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Canadian companies are at risk of losing out competitively to international rivals because of their slowness in adopting the technology needed to process Big Data, according to the results of a new survey.

While 96 per cent of Canadian businesses in the survey say the ability to process and act on data in real time is important, less than half – 48 per cent – have invested in the technologies to do so, the results of a poll commissioned by business analytics software and services firm SAS indicate.

Two-thirds – 76 per cent – of international companies polled in a separate recent survey for SAS say they have already adopted technologies for Big Data capability, compared with only 48 per cent of Canadian respondents, SAS said in a news release Tuesday.

Fifteen per cent of respondents in the Canadian survey said they have no adoption plans for the future, according to the results of the poll conducted by consultancy IDC Canada.

In addition, Canadian firms are only using a fraction of the reams of information at their disposal, the report indicates.

A big majority of those polled – 76 per cent – say they use internally produced data, but other increasingly useful sources such as social media – 32.7 per cent – web data – 34.7 per cent – and GPS – 16.7 per cent – are still not fully established, says SAS.

Canadian companies also have a tendency to push strategic data decision making down the chain of command to mid-level IT managers, rather than being viewed as an issue for the corner suite, according to the results.

"For Canadian organizations to take full advantage of the transformative potential of their data, they need to approach it strategically. That starts with executive understanding and ownership of data as differentiator and an end to the pattern of delegation that has so far characterized Canadian technology adoption," IDC research director Nigel Wallis said in the news release.

"Organizations that have begun to embrace Big Data technology and approaches are demonstrating that they can gain competitive advantage by being able to take action based on timely, relevant, complete, and accurate information, rather than guesswork. Meanwhile the challenges of data management and analytics in the intelligent economy are likely to overwhelm organizations that are not conversant with Big Data technologies," he added.

The term Big Data refers to ever larger amounts of data amassed over time and that are hard to analyze and process using standard database management tools.

The survey was conducted in August of 2012 and included responses from 150 senior executives of organizations with sales of more than $250-million, across Canada.

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