Large Enterprises Moving Ahead with Big Data Plans Despite Talent Shortage, Survey Shows

by   |   November 19, 2012 10:49 am   |   0 Comments

The vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies are looking outward to find workers with the necessary skills to run their big data initiatives, according to a new survey of top enterprise managers.

Ninety-one percent of respondents to NewVantage Partners’ Big Data Executive Survey Part II: People – The Key to Success said they are hiring data scientists from outside their enterprises to meet their analytics needs, while 69 percent are attempting to train analysts already on the payroll.

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“Data science is a relatively new discipline, and one that requires deep scientific skill often coming from a physics or mathematics background,” Steve Maxwell, a general partner at NewVantage, told Data Informed.

Respondents were questioned about the difficulty of finding data scientists and whether they felt they could train existing analysts to become data scientists.

“The results in the survey indicate that companies are willing to try to train the analysts to become data scientists, but they don’t hold out much hope that that effort will work,” Maxwell says. “So that’s why they’re spending so much time looking outside for that kind of talent.”

Interestingly, this part of the survey’s results runs counter to the conclusion of a CompTIA survey from September in which more respondents indicated they preferred in-house training to hiring for acquiring enterprise data analytics skills. That study reflected responses from 935 business and IT managers in the U.S.

One thing the NewVantage survey makes clear is that the Fortune 1000 is going ahead with big data initiatives, dearth of talent or no dearth of talent: 85 percent of respondents say their enterprises have launched big data projects despite “struggling to find the right talent to drive these initiatives to successful completion.”

Isn’t starting any big initiative without the proper talent a risky proposition? Maybe not, according to tech analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.

“It might seem counterintuitive that companies lacking these required personnel would pursue these projects anyway, but in the short term I expect big data and business analytics service professionals will pick up the slack,” King says. “Engaging professionals with the proper training should allow enterprises to forge ahead today rather than waiting for a fresh crop of data scientists to finish their training.”

Consulting companies such as McKinsey & Co. and Gartner have forecast a huge gap between the need for enterprise data skills and the supply of talent over the next few years.

A number of companies and organizations are moving to fill that gap. IBM earlier this year launched its online Big Data University, while the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences announced an analytics certification program. The University of California at Irvine’s extension program also just unveiled a predictive analytics online certificate program.

“More progressive companies are developing internal centers of excellence that help develop the skills necessary for the analytics communities, and they share best practices,” Maxwell says. “This type of effort requires scale and is usually seen more in very large companies. There are also quite a few services companies that are beginning to offer training specific to those topics.”

Other highlights from NewVantage’s big data executive survey:

  • 37 percent of respondents ranked their enterprise’s current analytics capabilities as less than adequate
  • 70 percent of respondents said they are hiring or plan to hire data scientists in the near future
  • 51 percent of respondents said finding IT professionals with strong data management skills and familiarity with new technologies that apply to big data is challenging
  • 50 percent of respondents said finding and hiring business leaders and managers who can identify and optimize business opportunities in big data is difficult
  • Only 2 percent of respondents reported having no problems finding the right big data talent and skilled resources

NewVantage released the first part of its big data executive survey in October.

More than 50 executives from American Express, Bank of America, General Electric, the U.S. Department of  Defense and other large enterprises answered 65 detailed questions regarding their big data initiatives and staffing plans. Respondents included CIOs, CTOs, data and analytics executives and lines-of-business heads.

Christopher Nerney ( is a freelance writer in upstate New York. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.


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