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Half of executives at enterprise-level organizations believe that they’re facing a high level of risk over the next 5 years from technology-driven disruption by startups or innovations by incumbent companies. That’s according to a report from Treasure Data and Forbes Insights [download page], which surveyed 400 executives at companies with at least $1 billion in revenues.

It’s worth noting that disruption isn’t necessarily coming via technology companies or startups. In fact, a recent report suggested that C-suite execs see the threat of disruption coming more from existing players in their industries than from the largest tech companies.

Nonetheless, few enterprise organizations feel that they’re immune to the threat of disruption, per the Forbes report. These executives perceive disruption mostly in terms of the changing expectations and engagement behaviors of their customer bases (65%), which have proven problematic for large companies to adapt to.

Besides changing patterns of engagement and expectations, a sizable proportion (31%) of executives also feel that disruptors have a competitive advantage because they are more savvy with customer data.

In fact, one of the primary outcomes sought from customer data initiatives is being able to react more quickly to market changes and customer preferences, per the report.

Yet only 1 in 5 executives consider their organizations to be leaders in customer data management, and just 1 in 8 express the highest level of confidence that they’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure they’re making the most out of customer data.

Making the Most Out of Customer Data Platforms

There are many ways to acquire customer data – from building it into products to API integrations – but obstacles remain to better understanding customers, including outdated technologies and insufficient resources.

Customer data platforms (CDPs) are one way to deal with comprehensive, integrated data across business lines, and are seeing strong adoption among enterprises. Indeed, almost half (45%) already have a CDP dedicated to marketing requirements, and another third have one under development.

For the time being, CDPs have had moderate to low impact on competitive challenges, per respondents, but the vast majority believe that they’ll see significant (40%) or moderate (53%) shifts in the next 2 years.

So what skills are essential for maximizing the value of customer data platforms? As it turns out, soft skills will be just as critical as technical ones, per the executives surveyed.

For example, presentation and sales skills (37%) are perceived to be as important as data management/analysis skills for initiative leaders. Moreover, for those leading CDP initiatives, openness to innovation without fear of failure (32%) is as essential as experience in statistical analytics languages (32%).

The same goes for those implementing CDPs. For users, executives feel that presentation and sales skills are as necessary as experience with statistical analytics languages and platforms (such as R and Hadoop), and strong communication skills are as important as data management/analysis skills.

Among the recommendations included in the report are opening up data-driven decision-making to everyone in the enterprise, supporting training and education, and encouraging responsible experimentation.

The full report is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 400 executives from regions across the world, with North America (44%) and Europe (38%) most heavily represented. Respondents were most apt to come from the media, entertainment and gaming (25%) and retail and e-commerce (25%) industries. All come from organizations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Respondent titles included CMOs or heads of marketing (44%), chief data or analytics officers (44%) and heads of customer experience (8%).

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