Talent shortage impedes UK business data analytics efforts

Research from data blending and preparation supplier Alteryx finds UK businesses struggling to make the most of their data due to a shortage of data analytics expertise

UK businesses are finding a lack of talent to be a barrier to making the most of their data, according to a survey sponsored by data preparation and blending supplier Alteryx.

More than one-third of respondents to the survey, conducted in July 2019 by Censuswide, cited a shortage of talent as their biggest problem in becoming driven by data.

And yet, more than two-fifths of UK businesses (42%) cited that their top technology priority is to get more value out of data.

The research was carried out among 3,028 business and IT decision-makers in France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore and the UK, with the respondents from the UK numbering 508.

The Data and digitisation report was released to coincide with Alteryx’s fourth annual European customer conference, Inspire Europe, recently held in London.

In an interview on the eve of the conference, Dean Stoecker and founder of Alteryx, said: “The hardest part of data analytics is asking the right questions, and while there is no software that can do that for analysts, our software does help free up their time. If you take away the mundane work, you free up the mind.

“Most of the software companies in this space do not think this way. They think more linearly, where they see a problem, they understand data science and mathematics and they solve the problem. They don’t think about all the problems that need to be solved.

“And in the enterprises we deal with, there are thousands of problems, all $1m to $10m ones. We need more people asking more questions, and self-serving the answers.”

More than three-quarters of the survey respondents (77%) agreed that data is a critical corporate asset for driving their businesses forward.

The UK respondents cited data analytics as the “catalyst” behind their ability to understand customers better, with nearly two-thirds (71%) using insights to offer more personalised offers. Almost half (46%) ranked increased productivity as one of the three major business benefits of data insights.

More than half (60%) agreed that using data analytics has helped break down internal silos. The ability to make savings and efficiencies for their department or organisation (36%) was another benefit.

But it is the human factor that the report brings most into focus. It states that analytic teams that will thrive have flexibility and diversity of talent.

More than two-fifths (44%) of respondents stated they need more focus on employee skills and talent to drive “transformation”, while close to one third (36%) of the data workers surveyed “strongly agreed” that data knowledge is key to career progression in the company.

However, more than two-fifths (44%) still haven’t got beyond planning their data analytics effort, and fewer than a quarter (21%) state they focus on connecting employee skills and culture with “transformation”.

Commenting on the findings of the research, Alan Jacobson, chief data and analytics officer at Alteryx, said: “This research underscores that investing in data and analytics technology alone won’t deliver real business-altering results. To digitally transform an organisation, a smart approach to delivering the right culture that can embrace the change is equally, if not more, important in achieving success.”

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