Businesses Want Analytics, Need Analysts

Businesses want data analytics, but they’re having trouble finding analysts to actually crunch the data.

That’s according to just-released survey data from consultancy firm NewVantage Partners, which gathered responses from more than fifty corporate executives and government leaders, including General Electric and the U.S. Department of Defense. Respondents’ titles included CIO, CTO, Chief Data Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, and Chief Information Architect; around 30 percent were C-suite executives.

The survey found that 85 percent of those organizations had some sort of “Big Data” plan in progress. On top of that, some 80 percent of respondents believed those kinds of plans involved more than one corporate line-of-business (i.e. an internal unit). While many data projects in the works targeted customer service, respondents indicted they were exploring the integration of data analytics with 17 different business functions.

Despite that interest in data, however, respondents admitted their organizations lacked talent and resources to carry out many of these initiatives. Around 70 percent said they planned to hire data scientists, but had some trouble finding suitable talent.

“Based on our survey findings, we believe that most organizations seek more thoughtful strategies as well as the right talent and organizational structure to fulfill the promise and potential of Big Data,” Paul Barth, co-founder and managing partner of NewVantage Partners, wrote in a statement accompanying the results. “Thus far, many of them are still working hard to develop the requisite skills, processes and systems to create coherent, productive data strategies.”

It’s no secret that, with the growing interest in data analytics, those capable of analyzing enormous amounts of data can earn sizable paychecks. Over the summer, business-intelligence software maker SiSense surveyed some 400 data professionals from around the world and found the average salary ranged from $55,000 (for a data analyst) to $132,000 (for a vice president of analytics). The majority of respondents reported earning progressively higher amounts of money between 2011 and 2012, and anticipated making still more in 2013: a good sign for the industry as a whole.

Dr. Dobb’s 2012 Salary Survey also found a rise in salaries over the past few years for business analysts, programmers/analysts, and systems analysts.

Solid salaries and job prospects suggest a lot of demand for a particular occupation—and perhaps a growing shortage of people to fill that role. A much-quoted report by McKinsey & Company’s Business Technology Office found that the need for data-analytics talent would exceed supply by 50 to 60 percent by 2018. Whether or not that comes to pass, companies could be sidestepping the whole shortage-of-analysts issue by putting analytics tools in the hands of workers without extensive training in analytics or business intelligence: a recent study commissioned by Karmasphere found 70 percent of respondents (all of them North American data professionals) wished for a self-service way to access Hadoop, a framework utilized by many corporations for data-crunching.

So you have businesses increasingly interested in data analysis, but facing a shortage of actual analysts. You have businesses curious about self-service analytics tools, and IT vendors (too many to name here) building software with that sort of easy-to-use functionality. You have analysts more prized than ever, at least from a salary perspective, but also embroiled in the constant shifting of an increasingly dynamic field.

In short: interesting times to be interested in analytics.