Skilled staff are key to making the most of big data

In the modern world of continuous technological improvement, data is increasingly becoming larger, quicker and more varied.

In fact, estimates show that 90 per cent of the world’s data was created over the past two years. This aptly-named ‘big data’ is therefore becoming increasingly important to businesses and organisations, something that the UK government is well aware of. It pledged £189 million in funding for big data in autumn 2013 and for this reason, among others, the UK’s data agenda is said to be world-leading, with over 10,000 public datasets published online.

The ability to understand and utilise this information – big data analytics – is key to assessing issues and opportunities in companies’ supply chains. For instance, companies using analytics to review all past dealings can identify common themes and gain valuable intelligence that can be fed back into the business for ideas about future developments.For manufacturers, in particular, the correct use of big data analytics can lead to shorter order-to-delivery cycles.

It is therefore well-established big data can benefit companies, but worryingly, very few businesses actually implement big data analytics. A global survey has suggested this is due to shortages of skilled staff. Some 46 per cent of those surveyed cited this as the most common barrier to implementing analysis. Indeed, those few companies that have successfully harnessed big data were able to do so because, as well as incorporating big data analytics into their business strategy and operations, they have the necessary talent to produce actionable insights from the data.

Though big data analytics and technology are intrinsically linked, these are rendered useless if a business does not have people with the necessary skills to conduct the analysis and share the results appropriately. It is because of this that e-skills UK predicts an increase of 13 per cent to 23 per cent per year in demand for big data staff between now and 2017. Companies should perhaps consider outsourcing big data analytics to specialists who can consider the business’s unique requirements and culture to determine the most effective approach.

Charlotte Eaton is a consultant at Procuring

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