451 Perspective: EMEA companies risk falling behind those in North America in race to be data-driven

August 28 2019
by Matt Aslett


It is often said that companies in Europe are at least six months behind their North American counterparts in relation to new technology adoption. Arguably, that gap has closed in recent decades, but the latest data from 451 Research's Data and Analytics survey indicates that enterprises in EMEA are at risk of falling behind their North American rivals when it comes to taking advantage of data.

The 451 Take

The latest Data and Analytics survey results indicate that there are significant differences between respondents in North America and EMEA in terms of their attitudes toward data and analytics, as well as adoption plans for some of the key technologies that we believe will enable companies to be more successful when it comes to being data-driven. While respondents in EMEA are not significantly behind those in North America in terms of recognizing the importance of data, the survey results suggest that companies in EMEA will need to accelerate their data and analytics initiatives if they are to keep pace with those in North America that have already taken steps to become more data-driven.

The data divide

While there have always been geographic and cultural differences that impact the rate of technology adoption in North America compared with EMEA, companies across the globe are being challenged by economic and regulatory imperatives to become more data-driven – adopting data at the heart of decision-making processes.

As such, it was somewhat surprising to see the extent of the differing attitudes to data and analytics highlighted by the latest Data and Analytics survey. The sample leaned slightly towards North American companies (which accounted for 52.6% of respondents, compared with 43.3% from EMEA). However, the most data-driven companies (those at which nearly all strategic decisions are data-driven) skewed significantly toward North America, which was home to 69% of respondents from the most data-driven companies, while EMEA accounted for only 29%.

In fact, 18.6% of North American respondents described their organization as among the most data-driven, compared with just 9.5% of respondents from EMEA. Meanwhile, just 4.6% of North American respondents described their organization as among the least data-driven, compared with 13.4% of respondents from EMEA.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Level of data-driven decision-making: North America and EMEA 451 Research's Data & Analytics, 1H 2019

The results suggest that companies in North America stand to gain ground over their counterparts in EMEA in making use of data and analytics, and that respondents from North America are already slightly more successful with their data and analytics initiatives

At first glance, the difference is not statistically significant: 83.7% of respondents from North America completely or mostly agreed that their initiatives to date had been successful, compared with 82.5% of respondents from EMEA. However, drilling down to a further layer of detail shows that almost one-quarter (24.9%) of North American respondents completely agreed that their data and analytics initiatives to date have been successful, substantially ahead of only 17% of EMEA respondents.

Similarly, North American respondents were more confident than those in EMEA about their company's seeing AI and machine learning as important components of their data and analytics initiatives, with 25.9% of North American respondents completely agreeing, compared with 18.4% of respondents in EMEA.

Respondents from the two geographic areas are much closer when it comes to their expectations about the growing importance of data, with 80% of respondents in North America expecting data to become more important to their organization's decision-making in the next 12 months, compared with 79.1% of respondents in EMEA. Again, the difference is not statistically significant, although it does suggest that EMEA enterprises are not going to catch up to their North American counterparts anytime soon.

Vive la difference

The latest Data and Analytics survey results also indicate that there are interesting differences between companies in North America and EMEA in relation to the benefits they are expecting from data platforms and analytics projects. For example, 59.1% of respondents in EMEA cited improved operational efficiency as a significant benefit, compared with 50.6% of respondents in North America.

Respondents in EMEA are also more focused than their North American counterparts on improving customer experience, gaining competitive advantage, and responding faster to opportunities and threats. Meanwhile, slightly less than one-third (32.8%) of respondents in North America cited lowering costs as a significant benefit, compared with just 20.1% of respondents in EMEA.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Differences in benefits from data and analytics: North America vs EMEA 451 Research's Data & Analytics, 1H 2019

The Data and Analytics survey results also suggest some interesting differences in attitudes to as-a-service platforms for data and analytics workloads. Specifically, the use of on-premises, noncloud infrastructure is significantly higher among respondents from EMEA (63.3%) compared with North America (38.1%), and is expected to remain higher two years from now (46.3% in EMEA versus 26.9% in North America).

However, it is interesting to note that the continued use of noncloud infrastructure by respondents in EMEA is not actually at the expense of the adoption of cloud platforms, with a higher percentage of respondents from EMEA than North America adopting SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, both today and two years from now. The implication of this data is that, while respondents in North America are more aggressively replacing on-premises noncloud environments for data processing, respondents in EMEA are more focused on augmenting existing investments in noncloud infrastructure.

The survey results also highlighted significant differences in adoption of a few key vendors. For example, when it comes to on-premises databases (both operational and analytic), Microsoft is substantially more popular in EMEA than in North America, while IBM is significantly more popular in North America than EMEA.

A couple of technology areas also stood out in terms of radically different levels of adoption. A prime example is data catalog technology, which we have described as a fundamental enabler of modern data processing and analytics. More than three-quarters (76.2%) of North American respondents agreed that their company was investing in data catalog software, compared with less than half (45.4%) of those in EMEA.

Similarly, 81.1% of respondents from North America agree that object storage will be a primary data platform for data processing and analytics at their organization in the next two years, compared with just 56.5% of those in EMEA. Using object storage as a primary platform for analytics is a key component in the shift toward what we have described as an abstracted data architecture.