Preparing Your Business for Big Data by Nurturing Staff

October 21, 2014 Dave Cavan

Big Data is a huge buzzword right now and for good reason. There are some phenomenal success stories particularly in sales and marketing.

But despite these successes, many companies are struggling to extract value from Big Data including companies like Google. Companies that embark upon a big data project without the right expectations, resources or planning, sink a lot of money into these projects for no reasonable gain. Business leaders are justifiably weary of the risks of Big Data projects.

Matt Asay recently published an excellent piece on Big Data’s winners and the answer is not the technology providers but rather users like you. There will be some big winners amongst technology providers, but now there are many companies that are creating tools to make Big Data accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Do you have the right resources and planning capacity to capitalize on Big Data?

Preparing for the Data Deluge

We have already shared our thoughts on how technology trends are going to result in a lot more data from sensors on the manufacturing floor, external sources throughout the supply chain, and external and internal data on your customers and markets.

Being able to deal with all of this data is going to require a big increase in data literacy throughout the organization.

The time to deal with this gap is now. The competition for data scientists (a label that has been around for 50 years, but has gained cachet with the advent of big data) is too fierce for most medium sized companies, but very soon you are not going to need a data scientist to benefit from Big Data.

Closing the Gap

Hiring isn’t the solution to dealing with a gap in data literacy because the gap is global. McKinsey estimates the shortage to be 140 000 to 190,000 people with analytics expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on analysis of Big Data in the US alone.

You can start preparing your company for big data by starting to nurture your data talent

I deal with a lot of companies and there is always at least one person who really gets the value of data. These people aren’t necessarily your math and stats people. Rather they are people who:

  • know how to extract business value from data;
  • dig through data to find answers;
  • get excited about the possibilities of data;
  • know how to connect data to things that matter.

And, because these people are already part of the company, they have the advantage of knowing your business more intimately than any outside hire.

Nurturing Your Data Talent

  1. Identify your internal data stars - based on the above characteristics, you probably already have a good idea who these people are in your organization.
  2. Start preparing them to be data heroes by encouraging them to do things with data. Maybe your company isn’t ready to be completely data driven, but pockets are. Empower them by using data to guide decisions.
  3. Identify where skills are lacking, e.g. Excel, statistics, and encourage them to take courses. The Digital Analytics Association is doing some excellent work to both advocate for data and nurture analysts with mentoring programs, an online Award of Achievement in Digital Analytics program with UBC, and through their community. I know one DAA member who has completed the award of achievement and values it very highly.

Big Data will provide opportunities for companies that are ready to embrace them, but you need to have the right people in place and the time to prepare for these opportunities is now.

About the Author

Dave Cavan

Dave Cavan, Manager, Business Development, SYSPRO Canada. Dave’s background is education, accounting and information technology. He joined SYSPRO in 2012 bringing 30 years of experience with large enterprise solutions, including ERP solutions for a broad range of clients, helping to sell and implement some of the largest public sector ERP and human services projects. Dave’s expertise and experience enable him to effectively identify business challenges and organizational impediments to moving

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