Businesses and the Big Data Skills Gap: A global challenge

The way we work is transforming at an extraordinary rate. Explosive progress in the technology industry, demonstrated by the fact that digital tech investment reached £6.8 billion last year, creating 1.64 million jobs as a result, is unavoidable. Despite this positive influx of job roles, there is a mismatch between the volume of positions available and the skills that are required to do them. To be able to maintain a grasp of its competitive edge within a global marketplace, the UK must begin to tackle the ever-increasing skills gap.   

The global study 

Teradata’s 2017 Data and Analytics Trends Report* has found that 49% (almost half) of organisations in the UK would like to see more in terms of training around data and analytics. In simple terms, this extraordinary growth in data isn’t being reflected by the current availibility of big data experts: consequently, the digital transformation strategies of businesses around the world are paying for it in terms of being brought into fruition. In addition to this, it’s costing the economy near to £63 billion annually in lost income.   

With Brexit fast becoming a reality, it’s essential that companies tackle the skills gap sooner rather than later. Over two fifths (42%) of businesses want to see data analytics presented in a more simplified way. Today, they must venture further than the latest data collection technologies and concentrate on how to drive insights. The truth is that there aren’t enough individuals with the skills needed to analyse data and mold it into relevant, useable, insight. At the end of the day, we all know that data is only as valuable as the business decisions it enables.   

Support and shortfalls 

Reflecting the viewpoints of specialists in the industry, study findings cited a growing recognition of the value that big data analytics can provide in a business context, with nearly all (96%) of business leaders appreciating that a successful data analytics strategy is significant to company success in 2017. As well as this, six out of 10 respondents were dissatisfied with, or felt impartial towards, their big data management systems. An additional 40% of participants in the research also recognised a need to invest in more effective systems in terms of overall data management.   

Combine this with the fact that only less than half (41%) of business leaders surveyed globally believe their data and analytics systems are being fully utilized: it seems many organisations are not yet doing enough to get the most out of their big data investment. However, that is not to say existing big data systems are incapable of unlocking a multitude of business insights: alternatively, what this research does allude to is an inability of many companies to fully harness the value of their big data management systems. 

Bridging the gap 

It’s an important concern for many leaders in the world of business: they take the plunge and heavily invest in a data and analytics system, only to be underwhelmed by a lack of insight that drives positive business change. So why is this the case? According to the study, which suggests almost half (48%) of businesses plan to pay more for big data analytics training in 2017, it would appear the industry’s skills shortage is ongoing and to blame, at least to some extent.    

Being able to store, access and transform business data is one thing, but if a company does not have employees armed with the skills required to deal with business intelligence, return on investment has the very likely potential to fall far short of expectations.   

On the other hand, with many companies planning to increase data and analytics training this year, there are positive signs that business leaders have become increasingly aware not only of the requirement for data-led business insight, but also the need to make the most of end outcomes by ensuring the best data engineers and scientists are in place.   

The global big data driving force 

With the analysis of global big data trends, it’s obvious that certain markets are far ahead in the data and analytics race. Teradata’s report pointed out Germany as the world’s leading nation when it comes to the adoption of data and analytics strategies by businesses, with the country revealing itself as more advanced, sometimes in leaps and bounds, in four out of five major areas. These included: cloud storage of data (77%), data analytics and adoption (84%), digital transformation (82%) and data warehousing (82%). Germany was only beaten on one factor – the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies (63%) – by Australia (70%) and India (69%). In the same category, the UK took joint last place with France (45%). 

With a multitude of organisational leaders having now accepted the need for big data and analytics, the multi-billion dollar industry is surely set to expand at an even faster rate as the year goes on. Given the fact that an increasing number of business leaders are recognising that having the correct systems, skills and training are essential to gaining the best return on investment possible, the most likely thing to change is the placement of big data investment. 

Investing in the advancement of a data-literate workforce should be a priority at the forefront of every business’ agenda. Once companies are well-equipped in terms of a workforce made up of people with the right skills, the digital economy will undoubtedly be set to boom.   

* The Teradata Data and Analytics Trends Report 2017 was carried out by RSI Corporation in January 2017. The research was conducted across nine countries: Australia, France, Germany, Japan, UK, US, India, Spain and Russia, with 100 respondents from each. 

Organisations were targeted from a range of vertical industries including Telecommunications, Automotive, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Finance, Oil/Gas/Electric/Nuclear, Solar Power, Public Sector, Media/Communications, Retail, Entertainment and Transportation. The following functions of the organisation were represented: engineering, finance, HR, IT, Logistics/Supply chain, Marketing/Communications, Operations, Product development/R&D and Sales. 

 Martin Willcox, Senior Director at Teradata 

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