Business Analytics Skills Now in High Demand for Midsize Business

By | Apr 13, 2012

Big Data is something even small and midsized businesses now need to worry about--every day, companies generate staggering amounts of information detailing everything from computer and storage use to IT efficiency and consumer preferences. The challenge doesn't lie in collecting this data, as there are many software offerings for that purpose, but in uncovering patterns that can benefit a company's bottom line. As a result of this need for in-depth discovery there is an increasing demand for employees with significant business analytics skills, a demand that may soon outpace supply.

Calling All Analysts

An article at SearchDataManagement discusses the recent findings of Gartner's 2012 CIO Agenda Report, which shows that analytics and business intelligence (BI) are now the highest tech priority across the globe for CIOs. This, in turn, is causing a shortage in the candidate market as companies struggle to fill newly created positions.

Part of this market pressure comes from the need for BI professionals to do more than simply crunch numbers; they must also be able to spin their findings accordingly and present them to CIOs and other management staff in an easily digestible format. In addition, many companies want their business analysts to examine statistics from social media initiatives and mobile advertising campaigns--things that fall outside the purview of traditional IT staff.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that many companies don't want to promote in-house IT pros or retrain them with new business analytics skills, preferring to seek out already trained graduates with the requisite abilities. But even finding the right person doesn't guarantee success, according to Stacey Blanchard of US-based consulting firm Accenture, as retaining BI talent can also be difficult.

Says Blanchard, "For the new generation, it is all about what they are doing to make a difference in this company and is that having an impact on the community or society. If they don't see that direct link, then they stay with you for a period, to get the name on the CV, then move on." In other words, if a business can't show a BI professional why what they're doing matters, right from the start, they risk losing the talent they're worked so hard to acquire.

A Lucrative Field

But while there may be a short-term gap in the number of BI pros available, educational institutions are quickly getting on board with the idea that the right kind of training equals significant student enrollment and high success rates in finding work after graduation. A recent article at The Stute, a student newspaper of the Stevens Institute of Technology, talks about the school's new master of science in business intelligence and analytics degree. Similar programs see graduates with an average of 15 job offers on the table once they compete their studies, with fully a third of these offers' starting salaries coming in at over $100,000 a year.

Daniel Derringer, a current full-time student in the Stevens program, says, "It is a great blend of IT and business fields to transform a company's data into market insight that allows the company to have an edge on the competition. In addition, these skills can be applied to nearly any company or industry, offering great potential to all of those entering the field."

Midsized firms have increasingly large amounts of data they need to sift through, but standard IT solutions can't provide the kind of in-depth analysis that generates necessary, market-based solutions. While demand for skilled BI professionals is on the rise and companies should expect a shortage in the field over the next few years, a new crop of highly trained, young and eager talent will soon be arriving--though they won't come cheap.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Become a fan of the program on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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