Why you should mind the (data) skills gap

Why you should mind the (data) skills gap – and what you can do to side-step it

The way a business interacts with its customers, and what those customers expect from businesses is changing, and changing at rapid speed. As consumers, we are all becoming more comfortable with sharing aspects of our lives in the digital world, whether that’s buying products and services online or sharing our innermost thoughts on social media. Our willingness to engage with and embrace everything online provides brands with an enormous opportunity to develop a much more purposeful and meaningful relationship with us as current or potential customers. Every click of a button, every share of a page – all these actions now hold meaning or indicate intention. For brands to understand and make sense of these actions, in a way which will positively impact their business, new skills are needed. Individuals who are able to analyse customer data and understand how to translate that analysis into meaningful business decisions are hot property as those with data analytics skills and experience are in short supply.

According to a 2015 Harvey Nash-KPMG survey of Chief Information Officers across the Asia Pacific region, a vast majority believe that their organizations would be better able to keep up with the pace of change if not for this pesky skills gap. Data analytics is gaining traction, but there remains a lack of qualified individuals even as demand continues to boom. However, the solution is right there in front of you, in your existing pool of employees. Putting the power of information in the hands of your business, can and should start with enhancing the potential of people who already know your brand inside and out.

Data analytics as a skill-set needs to be demystified. Good data “scientists” in businesses perform very much the same tasks as a business analyst would. So no, you don’t need someone with a PhD in statistics, but you do need someone who possesses an in-depth understanding of your business and its concerns. Regular skills training can help build greater capabilities among existing teams, and help your company catch up to the latest analytic trends, making the most of your data and opportunities. Training people who are already familiar with the needs of your business will enable you to better connect with customers at scale. It’s not just about getting up to speed, but also being able to stay on-trend with future developments. Equipping your current employees with data analytic skills can also provide a foundation for them to drive new product innovation, based on new understandings of consumer demand.

How then to go about finding the right training for your people? The most important thing is to find trainers who understand the language and world of business, who can help you translate raw data insights into actionable business insights. Cleaning up your data will do very little unless they can teach you how to effectively utilize this information for your business. Look for a training company that takes an honest and straightforward approach to the world of data, who can cover both the theoretical and practical aspects of data analytics. Get trainers who empower their trainees with an understanding of analytics that will help them get to the heart of information and discern usable insights. Some might try to sell you technology that isn’t right for your particular needs, so find one who will take the time to understand what it is that drives your business, who can point out the right tools for you, and teach you how to use them well. Hire trainers who don’t shy away from answering the difficult questions about data analytics.

Through training your staff, it is entirely possible to cleverly side-step the skills gap instead of waiting on the vagaries of the hiring pool. The people you already have are in the best position to do your brand a world of good in the new online marketplace, from finding the right audiences for your marketing efforts, to making changes to your digital infrastructure and therefore better serving your customers. The sooner you take action, the sooner your business will benefit. Skills gap? What skills gap?

Aleetza Senn

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Sparkline