits, data is also improving business performance. Lenovo’s report found that 60% of leaders say that data has effectively improved their agility and customer experience, and 56% have used it to reduce costs and forecast future performance.

Business leaders are keen to get this kind of value from their data, and they believe that the best way to do that is with targeted technology investments. Therefore more than half plan to increase their investment in storage and analytics tools over the next five years.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, on average companies will invest $3 million in data technologies and initiatives, and they anticipate an 81% return on their investment. They expect their investment in data to increase their revenue by 50%, which amounts to an average of over $1.5 billion per company over five years.

This optimism demonstrates executives’ strong confidence in the capabilities of data – particularly when considering the weak economic backdrop.

Picture of Ian Jeffs
Ian Jeffs
General manager at Lenovo Infrastructure Group

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