Big data strategy discussions too often focus on the immense data volumes and almost always overlook the people who generate the critical insights. Learn more about the essential skills and roles for a successful big data strategy.
The Human Factor in Big Data
Most businesspeople know that big data success takes more than just the latest technology. The right big data strategy (aligned to broader bigger-picture corporate objectives), strong big data processes (in reporting and governance, for example) and big data cultures (with strong commitments to data-driven decision making) are critical ingredients, too.
Still, big data strategy discussions too often focus – even obsess on – the immense data volumes, the dizzying range of data infrastructure options and the shiny new technology du jour. And they almost always overlook one crucial variable: the people who generate the critical insights that reveal game-changing opportunities.
People as Big Data Difference Makers
In fact, having the right people and teams may be the big data best practice. But, according to a 2014 IDG Enterprise survey of 750 IT decision makers, 40% of big data projects challenged by a skills shortage.
It’s not just a specific technical big data skill set or single discipline that companies need, but rather a range of expertise and knowledge. Yes, technical chops are a must-have. But a broader understanding of big data best practices in specific operational contexts – from sales and service, to finance and the supply chain – are also essential.
Required Big Data Skills and Roles for a Successful Big Data Strategy:
Senior leaders who can craft a clear vision and rally the troops as to why big data is so important, how it can be used to transform the business and what the major impacts will be; such leaders are necessary to build a big data cultures as well.
Viewed in some circles as “the sexiest job of the 21st century”, data scientists are most likely to have advanced degrees and training in math and statistics; they will often lead the deep data-diving expeditions and bold explorations into the largest and most diverse data sets, seeking the subtlest patterns.
People who know the right questions to ask relative to specific operations and functions, with a real focus on performance trends; they will regularly interrogate big data to identify how specific metrics fit within broader strategic contexts and relate to market megatrends.
Because so much of the potential value of big data comes from consumer-facing operations, marketing executives can and should get ramped up (and rapidly!) on the full range of big data practices to optimize digital advertising, customer segmentation and promotional offerings.
The Bottom Line
Yes, the right big data infrastructure and robust big data analytical capabilities are critical for success. But human and cultural factors are more likely to be the difference makers. A strong big data organization, with the right big data skills, knowledge and experiences cannot be overlooked. The brightest big data minds know that people – smart seasoned pros who get both the business and the data – are the secret sauce when it comes to big data success.
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