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Defending a data driven future: How to armour your current and future workforce with digital skills

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Data is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, so much so that today, 95 million photos and videos will be shared on Instagram and 306.4 billion emails sent, as well as five million tweets posted online. What’s more, according to a recent study, 90 percent of the worlds data has been created in the past two years alone, which is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. Alongside activities that we do online in our everyday lives such as using social media or internet shopping, we are also generating data perhaps without realizing it, through using contactless card transactions or counting our steps on a wearable device. Data is increasingly useful and underpins and informs decision making in every business, yet surprisingly, we still don’t have enough young people opting to develop data-led skills.

Business leaders have a responsibility to act as role models. The question is, why wouldn’t they when it would actually be for their own benefit in futureproofing the continuity of their operations. It’s time to demonstrate that not only is working with data a role that is hungry for new talent, but, that it’s an exciting career path with more prospects than may at first meet the eye. As more businesses embrace digital transformation initiatives and move towards the cloud - something that has accelerated during the time of Covid-19, organizations need to carefully consider the skill development opportunities that they are therefore offering. These should work to improve productivity both in and outside of the office, with cloud adoption facilitating new ways of working.

Easier said than done?

Whilst cloud adoption has been on the rise over the last few years, Covid-19 has accelerated this adoption. Recently, at our Informatica digital event series, we outlined how 83 percent of enterprise workloads are moving to the cloud, yet 64 percent of organizations are struggling with data management issues, impeding the ability to build successful cloud data warehouses, data lakes, and lakehouses. This clearly demonstrates that while the desire for businesses to relocate to the cloud is strong, key skills are missing in order to implement the transition successfully.

Additionally, a recent global survey of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) that we conducted, found that 62 percent of those questioned believe that cloud is a significant challenge, with half of respondents claiming to struggle with basics including cloud data warehouse ingestion and data governance. To this end, organizations have a big role to play in introducing the essential skills needed for key roles such as data stewards, data scientists as well as data citizens in order to ensure business growth and continuity for the future.

A bright future

Although we have established that there is a need to foster technical skills for cloud environments, businesses will find that there is a very basic hurdle to overcome. Our education system is set to ensure that students specialize in subjects very early on, with young people making important decisions about what subjects to study that will impact and possibly impede their future career opportunities. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to demonstrate that working with cloud is an attractive future career option from the very get go. To do this, businesses need to ensure that working with data isn’t as ‘nerdy’ as it may at first sound. There are exciting opportunities in the world of data and cloud, it's not just something that is used to back-up essays and photos.

Furthermore, it's all very well recognizing that skills for cloud are in need, but organizations need to gain an understanding of what is already covered within their existing workforce to identify where there are gaps. Through conducting regular skills mapping sessions, business leaders can formulate the most influential training programs to upskill existing staff members and provide a solid grounding for new employees and entry level staff.

An instance whereby existing cloud specialists may require extra training is over data governance and cybersecurity. Even if a company is using an external cloud provider, data protection responsibilities can't be handed over to them. Both parties share accountability. Additionally,

as more organizations adopt multi-cloud and hybrid services, and utilize a range of providers, data is becoming more scattered across multiple clouds which can also work to make data security more of a challenge. Especially when you consider the exponential rate of growth in the sheer volume of data available and in need of protection.

To address the challenge of data fragmentation across multiple clouds and systems, businesses need to ensure they have access to data governance specialists that can implement an AI-powered catalogue. This works to find, categorize and store data, ensuring it is not vulnerable to attack in any form. Additionally, through allowing multiple people with the right skill set to access the data catalogue, in various roles across an organization, it can be much easier to identify any risks associated with where data is located and apply new rules, governed by the AI, to secure it.

We can't anticipate what the world will look like in six months-time, let alone six years-time, but it is clear that there will be one continuity; data will be used to drive change. With rapid digital transformation initiatives being adopted by businesses and the pandemic changing social norms, the insights that data can provide are and will be invaluable to businesses seeking to grow and remain competitive. As data resources continue to expand in both volume and complexity, it is undeniable that businesses have an important role to play in ensuring that there is not a shortage or drain on talent in the future, and that this talent is able to utilize this asset to facilitate success In the longer term.

Greg Hanson, VP EMEA and LATAM, Informatica