The New Year promises to bring a continuation of the growth of data available for businesses to tap to bolster the bottom line.
Take, for example, International Data Corp (IDC) predictions for 2015, with the research firm noting that visual data discovery tools will grow 2.5 times faster than the rest of the Business Intelligence market. The concern goes on to note that by 2018, visual data discovery tools, an enabler of end-user self service, will become a requirement for all enterprises.
However, the ongoing shortage of skilled employees will continue, with IDC noting that in the U.S. there will be 181,000 deep analytics roles in 2018 and five times as many positions requiring skills in data management and interpretation.
The battle brewing for talent with Big Data and analytics skills is akin to the demand for web developers that exploded in the dot-com era more than decade ago, according to a recent article in MIT Sloan Management Review.
Article author Sam Ransbotham, an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, advises companies to take the following steps to thrive with limited access to skilled staff:
1. Unqualified staff can drain precious time and resources. Companies should remain short-handed rather than hiring staff without the required skill sets.
2. Avoid shortcuts and stop gaps. “Hungry to gain first-mover advantage and to capitalize on network effects, many companies in the dot-com boom built digital houses of cards,” the article notes. “For example, in analytics, it may be quicker to manually clean data ‘for now’ rather than build a process—but any short-term savings quickly erode when the process becomes routine.”
3. Avoid “shiny object” distraction. Kim Holmes, senior vice president and global head of strategic analytics for insurance company XL Group, notes in the article that, “We always have to remind ourselves to keep focused on the business and keep it simple… We don’t need to build a Ferrari when a Volkswagen will do.”
4. Build teams with defined roles. “If machine-learning skills are your organization’s bottleneck, then every minute that a staff member with those skills spends doing anything other than exercising these skills reduces that employee’s overall effectiveness,” according to the article. “The solution, therefore, is to assign the employee to perform that task, and only that task, within the team setting, in the same way medical professionals divide up tasks during a surgery.”
5. Take an incremental approach to build wins. Large projects historically have a high risk. “To me, it’s about having a small team, getting your governance structure going, hitting something—a couple of things—out of the park, proving the value, and then growing from there,” Holmes notes.