More on Big Data: Analytic Skills Are the Key

IBM is among the companies touting analytics applications as the next big thing in IT,  yet companies are struggling to hire the talent required to make sense of the patterns that turn up in company data.

Jack Phillips, CEO of the research firm International Institute for Analytics, told me he believes that more sophisticated analytics technology only increases the need for trained analytics talent. But where to find it?

In a report released last spring, the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that by 2018, the United States will lack between 140,000 to 190,000 workers with deep analytical skills and another 1.5 million managers and analysts who know how to effectively apply the insight gleaned from data.

Though university programs are working to overhaul curricula for analytics training programs (some use “analytics” and “business intelligence” interchangeably, others do not) to include more real-world data and experiences, some companies have turned to growing their own analytics talent.

A CIO.com article notes that CIOs are competing for workers with strong math skills, proficiency working with massive databases and emerging database technology, as well as people with expertise in search, data integration and business knowledge. Some believe these future positions will not reside in the IT department at all, but in the business units.

As my colleague Don Willmott wrote yesterday, InfoWorld looks at five data skills growing out of the deluge of information companies have:

  • Data mining
  • Data visualization
  • Data analysis
  • Data manipulation
  • Data discovery

Those skills are being put to work in still-evolving roles such as marketing, customer experience and risk management.

The title “data scientist” is cropping up more often these days, though it’s far from universally accepted among data-analysis practitioners. Along with technical and business knowledge and presentation skills, curiosity and creativity are sought-after traits. And hacking skills can be important. An article from The Data Warehousing Institute quotes Mike King, a quantitative analyst at Bank of America, about the legacy systems at many enterprises:

You need to be familiar with different databases, different operating systems and different programming languages. Then you have to get those  systems to communicate with each other. You must learn where and how to extract the data you need, and you better enjoy the process of figuring it out. This is not a trivial process, especially in a large organization. You need to be resourceful and create your own solutions.

In a discussion about hiring analytics talent, Bill Franks of the International Institute of Analytics said he looks for storytelling abilities and likes to ask about any artistic or musical pursuits, a sign that the candidate is creative.

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