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5 keys to embracing today's transformed, data-driven workforce

We're entering a new era in business today - one in which intuitive thought alone is no longer enough, and corporate leaders need to balance their subjective opinions with cold, hard data. In the 21st century, it's clear that analytics are a key differentiating factor for companies looking to beat their competitors.

That means a lot needs to change for any company that wants to get ahead. It's about a lot more than just altering one's approach and collecting more data - it's also a matter of realigning the workforce and making a stronger commitment to database management and innovative thinking.

According to InformationWeek, major changes lie ahead for all industries that delve into analytics. Nick Millman, who has spent 20 years engineering and implementing data-driven solutions at Accenture, explained that a redesigned staff and a new focal point are necessary for businesses to remain competitive.

"Data is the lifeblood of digital organizations," Millman stated. "To find and unlock this kind of data-driven competitive advantage, however, business leaders need to develop a more data-savvy workforce. We're starting to see a transition to a more data-oriented workforce, in which existing roles take on a revived importance and new roles have arisen from the need to manage and fully exploit data."

For companies in every industry to meet the newfound requirements of the data-driven world, they need to take five tangible steps.

Understand everyone's roles
Perhaps the most important step companies need to take is to understand the many roles that go into data-driven success. It begins with solid leadership at the top, and that means bringing in a chief data officer who can oversee all operations. Past that, it's also beneficial to have data stewards for maintaining quality and data scientists who can build complex models. Like anything else in business, analytics is all about talent.

Take a team-oriented approach
It's vital that businesses think about their data efforts not merely in terms of what each individual employee can do, but rather about what their teams can do collectively. If you have scientists, stewards and CDOs all working together on the same page, you hopefully have people whose strengths and weaknesses complement each other, so that they can help each other achieve more. The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.

Branch out in recruiting
Analytics success is often the product of companies branching out and making more creative recruiting and hiring decisions. There are plenty of talented people out there who might potentially have what it takes to be data champions, even if they technically lack the formal experience or training "required." In a growing field, it's necessary to find new people with the potential to grow into their positions. This may in fact be a differentiating factor in a competitive industry.

Always emphasize learning
Data science is a field that's rapidly growing, and all professionals must be open-minded at all times, willing to learn new skills. InformationWeek emphasized that this learning should remain team-oriented - rather than absorb new knowledge of analytics simply for their own needs, people should collaborate with their co-workers and help everyone grow together as analytical professionals.

Think about "buy versus build"
Not every company has the high-tech tools and the talent in-house that they need to achieve success. That's why they may need to consider some creative strategies for undertaking analytics - these may include bringing in third-party advisors to help them make key decisions. There's a great deal of talent out there, and companies just need to be willing to explore it.

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