Analysts Come Hither

Got analytics talent? Lucky you.

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?

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors,, and others.

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Re: Jobs
  • 5/2/2012 8:18:33 AM

Hi, Daniel.

I'm simply reporting on a study of the demand for those jobs.  (And, of course, they are likely to get filled -- at least, most of them.)

Re: Jobs
  • 5/2/2012 8:17:11 AM

Hi, Pierre.

It's the other way around, too.  The amount of talent here already simply from the schools we have is precisely the reason many high tech firms have located or relocated here.

Re: Internal talent might be better at analytics
  • 4/30/2012 9:07:57 PM

You've hit a key factor - time.  If time is needed to develop the anaswers, then an internal team of savvy employees would have enough understanding to select models and data that fit the structure of the business.  This would avoid time wasted on analysis that do not closely fit the business needs to be answered.

Re: Need still there
  • 4/30/2012 2:24:37 PM

@Maryam, can you give a couple specifics on what key areas need more analytics in place? One of the best features of this site is real-time, real-world insight from practitioners, which is especially helpful when it's as specific as privacy concerns allow!

Need still there
  • 4/30/2012 12:37:45 PM

I think it's critical that companies engage in analytics especially in the current economic environment however I am still seeing a lack of analytics in key areas that could drive efficiencies on multiple levels. There is still the understanding gap.

Re: Jobs
  • 4/30/2012 5:58:23 AM
1 saves

Joe, what made you to think that the head count is going to be getting doubled with in next 05 years. Any initiatives are there to train more peoples into analytical/data mining sector or chance for job opportunities.

Re: It's really true!
  • 4/30/2012 12:03:22 AM

@ Shawn

"Nothing would be worse than bringing that talent on board only to have executives unready to hear or act on their data "

So true. Also this example can be extended to deploying advanced analytics' systems. If the executives are the ones that make decisions on the basis of word of mouth or their unsubstantiated observations, then its useless to invest on systems and people who would then be useless to organization. Internal culture development is more important first.

Internal talent might be better at analytics
  • 4/29/2012 11:53:40 PM

The companies must learn to distinguish between two things. Do they want talent for analytics-based systems that involve compex analytics or do they want talent for implementing new variety of analytics in an already existing system? If its the latter case, then inhouse staff, if its reasonable on analytics, can be trained and taught new ways of producing analytics to fulfill business needs instead of external recruitment. Inhouse talent development will not only develop the culture of organic growth, it will also avoid recruitment costs (not only monetary but adverse effects of changes). Also existing employees would be better aware of business needs and it wont take them time to understand the purpose of advanced analytics deployment in organization. 

Re: It's really true!
  • 4/29/2012 6:31:53 PM

Beth, as you say, everyone should be involved including the consumer. We as consumers need to become more accustomed to answering the questions and being forthwith with the correct information companies need to make better decisions for their companies.

Re: Jobs
  • 4/29/2012 1:48:38 AM

Joe, that's a very high increase even for 6 year period. Massuchusetts attracts a lot of talent to begin with, so there's some hope of matching demand and supply. I wonder about other regions that have high demand but not as many sources to draw supply.  

Thanks for sharing that stat.

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