big data - redefining the skills required for IT

What disruptive technology will impact the IT industry most in the coming years?

Big data is definitely one of the most talked-about trends across all industries. The availability of huge amounts of data, and our increasing ability to utilize it are already transforming the way businesses are run. In the coming years we expect more businesses will turn to big data for data-driven intelligence that creates competitive advantage and drives business growth.    

How does big data redefine the skills required for the future IT workforce?

The big data shift is driving a growing demand for data-savvy professionals who are capable of sifting through vast amounts of data and recognizing patterns and trends. A new job title – the data scientist – is on the rise. Although data analysts and data scientists are both data-focused roles, they differ in that a data analyst focuses on the interpretation of data from the past; while a data scientist explores data in such a way as to provide forecasting or insight into the future. In other words, a data analyst summarizes the past, while a data scientist strategizes for the future. What further sets a data scientist apart from a data analyst is that a data scientist has the knowledge to create new algorithms to tackle open-ended business problems; on the other hand, a typical data analyst is more accustomed to using existing tools to answer predefined questions. In addition to the technical skills, data scientists must also have strong business acumen, coupled with ability to clearly communicate to the management team.

What is the outlook for talent supply-demand?

Nothing says more about the big data skills shortage than the rising salaries: the Financial Times reports that in the UK the demand for big data professionals has already pushed their average salary to £55,000 – 31% higher than the average IT position. The same trend is observed in the US. And the gap between supply and requisite demand for deep analytical talent is very likely to widen in the coming years. McKinsey projects that by 2018 the United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to make data-based decisions.

What approach should organizations take to close the skills gap?

Developing a thoughtful recruitment and retention strategy well-attuned to the motivations of this highly sought-after talent is the key. In the long term, the solution to the skills shortage rests on the education system. I’m glad universities are taking note of the growing demand for data expertise: data-science courses and programs are being set up around the globe to stem the skills shortage. However, it will take time for these institutional efforts to bridge the gap. In the meantime, the scarcity of data scientists means successfully attracting and retaining this talent is crucial to the business bottom line.  


Jochen Schoenmaeckers, Global Director - IT Industry vertical, Randstad Global Client Solutions

Connect with Jochen on LinkedIn


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