• Analytics trends: A widening talent gap, a deepening shortage

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    JESUS LAVA lll

    Every year since 2012, the ISACA (formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association) has been conducting a global survey of IT audit professionals to learn about the trends and challenges they face in their increasingly important profession. The 2015 survey results showed that two of the biggest challenges that organizations face are (1) the emergence of big data and analytics, and (2) staffing, sourcing, and skills development. Five years ago, these concerns weren’t even in the radar of IT audit professionals.

    In earlier articles in this series, I talked about how expanding connectivity and the pervasive use of mobile computing have allowed organizations to capture a wealth of data even as they struggle to harness the power of this information. As the ISACA survey results bear out, this difficulty can be traced partly to the inability of universities and colleges to produce data scientists fast enough to keep up with business demands.

    Certainly, these institutions can’t generate experienced analysts from a two- or four-year program: About 40 percent of respondents to a 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review survey indicated that they were having difficulty hiring analytical talent. And only 17 percent of “analytically challenged” firms say they have the talent they need.

    The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2018, there will be a need for around 181,000 professionals with deep analytical skills in the US alone, and a requirement for five times that number of talent with data management and interpretation capabilities. To complicate matters, there is no clear set of capabilities that define a “data scientist” because different problems require different skill sets.

    Getting creative in addressing the issue
    Throughout our discussions with several organizations, we saw that some business leaders have been addressing this problem by supplementing campus recruitment with creative alternatives.

    We have seen organizations collaborate directly with universities in building their data analytics programs. A classic example is Cisco Systems. The company launched an aggressive five-month training program in partnership with two universities to teach the fundamentals of data science to employees across all functions. To date, more than 200 employees have been trained. And for those who acquire the necessary skills, Cisco created a well-defined career path in data science, with several roles that offer increased responsibilities and compensation over time.

    Another example is something I saw at my previous employment stop: a well-known data analytics software company that offered software licenses to universities so that these institutions could teach the fundamentals of data science to students under a specific program. These students not only learned the fundamentals of analytics, they also became proponents of the software once they joined the labor force.

    With the rising number of analytics and data science programs at universities—more than 100 in the US alone—recruitment efforts in analytics are red hot today. Organizations that recruit at these campuses will probably find more success if they work closely with the educators who run internship and student project programs. Once recruited, these graduates are more likely to stay and do productive work if they have meaningful career paths and opportunities to work with professionals who have similar skills and backgrounds.

    Tapping the talent ecosystem
    Of course, analytics talent doesn’t have to be directly employed by an organization. Some companies choose to develop ecosystems of external providers such as Deloitte. Regardless of how talent is sourced, smart companies are realizing that analytical talent is critical to their success but is in woefully short supply. They know they must get serious about preparing or partnering with this strategic workforce if they hope to successfully execute their game plan.

    For the next article, I will talk about how the world of business and the world of science converge in Business Analytics.

    Author Jesus Lava 3rd is a director with the Risk Advisory group of Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd.—a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited—comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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