Advanced analytics skills shortage stymies big data programmes

A “critical” advanced analytics skills shortage is impeding big data programmes, research finds

A “critical” advanced analytics skills shortage is impeding big data programmes. This is one finding of a research report from IBM and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

Analytics: the real-world use of big data is based on a survey of 1,144 business and IT professionals from 95 countries and 26 industries, conducted in mid-2012. Its five authors include Peter Tufano, dean of the Saïd Business School, and Janet Smart, co-director of a research cluster at the school.

Fewer than 25% of the survey respondents worldwide said they have the skills and resources to analyse unstructured data, such as text, voice and sensor data. 

“While the hardware and software in these areas are maturing, the skills are in short supply,” the report’s authors said.

However, in a press statement, IBM and the business school said 75% of organisations doing big data start with a strong core of analytics capabilities, such as query and reporting and data mining to address structured data, and 67% use predictive modelling.

At a press briefing to launch the report, Smart said new business school dean Tufano, formerly of Harvard Business School, has made data studies a priority. A new data module is being added to the school’s MBA. 

“Thousands of data scientists will be needed in the near future,” she said. The skills shortage could mean UK organisations have recourse to offshoring.

The report found that only 5% of UK and Ireland companies “are using big data in the fullest sense”, and almost 70% are still operating at early stages, in what the report calls “educate” and “explore”, rather than “engage” and”execute”.

The report’s authors were surprised at what little effect social media has had among respondents. Only 7% considered information from resources such as Twitter feeds as big data that was worth analytical attention. They speculate that the skills shortage might be causing companies to underutilise social data

Matin Jouzdani, a senior manager in IBM’s business analytics practice, argued, at the press briefing, that natural language processing technology used on Twitter feeds does promise “completion of the customer record”.

Indeed, nearly half the respondents reported customer-centric objectives as their number one priority for big data programmes. More companies are also seeing big data as a potential source of competitive advantage. Some 63% declared for “competitive advantage”, compared with 37% in a similar 2010 IBM study, says the report.

The report’s authors make the common point that the most effective big data programmes “identify business requirements first, and then tailor [the technology] to support the business opportunity”. 

They also offer as a new idea the addition of “veracity” to the traditional big data Vs of volume, variety and velocity. By “veracity” (truthfulness) they mean the “need to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty” in data, using advanced mathematics, such as fuzzy logic.

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