The Data Imperative: How companies can capitalize on the data they’ve collected during COVID

Data can be a company's gateway to understanding customers and catering to them in a world where customization is the rule, not the exception.

"Data is enterprises’ gateway to understanding customers and catering to them in a world where customization is the rule, not the exception," the authors write. Courtesy of Getty Images

This essay is adapted from a report published by KPMG and HFS Research in November 2021. See our methodology at the bottom of the article.

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This essay is adapted from a report published by KPMG and HFS Research in November 2021. See our methodology at the bottom of the article.

Today’s hyper-connected technology-, communication-, and media-obsessed culture generates tremendous quantities of data. 

Why is this massive volume of data important? Data is enterprises’ gateway to understanding customers and catering to them in a world where customization is the rule, not the exception. What’s more, insights from data can help these firms develop new go-to-market strategies, discover new revenue streams, and capture market share from competitors. The technology, media, and telecoms (TMT) sector is at the forefront of data creation and therefore has access to a wealth of it. Yet availability does not equal realized opportunities. Most TMT firms are not yet taking full advantage of the opportunities from data, as only 29% have adopted a comprehensive data strategy at scale. At the same time, more than 70% of TMT companies believe it is likely that effective and widespread data usage will radically change their business models.

During much of COVID-19, the priority for many organizations was survival. To continue to serve customers, companies needed to accelerate their digital transformations. Because of this, KPMG hypothesized that focusing on digital transformation and data equally simply was not possible for most. Similarly, did TMT organizations have time to think about the vast and rich data assets that they were creating as a result of their accelerated transformations?

To better understand the data landscape in TMT, KPMG in collaboration with HFS Research analyzed survey results from more than 300 TMT executives in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. This research not only revealed challenges and a path forward to adopting a holistic data strategy at scale but also the potential rewards for companies that get it right. We call it the data imperative.

What this study shows is that TMT companies are underutilizing their data resources. At the same time, they correlate a potential for outsized financial returns by leveraging data across all value chain activities. To close this gap, TMT companies plan to significantly accelerate data access, management, and analytical activities and functions in the next two years. This puts these activities on par with the focus of most other digital transformational programs.

Companies must prioritize data

During the monumental changes of the last two years, few industries have embraced and enabled digital transformation and service delivery more than those of the TMT sector. Many of the transitions to online remote work and education can be credited to TMT. Yet, data often was not factored as part of the digital transformation equation. When asked about data usage over the next 12 to 24 months, 46% of TMT enterprises agree strongly that the pandemic derailed progress in data usage by shifting the urgent focus to cloud deployment, the critical underpinning of digital transformation. Moreover, when asked about data usage over the next 12 to 24 months, 73% of respondents agreed that as organizations rushed to survive and thrive, most did not have time to think through the treasure trove of data they were creating for themselves. Underscoring this trend is that more than 80% of global TMT companies believe they are underutilizing their data volume for competitive advantage due to more pressing business issues related to the pandemic.

Capture incremental value by leveraging data in strategic initiatives

Even companies in the early stages of effective data strategy appear to understand the impact of their efforts. When we asked about the effects of data usage (i.e. enhanced business insights or financial forecasting and modeling) on strategic imperatives, more than a third of companies reported high impacts on initiatives such as scope of products and services, improving cybersecurity and others. Many appear to have placed a premium on data for improving customer and employee experience, enhancing cybersecurity, and improving transactional operations. 

About 45% of technology companies and 44% of telecoms companies believe that effective data use has a high impact on improving customer experience. Meanwhile, 31% of media companies share this belief. Interestingly, more media companies (47%) believe that employee experience will improve through effective use of data compared to telecoms (41%) and technology companies (40%). 

Between the challenges of remote working and the increase in security threats, cybersecurity is one of the top initiatives for most enterprises. For cybersecurity, technology companies, lead with 49% of them believing that data will have a high impact on their efforts. This belief was shared by 45% of the telecoms and 38% of the media segments. For improving transactional, operational and back-office operations, 48% of media companies believe that effective data will have a high impact, while telecoms (42%) and technology (41%) segments concur, but slightly less so. 

Surprisingly, for TMT as a whole, use of data associated with generic cost-cutting had the lowest number of respondents who indicated a perceived high impact. Finally, when we analyzed customer-focused activities, not surprisingly, TMT companies reported placing greater value on leveraging data for increasing their conversion rate through personalization and improving upsell and cross-sell activities.

Derive outsized returns from effective data investment

More than half of TMT companies expect a 4% or greater increase in performance effectiveness in customer service, cybersecurity, talent management and back-office activities when they increase investments in data by 25%. Even an increase in performance of this magnitude can provide many benefits. Among them: 

* The back office can gain process efficiency.

* Customer service can develop a better understanding of customers and an ability to personalize experiences.

* IT operations can know and defend against risks before they can harm the business.

Indeed, 39% of companies strongly agree that over the next 12 to 24 months, data investments have the highest returns of any other technology-related investments. More than 70% of TMT companies believe it is highly likely (4 or 5 on a 5-point scale) that effective and widespread data usage can radically change the business model and enterprise connectedness will greatly improve operational efficiency.

Understand and quantify how data optimization can impact your organization

More than 80% of TMT companies surveyed agree that effective data usage will enable an aligned and empowered workforce in the next 12 to 24 months. A similar number agree that data investments will yield the highest returns of any other technology-related investments over the next 12 to 24 months. The majority also agree that cloud access will unlock the power of data. Indeed, it seems that cloud may be the repository of all critical financial and operational data in the next 2 years and that innovative data use will help in delivering products and services digitally.

Importantly, roughly two-thirds approach cloud as a catalyst to data innovation and are designing solutions, including applications as microservices (a collection of small, decoupled component services).

The bottom line: TMT companies must start treating data strategy as a foundational enterprise capability

In taking the steps to effective data usage in TMT, we identify five high-impact initiatives. 

* Treat data like an asset and its use as a competitive differentiator. TMT companies are still at the early stages of transformative data use, but they are moving quickly to change this mindset. As the fog from the pandemic lifts, hybrid and work-from-home workforces are balancing out, and organizations have the perspective to step back and look at their data strategy through a more holistic lens. Recognizing data strategy as a foundational enterprise capability for success is driving this shift. 

* Target at least 10% of overall revenue from the monetization of data through new products and services. 

* Rethink the steps to achieve a cloud-based data architecture leveraging hyperscalers globally. This is the path to supercharge data access and accessibility across the ecosystem. 

* Use data in addition to process and others as the foundation of a connected enterprise within TMT. Expanding connectedness beyond the four walls of a TMT enterprise to encompass a larger ecosystem will only be accomplished through the effective use of customer, operational, compliance, and security data. 

* Drive transformation through the use of data with a focus on customer-centricity. Democratize the data — data sources both for today and the future focusing on both breadth and depth.

Alex Holt is global head of technology, media & telecoms at KPMG. Mark Gibson is U.S. national TMT sector leader.

Report Methodology: The report from which this essay was derived is based on a survey conducted with 302 C-level and functional executives across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Companies surveyed included subindustries of TMT such as software, hardware, IT services, broadcast and cable media, movie/entertainment, social media, marketing/advertising, publishing, mobile and fixed data, and internet and voice services. Most companies’ revenues exceed $250 million, and more than 50% of the respondents work for companies with more than $1billion in annual revenues. The complete report may be found at

This essay is adapted from “The Data Imperative: Rewrite your data strategy to capitalize on the digital investments made over the last two years.” © 2022 KPMG LLP. All rights reserved.

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