Are data and analytics skills more important than industry experience?

Data and analytics skills could be more important in business than industry experience, management experience, or a second language, research from Alteryx has revealed.

The Business Grammar Report surveyed UK business leaders and finds that over a quarter (26 per cent) consider data and analytics skills to be the most important skill or capability for a potential new employee.

In total, 60 per cent consider data and analytics skills one of the top two skills or capabilities, with industry experience coming just above (69 per cent). Less than a quarter (22 per cent) now feel that multilingualism is one of the top two qualities for potential hires, despite the fact that a report from as recent as 2014 suggested two thirds of British businesses identified a demand for second languages.

Out of IT and into line of business users

Alteryx research finds that the shift in the importance placed on data and analytics has also been reflected in the way businesses manage and interact with data. Recognising that data can no longer be confined to the IT department or technical specialists, the study uncovers that only 15 per cent of UK businesses still leave data analysis to an IT or business intelligence team. In fact, 31 per cent of business leaders are already empowering business users with self-service analytics tools to help them quickly solve daily business challenges.

Data analytics is now considered so integral to business that four out of five (79 per cent) business leaders surveyed feel that data analytics should be a compulsory part of all MBA programmes.

‘Our research found that UK business leaders would be willing to offer a 30 per cent higher salary to someone who is data proficient over one who isn’t,’ says Stuart Wilson, VP EMEA, Alteryx, Inc. ‘The change in attitude that’s taking place in boardrooms today shows the value of being data-savvy and how important it is that effective analytics are made available to business users. It makes sense to equip every business analyst with self-service tools that allow them to ask questions of their data.’

Driving data decisions

Decisions about how data is looked after are spreading throughout organisations. In total, 40 per cent of those surveyed reported that decisions about how data is accessed, integrated and analysed still lie with the IT team, but 26 per cent report this is the purview of departmental leaders and 29 per cent attributed this responsibility to the executive leadership. Furthermore, over two thirds (68 per cent) feel it’s become easier to get the data needed for decision making over the last year.

‘Most organisations depend on the IT department or business intelligence team for analytics-based decision-making, but things are changing. Business leaders are demanding more agile and flexible insight. Organisations can boost the speed and quality of analytics by adopting a ‘DIY approach’ and providing self-service analytics tools,’ Wilson explains.

‘In the last few years, we have seen tremendous change in the data landscape,’ says Andy Cotgreave, senior technical evangelist at Tableau. ‘We’ve moved from a place where data was hidden away in the darkest corners of an organisation to a point where it can be harnessed by almost anyone. Every business user has the opportunity to uncover value in data, and the research from Alteryx shows this has been recognised at all levels in UK business.

‘Data has opened up competition in the modern business world – we know that the answers companies want are out there, waiting to be discovered. The winners are those organisations which equip and educate their teams to find and share them,’ Cotgreave continues.

Challenges remain

The research highlights that a number of challenges still exist around data analytics in business. When it comes to getting the data needed for decisions, incomplete data is the biggest problem for 43 per cent of business leaders. Just under half (46 per cent) of the time, data received from another department or business division needs to be cleaned, repaired, or re-organised before it’s ready for analysis. Only 31 per cent of those surveyed report that their teams have all the data they need in one place, with 41 per cent reporting that they use data from more than five separate sources for decision making.

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