Of course I know luck has nothing -- or at least little -- to do with your abilities to mine data and model it effectively. But if you've got analytic talent, you have an enviable skill -- one that enterprises covet.
And all the more power to you if you know how to speak the language of the business. As an analyst capable of explaining results in a way users and executives can easily understand and pin decisions on, well, you've got the makings of a fantastic career.
The need for analytic talent cropped up again and again at SAS Global Forum Executive Conference, held earlier this week, as one insider and expert after another noted the disparity between corporate need and available bodies. Cameron Davies, an analytics executive at Disney Parks and Resorts, stressed the importance of nurturing internal analytic talent in one session, while Shawn Hushman, an analytics vice president at Kelley Blue Book, did the same in another. And Alex Martins, CEO at The Orlando Magic, said his organization is always on the lookout for fresh analytic talent, ready to steal it away if it can.
Tom Davenport, author and widely respected industry thought leader, extolled the virtues of the chief analytics officer (CAO) -- in function if not by exact name. Fellow panelists, including Hushman and Stacy Blanchard, an analytics lead with the Accenture Analytics practice, agreed. Companies need a C-level executive leading the analytics charge, be that a CAO, a chief strategist, or a chief intelligence officer. Perhaps CIOs may even morph into or shepherd along such an individual, suggested Thornton May, another industry thought leader.
Accenture SAS Analytics Group research, released Tuesday at the conference, reinforces the prevailing belief that demand for analytic skills is on the upswing. A fourth-quarter 2011 survey of 258 US business professionals shows talent upgrade as the major focus for increased analytics spending in 2012. Eight in 10 respondents investing in business analytics over the next 12 months said they plan to upgrade analytical talent. Sixty-nine percent said they'll do so by improving staff analytical skills, while 55 percent indicated hiring for new talent is in order as well.
Ebay, a data powerhouse, is keenly aware of analytics importance. Work teams "need to integrate analysts as part of their core team and to be receptive to new ideas. We develop high-functioning teams through strategic hiring and we address the skill gaps with training and a lot of coaching -- the organization needs to have deep analytical talent, not just data pushers," said Robin Chiang, eBay's director of experimentation management, evolution and culture change, in a supplemental interview to the survey.
An underlying concern is that companies are buying business analytics hardware and tools without first getting the right talent in place to reap value from them, Accenture SAS Analytics Group suggests in the report. The research provides the evidence: Only a third of survey respondents indicated that they had achieved or exceeded return on investments in business analytics, for example.
Analytics front-runners are in part distinguishable by their recognition of data as an asset and their ability to give the business access to the right, quality data. "Those companies believe they have the right talent in place."
What about you? Does your company have the right analytics talent in place? If not, what sorts of skills is it missing?