Lack of skills holding back potential of Big Data, conference hears

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Companies agree value of analytics but can't find the staff to make it work

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6 November 2018 | 0

Almost 80% of Irish companies agree that Big Data offers significant business benefits but simply can’t get qualified staff to use it, according to a survey released to mark the first National Analytics Conference held at the Mansion House in Dubln today.

The report by the Analytics Institute, EY and UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School, also found that two thirds of Irish businesses plan to recruit more analytics staff in the next year, yet 79% of those surveyed cited difficulties in recruiting people with the requisite skills. Furthermore, just 25% agreed that Government support is sufficient to meet their needs as they face these challenges.

Commenting on the findings, Analytics Institute of Ireland chief executive Lorcan Malone said: “As the first significant research into analytics use in the Irish market, the report clearly shows businesses in Ireland see the value in utilising analytics to improve performance and competitiveness. Eighty per-cent of companies surveyed cited a change in how products and services are provided to the customer, with a further 59% citing a change in revenue model demonstrating the direct impact of analytics on business strategy. Of those surveyed, 62% said that analytics is having a positive and measurable impact on the bottom line.”

More than a quarter of Irish businesses surveyed (27%) reported spending over €1 million on analytics this year, with 69% planning to increase spending on analytics next year.

“Rapidly-advancing technology, talent shortages and regulatory change are re-writing the future of business in Ireland – a changing business environment needs a changed approach,” said Eoin O’Reilly, partner and head of data analytics at EY.

“Most businesses have access to data with completely transformative potential, yet it appears that the ‘human’ element is a challenge being faced by many. We need to ensure a solid pipeline of talent across the STEM spectrum to address the current deficit, and businesses leaders must focus now on future-proofing their existing workforce through training and development. Ensuring an organisation has data-savvy managers as well as technical experts is the magic formula to moving from insight to action.”

The report found evidence of strong engagement with analytics among senior management, yet it appeared that in spite of this engagement, culture and organisational structures were a barrier. Moving from insight to action was cited as the number one challenge. A majority (60%) of those surveyed cited lack of budget and organisational commitment as their biggest pain point, while 56% said a culture of decision-making based on intuition rather than on data existed in their organisations.

Icon Professor of Business Analytics at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Michael O’Neill said: “With proven and acknowledged benefits on the bottom line, cultural and organisational factors will need to improve for the power of analytics to be maximised. Given legacy structures within organisations, this will part will take some time to remedy, but given the financial impacts and engagement of senior stakeholders, we can expect this to change.

“Embedding a culture of analytics requires work, and buy-in from stakeholders across the organisation. It’s important that analytics and emerging technologies aren’t seen as a ‘tech issue,’ rather businesses should focus on training people from all sides of the organisation to optimise the opportunity that data presents for business and operational success in the future.”

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