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Shortage of Skills Holding Back Analytics Growth

A new survey finds the majority of enterprises use analytics, but a lack of skilled employees and management sponsorship are impeding progress with the technology.

As analytics grows in importance among enterprises, predictions about a shortage of employees with the required skills are beginning to alarm managers of IT departments and business units alike.  What expertise, exactly, do employees need?  A new study conducted by Lavastorm Analytics of 425 people “in the analytics community” sheds light on what skills current employees find most valuable in themselves and in others.

Respondents clearly believe analytics is a critical business strategy: 82.8 percent either agree or strongly agree that “analytics drives our day-to-day decisions more than past experiences, intuition, and gut feel.”  However, 18.8 percent of respondents say the “lack of skills/training/education, either for specific analytic techniques or specific tools” is the biggest factor holding organizations back from using analytics in this way.  This was at the top of the list for respondents in financial services and the software and Internet industry.  Lack of funding or resources came in second (17.6 percent) and was the top complaint for business services and telecommunications respondents, followed by inadequate support from executives (at 9.7 percent). Lack of data integration, a frequent compliant heard at TDWI, ranked fourth at 8.8 percent.

When it comes to analytics, IT and business departments <em>both</em> have analytic resources in 62.4 percent of organizations; in 58 percent of these enterprises, the resources function independently, and in 42 percent they collaborate. 

The report notes that 65.4 percent of enterprises agree that they have a “shortage of people with the skills to analyze and glean insights from data;” that’s higher for respondents working in healthcare (where 77 percent agree) and financial services (73 percent agree).  Seventeen percent neither agree nor disagree. 

Asked about the top three analytic skills or experiences that are “most necessary for you to be successful in your current role,” critical thinking/questioning came out on top (at 43.6 percent), followed by “statistics, math, or other quantitative skills” (41.7 percent), “database or query language skills and experience” (32.3 percent) and “analytics tool training (31.4 percent).

However, what you do determines what skills you put at the top of the list.  For example, almost three-quarters (74 percent) of data scientists thought statistics, math, or quantitative skills were their most important skills; 39 percent of business analytics chose database or query language skills, and 38 percent thought it was critical thinking/questioning.  Over half (52 percent) of executives and managers chose critical thinking, while half of respondents in IT chose statistics/math, the same percent that selected analytic tool training.

There’s a strong parallel between what those working in the field say are the top skills they need for success and the skills their organizations are looking for.  Respondents, who could choose up to three skills, put statistics/math at the top of the list (47.8 percent, followed by analytics tool training (40.4 percent) and database/query skills at 31.8 percent); critical thinking came in at 28.1 percent.  Unsurprisingly, data scientists put statistics/math at the top, IT developers chose analytic tool training first, as did those in heathcare and software and Internet.

In a prepared statement, Drew Rockwell, CEO of Lavastorm Analytics, pointed out the “supply and demand gap that, left unaddressed, will stall the obvious advantages of data-driven decision-making.”  He explained that, “Creative strategies are required to deal with this gap. While education and training are part of the solution, traditional supply will never keep up with explosive demands -- the gap will get bigger ... A combination of education and training, and powerful and increasingly easy-to-use new self-service analytic platforms, are required to match supply with demand.”

Personnel resources aren’t the only impediment to analytics growth.  More than a third (38.3 percent) say inadequate self-service tools and reports hurt or prevent access to data.  IT’s data governance policies come in second (at 38 percent), followed by “IT does not have the data in the data warehouse” (at 35.3 percent) and “incompatible formats/lack of data model” (at 34.8 percent).  Data governance was most often selected by business analysts, data scientists, and IT developers.

The survey also highlights the need for better training of existing staff.  Nearly a third (29.5 percent) cite the “lack of skills/knowledge to use the tools/reports that are available to me” as an impediment to success. 

The report is available at no cost, though registration is required for access, here.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of the Business Intelligence Journal and BI This Week newsletter. You can contact him here.

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