Especially for large companies that have undertaken data-driven initiatives to improve their operations, there's a clear and present need to hire more employees to handle the heavy workload that analytics entails. Simply using data to handle one task is no sweat, but larger companies are looking to make data analysis a steady, recurring part of their daily operating routines. This requires a great deal more manpower.
Companies first need more workers to assist with data collection, designing surveys and other tools that can help reach out to consumers and mine them for information. They also need technicians who can handle storage requirements and work to ensure data quality. Finally, they need analysts who can look through large clusters of information and find trends that are relevant and actionable.
All told, it's a lot to ask, and many companies are unsure whether they can find all the qualified professionals necessary to handle all of their data-related tasks. Reform is needed in the education system to make sure today's colleges and universities crank out enough talent to face tomorrow's challenges.
Developing IT talent
According to Information Week, tech companies and higher education institutions are working together to bridge the gap and funnel more talented people into IT. Michael Rappa of North Carolina State University is one key player in this movement. Rappa works closely with the IT industry as the head of the school's Institute for Advanced Analytics, and he told Information Week that his attention to developing IT talent has created a broad sense of awareness about analytics among students.
"Only time will tell whether or not its efforts will pay off," Rappa said. "Universities are notoriously slow to change. Our own success is built on a productive and sustained partnership, which has been essential in moving the university as fast and as far as we've come today. It wouldn't have happened otherwise."
More mainstream appeal
Ideally, higher education would emphasize IT and analytics so much that big data would appeal to more than just the small tech niche at each university, instead becoming a subject with mainstream appeal. We're still a long way from that ideal, but according to Meredith Stowell, manager of academic initiatives and skills at IBM, we're moving in that direction.
"We're not only seeing graduate and master programs, we're starting to see it penetrate into undergraduate programs," Stowell told Information Week. "We are going to continue to see need for big data and analytic skills and new business analytics degree programs. We're also going to see more data science degree programs. We need all those skills."