The data questions – opportunities and dilemmas for fast-growing AMT companies

Data is opening up potential new avenues for firms, according to our survey, but companies need to find a balance between monetisation and protection

It is difficult to overstate the value of data. All manner of sectors are being transformed by analytics, AMT included. Factory floors are increasingly equipped with vast numbers of sensors that can help companies better forecast product demand and production rates. As the era of the industrial Internet of Things gets underway, this will multiply.

The fastest-growing AMT companies are determined to improve their data capabilities, making significant investments in new tools to facilitate insight. Close to half the businesses in our survey (42%) regard big data analytics – including technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – as a priority for investment over the next three years. Only automation is seen as a higher priority.

AMT businesses must also think about how to apply data analytics, building a business case around the potential RoI (return on investment). Some 57% now consider data’s greatest potential to be in driving enhancements of products and services, while 43% are inward-looking, focusing instead on how data might improve internal performance or processes.

A partnership approach

One way for AMT firms to expand their datasets is through partnerships with their peers. Fast-growing AMT businesses overwhelmingly believe open access models in their collaborations are the ideal, enabling all parties to maximise the opportunity to drive growth – the survey shows 95% of respondents favour such an approach. In practice, however, this is not always straightforward.

Almost two-thirds (61%) of firms warn that open access models are difficult to implement because the parties are often concerned about issues such as control. A further 30% warn that businesses involved in collaborations often have conflicting priorities, which may also mitigate against an open access model. Just 7% say unequivocally that they have made open access work.

Monetisation versus protection

The fastest-growing AMT businesses are leading the way when it comes to converting data into additional revenues. This is, in turn, one of the factors underpinning their rapid growth. In our survey, 84% of businesses say they are already monetising their data, either directly or indirectly. Among those firms that have yet to make that step, 75% have plans to do so.

While not all data owned by business will be personal in nature, there is no doubt that GDPR has focused companies' attention on data management and protection, particularly given the penalties of up to 4% of global turnover for businesses that fall foul of the new rules.

“On a positive note, businesses have spent a huge amount of time and effort working towards GDPR compliance over the last two years,” says Cerys Wyn Davies of Pinsent Masons. “This puts them in a good position to maximise the value of their data and manage it in a strategic and compliant manner.”

One-fifth of the AMT businesses in our survey now see data protection as one of the most challenging legal and regulatory issues for the next three years, up from 13% for the previous three years. Data protection links directly to the broader issue of security applicable to all data. It can be hard for a company to recover from the reputational damage caused by a cyber breach. Cyber security should therefore be a boardroom issue and treated accordingly across the business operations to ensure appropriate steps are taken to protect against any breach.