SOCIETY | Jan 19, 2017

Digital Skills: do we need Big Data experts?

One study by The Economist highlights the difficulties that companies have in recruiting professionals that are well versed in Digital Transformation processes

Recently The Economist Intelligence Unit published a report titled The Quest for Digital Skills in which it highlights the difficulties companies operating in various areas are encountering insofar as recruiting professionals with the digital skills that the market requires. The digital revolution, which has by now thoroughly permeated the economy, including the more traditional sectors, has influenced companies in all their spheres of interest and aspects. It is a rapidly expanding and constantly evolving phenomenon that requires perpetual adaptation.

The report indicates that companies are still unready to face the challenges of the new digital era: 94% of the sample examined declares that there exists within its organisation a digital divide, the depth of which depends on the sector analysed. Currently, the most sought after skills are essentially those dealing with security and privacy, but over the next 3 years the digital skills that are required could differ significantly.

Digital priorities now and in the future

Sectors in which the digital element is significant currently require professionals and skills that revolve around website and network security (42%), website and mobile application development (42%), digital marketing (41%) and software development (40%). 60% of pharmaceutical and biotech companies say that it is mainly the lack of appropriate talent that causes the digital divide within their organisations. The main difficulty lies in finding people that have the required digital skills and in-depth knowledge of the healthcare sector.

Within 3 years, digital priorities will change, and the skills companies will seek the most will have to do with Big Data analysis, which will more and more hold the key to “deciphering” the market, understanding and then anticipating consumer behaviour. While the focus on security will be less urgent, the demand for website and mobile app development skills will remain high, while demand will concurrently increase in two additional areas: digital strategy definition and related new business model development and “intelligent” development of new products.

By 2018 the demand for specific Big Data skills will have increased even further: the study estimates that the demand will increase from the current 38% to 43% and over the next three years the selection of a digital strategy will take on greater importance, moving from 35% to 39%, while smart product development is expected to grow by 5 percentage points from 32% currently.

Strategies in action

Every sector requires specific digital skills to overcome the digital divide: for example, mass distribution is interested in mobile and web development and in creating customised products to offer consumers through a multitude of platforms; the financial services and banking sector will continue to focus on website and network security, while the manufacturing sector which mostly pursues production efficiency, will mainly focus on Big Data analysis.

In order to secure the digital skills they need to develop their businesses, companies have begun to move along various fronts: currently 55%  provides their staff training on digital related issues directly while 47% have opted for outsourcing this service. New tendencies seem to be consolidating such as partnerships with tech companies, opening of new branches in areas with a broader digitally savvy workforce population, acquisitions of companies more for the skills of their employees than for the businesses themselves. Crowdsourcing, which is typical of the social ecosystem,  is another addition to these alternative digital growth models: 84% of companies are poised to use LinkedIn to research new solutions to their needs, with the assistance of their own reference community.

Further developments: the increasing use of data

By 2018, 48% of the companies interviewed expect Big Data skills and activities to increase compared to 40% currently.

IDC has calculated that in 2015 alone, banks spent 1.8 billion dollars on activities connected to data monitoring and analysis. As an example, Lloyds Bank invested 1 billion pounds sterling to launch its own Digital Transformation strategy; the RBS group has launched a 3.5 billion GBP plan for digital conversion, including the creation of an international talent scouting network and the construction of an outpost in Silicon Valley; the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is using Big Data to analyse the risk of commercial customers in order to issue warnings about any liquidity issues; the Spanish giant BBVA is optimising the use of Big Data for risk analysis, the creation of new products, the localisation of branches, and to speed up the development of new applications with external partners.