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April 26, 2017

Bridging the Big Data Skills Gap: Trends, Training, and System Shortfalls

Organisations around the world reveal their biggest challenge is closing the big data skills gap.

By James Nunns

The way we work is changing at an unprecedented rate. Last year, digital tech investment in the UK reached £6.8 billion, creating 1.64 million digital tech jobs. To say that the tech industry is booming would be an understatement.

While this progress is positive, there is a discrepancy between the number of jobs available and the skills required for them. If the UK is to retain its competitive edge in a global marketplace, it must start by tackling the widening skills gap. Teradata’s Data

Martin Willcox, Senior Director at Teradata.

and Analytics Trends 2017 has found that nearly half of organisations (49%) in the UK want to see an increase in data and analytics training. Simply put, this exponential data growth isn’t being matched by the pool of big data specialists and as such, organisations are unable to bring their digital transformation strategies to life. Not only that, but it’s costing the economy close to £63 billion a year in lost income.

As Brexit becomes a reality, it’s imperative that we address the skills gap sooner rather than later. More than two fifths (42%) of organisations want to see increased simplification of data analytics. Now, they must look beyond the latest data collection technologies and pay attention to how to drive insights. There simply aren’t enough people with the skills to analyse data and transform it into useable, business-relevant insight. After all, data is only as valuable as the decisions it enables.


A story of support and shortfalls

Mirroring the observations of industry commentators, survey findings highlighted an increasing appreciation of the value of big data analytics in a business context, with 96% of company leaders recognising that an effective data analytics strategy is important to business success in 2017. Notwithstanding that, six out of 10 respondents were actually dissatisfied with, or otherwise felt impartial towards, their big data management systems. A further 40% of those surveyed also cited a need to invest in better data management systems.

Add to this the fact that only 41% of organisational leaders surveyed globally feel their data and analytics systems are being fully utilised, and it would seem that many businesses are not yet doing enough to optimise outcomes from their big data investment. That is not to say big data systems do not hold the key to unlocking all kinds of business insight, however. Instead, what these statistics do allude to is an inability of many businesses to harness the full value of their big data management systems.

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The big skills gap

It’s a key frustration for many business leaders: they take the leap and majorly invest in a data and analytics system, only to be disappointed by a lack of forthcoming insight that drives positive business change. Why is this? According to the survey, which suggests nearly half (48%) of organisations plan to invest in more big data analytics training this year, it would seem the industry’s on-going skills shortage is, at least in part, to blame.

Being able to store, access and model organisational data is one thing, but if a company does not have people armed with the skills needed to act on business intelligence, return on investment can – and will – fall short.

That said, with many businesses making plans to increase training around data and analytics in 2017, there are encouraging signs that company leaders are more aware not just of the need for data-led business insight, but also the need to optimise end outcomes by having the best data engineers and data scientists.


The global outlook: who are the real data drivers?

Looking at big data trends around the world, it’s clear that some markets are more advanced than others. Teradata’s research highlighted Germany as the world’s leading nation when it comes to organisational adoption of data and analytics strategies, with the country coming out on top 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%) – while in the same category, the UK took joint last place with France (45%).

With the vast majority of business leaders having now bought into the need for big data and analytics, the multi-billion dollar industry is surely set to grow even further this year. Given more and more leaders are realising that having the right systems, skills and training are vital to gaining optimum return on investment, what is most likely to change is the placement of big data investment.

Investing in developing a data-literate workforce should be every organisations’ main priority. Once we equip people with the right skills, we will begin to see the digital economy flourish.

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