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How to use your data skills to keep a step ahead
Fri, 8th Feb 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

While the impetus for transforming to a data-driven culture needs to come from the top of the organisation, all levels of the business should participate in learning new data skills.

Assuring data availability and integrity must be a team sport in modern data-centric businesses, rather than being the responsibility of one individual or department. Everyone must buy in and be held accountable throughout the process.  

Effectively enabling greater data access among the workforce while maintaining oversight and quality is the challenge that today's businesses face, and one in which they must meet.

The evolution of the Data Team

The value and opportunities that data creates are now being recognised by enterprises. There is an understanding that the data needs to be handled and processed efficiently. For some companies, this has led to the formation of a new department comprised of data analysts and scientists.

The data team is led by a Chief Data Officer (CDO) – a role that is set to become intrinsic to business success in the digital era, according to recent research from Gartner. While earlier iterations of roles within the data team centred on data governance, data quality and regulatory issues, the focus is shifting. Data analysts and scientists are now expected to contribute and deliver a data-driven culture across the company, while also driving business value. According to the Gartner survey, the skills required for roles within the data team have expanded to span data management, analytics, data science, ethics, and digital transformation.

Investment in such data teams are growing as businesses recognise the importance of their functions. Office budgets for the data team increased by an impressive 23% between 2016 and 2017 according to Gartner. What's more, some 15% of the CDOs that took part in the study revealed that their budgets were more than $20 million for their departments, compared with just 7% who said the same in 2016.

The increasing popularity and evolution of these new data roles have largely been driven by GDPR in Europe and by new data protection regulations in the US. Evidence suggests that the position will be essential for ensuring the successful transfer of data skills throughout businesses of all sizes.

The data skills shortage

Businesses can only unlock the full potential of their data if they have the talent to analyse it and produce actionable insights that help them to better understand their customers' needs. But companies are already struggling to cope with the big data ecosystem due to a skills shortage, and the problem shows little sign of improving.

The rapidly evolving digital landscape is partly to blame as the skills required have changed radically in recent years. The required data science skills needed at today's data-driven companies are more wide-ranging than ever before. The modern workforce is now required to have a firm grasp of computer science including everything from databases to the cloud, according to strategic advisor Bernard Marr.

In addition, analytical skills are essential to make sense of the ever-increasing data gathered by enterprises, while mathematical skills are also vital as much of the data captured will be numerical as this is largely due to IoT and sensor data. These skills must also sit alongside more traditional business and communication skills, as well as the ability to be creative and adapt to developing technologies.

The need for these skills is set to increase, with IBM predicting that the number of jobs for data professionals will rise by a massive 28% by 2020. The good news is that businesses are already recognising the importance of digital skills in the workforce, with the role of Data Scientist taking the number one spot in Glassdoor's Best Jobs in America for the past three years, with a staggering 4,524 positions available in 2018.

Data training employees

Data quality management is essential for all areas of a business. It, therefore, makes sense to provide the employees in the specialist departments with tools to ensure data quality in self-service. Cloud-based tools that can be rolled out quickly and easily in the departments are vital, as companies can gradually improve their data quality whilst also increasing the value of their data.

To remain competitive, businesses must think of good data management as a team sport. Investing in the Chief Data Officer role and data skills now will enable forward-thinking businesses to reap the rewards, both in the short-term and further into the future.