From spreadsheet to C-suite: making data the new ‘business grammar’

This is a guest blog post by Stuart Wilson, VP EMEA, Alteryx

Data. A small word with big promise. For years, we’ve seen countless stories about the importance of data in business. New research shows that UK businesses have changed the way they operate – top to bottom – and embraced data analytics. From day-to-day management decisions to the skills expected of new recruits, data and analytics have now spread far beyond the IT department and into the lives of business professionals in every department.

The UK business landscape will never be the same again. So what is it exactly that’s changed and what does the future hold for data driven businesses?

Buy-in from the top

Gone are the days when senior business leaders viewed data as just a fixture of the IT department, and only the IT department. Today, 95% of UK business leaders surveyed use data and analytics to help drive change, with a third considering data analytics an essential part of their decision-making. This figure is only set to rise, with 41 % expected to get to this stage in the next two years.

Entire businesses, from the CEO to the line-of-business manager have now realised the potential data has, and so we’ve entered a new phase – data for all. Almost a third of businesses (31%) surveyed are already empowering business users with self-service analytics tools, empowering those who aren’t programmers at heart (and don’t need to be) to dissect and analyse data problems themselves to make intelligent business decisions.

Requirements of recruits

The expectation of organisation-wide data literacy brings with it new requirements for the recruits entering and progressing in UK businesses.

As a skill requirement, data proficiency has leap-frogged other factors when considering potential hires, with more than a quarter of business leaders viewing data and analytics skills more important for new employees than industry experience, management experience, or a second language. We’re entering a stage where data literacy is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but a necessity for those pursuing careers in UK businesses.

An individual impact

But it’s not just businesses who are feeling such changes. From a skills point of view, those who actively employ data and seek opportunities to grow their knowledge are the ones likely to leapfrog their way up the career ladder.

And with a broader, highly desired skill set comes greater demand from those spear-heading the business, and a subsequent willingness to pay to hire and retain the best talent out there. Three quarters of UK businesses would offer a higher salary to a potential candidate who is data-proficient, which on average, could equate to an astonishing 30 % salary hike.

Looking to the future

The increased emphasis on data in business has the potential to drive substantial change across the business educational landscape, with four in five UK business leaders agreeing that data analytics should be a compulsory part of all MBA programmes.

But there are still difficulties to overcome. Just under half (46%) of the time, data received from another department needs to be cleaned, repaired, or re-organised before it’s ready for analysis. Only 31% of business leaders report that their teams have all the data they need in one place, with 41% reporting that they use data from more than five separate sources for decision-making. Businesses need to devote time to combatting these problems, so once we reach the point where the work force is enabled to use data, the entire data set is ready to be used.