According to a poll conducted by KDnuggets, salaries in the analytics and data mining space are up in 2011. While there is no direct proof that the data explosion is increasing the need for business intelligence (BI) or business analytics (BA) specialists, it’s only natural that the increase in BI software adoption and demand for analytics should promote the growth of BI job offerings.
So, if your organization already has a BI or BA application in place, or if you’re going to be implementing one in the near future, you might soon be needing a data geek.
BI Is a Growing Industry
The BI space is, by every measure, an evolving one, and yet to be adopted by many organizations. According to Gartner, the BI and analytics market is expected to grow to US$10.8 billion in 2011. What this means is that companies are becoming more data management–oriented. Information and its analysis are being increasingly valued as companies strive to avoid gut-based decisions and improve their mechanisms for a complete view of how the organization is performing. And BI initiatives are being positioned among the highest priorities for many organizations.
While many large organizations are using state-of-the-art BI solutions to power their decision-making processes, some others, especially small to medium businesses (SMBs), are just starting to discover the use of BI solutions for data analysis and for supporting their business decisions. And companies that are adopting data-driven strategies are also upping the use of tools to interpret data from a wider variety of sources.
Traditional sources of information—such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, based on relational databases—are still being used extensively. But other, nontraditional sources, such as text documents and external data coming from social media content, are increasing the need for specialized software—and personnel with analytical skills—to mine the data coming from these sources.
Why Is Data Analysis So Important?
During the economic turbulence of the last few years it became clear for many companies that they needed a way to gain visibility into their operations to optimize their business—they needed to gain control and increase performance. A logical step was to look for software that enables them to analyze data and increase the accuracy of their decisions. Many organizations are in a transitional phase—improving their common reporting and measurement capabilities or reinforcing their financial planning and budgeting, but also going forward to mine data from very different types of sources.
By acquiring business analytics software—and personnel to carry out this type of work—it is possible to replace the traditional information processing method, which used raw data taken directly from operational systems, with new tools for processing the data, and using that output to make tactical and strategic decisions. This step has the potential to improve the decision-making process, if you have the right set of tools and the right people—data geeks.
These organizations are typically medium-sized companies with smaller budgets, rather than big corporations, but with a huge workforce potential and a budget to acquire at least some, if not all, of the complete and complex set of BI and analytics features. Analysis and data visualization tools as well as specific business analytics software for finance, sales, and marketing can now be found in many organizations.
Along with acquiring these types of applications, organizations need to train their personnel to analyze the data, or hire specialists for the job.
So, as organizations are buying and deploying increasingly more BI and analytics applications, a new breed of professional is taking over this domain: the data scientist—known in hip circles as the data geek. And if your organization is involved in the process of selecting a new or better BI software tool, there is a high probability that you will need the services of this new type of information worker.
Data geeks and BI specialists have as their mission to manage large amounts of data—to collect it, analyze it, and show the results in a way appropriate to the audience. So, no matter if your data geek comes from inside or outside your organization, you need to know what to look for when selecting the right data geek for the job.
What You Need in a Data Geek
Some basic things to consider when looking for a data geek for your organization:
If you’re lucky, your data geek will be someone who simply enjoys handling information: preparing (i.e., cleansing, profiling, and transforming) data for analysis. Someone who can adapt to the fast pace of change in the BI space.
Remember, the driver is as important as the car. If you want to make the best use of your BI application, your organization needs the right people to exploit it. BI is not just about reporting and visualization anymore. It involves intensive and creative analysis, along with data management, to create value for an organization.
And you never know. In the process of exploring your new BI applications, you may discover your own inner data geek!
I welcome your thoughts—please leave a comment below, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
I’m curious; are any of the leading technical or business schools sharpening their focus on training people in BI? Do you foresee more programs aimed at producing BI or BA specialists who have a breadth of knowledge that spans the areas you mentioned here (computer science, statistics, etc) and also general commerce/economics/business?
Very interesting analysis of skill requirements for a business analyst.
It is interesting that while there has been a revolutionary change in the way businesses use data, our academic courses are still lagging behind.
Students with bachelors and masters degrees are entering the job market with outdated knowledge and irrelevant skills.
This is one of the articles I am going to quote to my students. We need more information like this.
Hi Jorge, We are based in South Africa. We have a DATA GEEK that satisfies every requirement stated in your article. Our DATA GEEKS name is InFull View, a solution we have designed to meet the need/requirements defined by business intelligence (BI) or business analytics (BA). We believe we can contribute and make a massive impact in any organisation by implimenting InFull View. I would enjoy feedback, critism, advice and assistance from you on delivering our product/solution to the emerging BI/BA market asap! my mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org as above… regards, Paul
Hi Jorge, Your comments are very well put. I will make two observations about this space.
First the focus on numerical and textural data analysis and interpretation has grown up on the back of the explosion in numerical and textural data storage capability over the last 30 years (and the applications that create this data - eg accounting & CRM software etc). We are now at the beginning of a new explosion in another type of data - pictorial data. It is only recently that this data has become available in large easily accessible quantities and already it forms the foundation of new and exciting social networking applications such as Facebook etc. These new social networking applications are creating huge quantities of pictorial data just as the old accounting and CRM applications did in the past. Data Geeks need to learn how to deal with this pictorial information quickly to maintain competitive advantage. This is a new skill which is even more visual than data analysis was in the past. Some new video analytics applications (eg people counting, crowd behaviour characterisation etc) are starting to scratch the surface of this new Data Geek sand pit. Prime Digital has spent the last few years developing the capability to collect this data and now Prime Digital is moving into the Pictorial Data Geek business.
The second point (a smaller one) is to observe that management needs to acquire more data geek skills to do their day to day job. At present those with the business knowledge (management) pass the data analysis tasks off to back room people (without business knowledge) to try and get them to come up with creative new information. This is a bit like handing your companies annual business strategy workshop over to the IT team - a recipe for disaster (or at least creative stagnation) in my view.
Brent Hills (Prime Digital Services Ltd in UK)
Thanks for this article. I think there are solutions out there that exist for the business user rather than the ‘data geek’. That’s one thing we had in mind when we built Bime, the Cloud BI solution (http://bimeanalytics.com). We wanted to make it as easy to use as possible, at the same time as providing advanced data analysis features. We think we have succeeded in striking the balance.
Thank you for you excellent and interesting comments. Please allow me to address them individually:
So far, I think a great portion of the BI community started its work on BI started in this space in an informal way, by accident, self interest, etc. But today, the number of schools that have started formal BI courses and programs is expanding. Without an extensive research, please take a look at this links with information regarding interesting programs related to BI:
Of course, besides a master degree we also have the option of a specific certification from a vendor, which might speed the process of getting your hands on a BI project/app.
Thank you for your kind comment. I agree with you that there is a gap in BI between academia and industry. This might be happening because of the speed of change in the BI industry, as well as the need to a better inter-relation between college and industry.Please check check the previous links provided and let me know your thoughts.
Interesting, I will send you a mail to check if we can have further conversations and know more about your software solution.
I’ve really enjoyed your comments. Agree that in today’s business world there is an urgent need in the way we deal with information, large amounts of semi-structured and non-structure data has to be analyzed. I would like to know more about your solution. Please let me know if I can make contact with you to talk about your work.
I do think that new applications like yours can help users with their data analysis requirements. By the way, you have a very interesting application I might say. Still, it might be some cases when you need a resource with the knowledge to handle your data analysis tasks. There is when you might want to consider using the help of a data geek. Also, I think in order to make the best use of a BI tool, some users will ave to change their mind set towards the use of BI tools. I’m talking a bit on the human side more than the tool.
Again thank you all and please let me know your thoughts.
For a slightly different take on attributes of a data analyst, see my BI This Week column this month, “Six Myths About Data Analysts.” http://tdwi.org/articles/2011/06/01/six-myths-data-analysts.aspx
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