Big data opportunity remains untapped as skills gap continues – survey

The race to harness the growing volumes of data for competitive advantage has put increasing strain on skills and resources within businesses, according to a new survey by SAP.

The research – of over 300 businesses in the UK and US across retail, FMCG and financial services – showed that, as expected, 92 percent have seen the amount of data grow in their organisations over the last 12 months.

However, when it comes to barriers to using this information to greater effect, 42 percent saw lack of time and resources as their biggest challenge.  Furthermore, 75 percent of those surveyed believed that new data science skills are needed within their organisation, and 84 percent said they would like specific training to integrate analytics into their day-to-day work.

“Getting access to, and making sense of, data has until recently been seen as a complex and highly-skilled task, delivered by people with advanced degrees in statistics and prior analytical experience,” said James Fisher, VP of Marketing for Analytics Solutions, SAP. 

“This dynamic simply can’t scale at the pace of the business but now, with the availability of new predictive analytics technologies, for the first time people at all levels of the business can self-service their need for insight.

“It is now possible to embed predictive analytics into all areas of an organisation, from point of sale to the call centre, but to make this possible, it is critical that companies empower their staff with both the skills and systems to self-service their analytics needs.”

This is reassuring news as respondents estimated that 28 percent of the workforce currently uses predictive tools regularly, and that they expect this to rise to 42 percent over the next five years. 

>See also: Demand for big data specialists to grow by 243% in next 5 years

By providing education and training on advanced analytics, and marrying this with intuitive predictive technology, businesses will be able drive real value and insight across the organisation.

“Skills gaps are common as new technologies emerge, but sophisticated predictive analysis is moving from a small population of specialists to a broad spectrum of users,” added Fisher.  “We could be in a situation in a few years where up to half of employees are using predictive analytics in some capacity as part of their daily routines.  We need to think about how we provide easy to use interfaces that address the needs of the data scientist, the business analyst and the end user.” 

In addition to the skills challenges, other findings from the research showed businesses are prioritising and investing in predictive analytics, with 85 percent agreeing it had a positive impact on their businesses, and 77 percent believing they have gained specific competitive advantage.

Around a quarter of businesses (27 percent) reported using predictive analytics solutions to a great extent and 61 percent agreed it is a current investment priority for them. 

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...