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Data is the new currency, talent is the new investment

Data is the new currency
Data is the new currency

Digitization is widely seen to be the next wave of economic and social advancement. Data and information now generates more economic value than the traditional global goods trade. In a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) [1] study of more than 70 companies across sectors like consumer, financial services, retail, travel, media, technology and automotive, it was observed that most organizations have fundamentally changed and leaders must up their game to stay competitive. It was revealed that marketing leaders will need to have in place new and different capabilities and structures – including big data for consumer understanding and talent in areas like marketing effectiveness analytics – to be agile and effective in this new business environment.

Trends like Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, social media and mobile web services are drastically transforming the business landscape and reshaping boundaries. Most importantly, digitization has actually levelled the playing field in certain aspects by allowing smaller firms to compete with larger multinationals on the global stage. The amount of cross-border bandwidth that is used has grown 45 times larger since 2005.[2]

It is also projected to increase by an additional nine times over the next five years as flows of information, searches, communication, video, transactions, and intracompany traffic continue to surge. Nowadays, virtually almost all types of cross-border transactions have a digital component to it.

Projecting new work roles

In fact, the trend has led Gartner to predict that at least 90 percent of the world’s organizations will have a Chief Data Officer role by the end of 2019[3]. BCG has reiterated this with the concept of a ‘data story teller’ – someone who can address data based insights effectively in the form of stories and narratives that will reverberate with the target audience both inside and outside the organization.

Generally, larger organizations that are keen to fully realize the potential of data will want to have in place a Chief Data Officer. This person will likely be handling the many opportunities and responsibilities that arise from the collection and harnessing data, and to fully leverage the available data in line with business and corporate objectives.

Some industry experts also foresee a role of Chief Analytics Officer being formed within organizations. The Chief Analytics Officer will be responsible for capturing and tracking the analytic models that are developed and deployed throughout the organization. He or she will probably also need to be in charge of protecting the organization’s analytical assets.

Besides these, as organizations work with more data and increasing rely on it for operations and processes, the roles of data workers will be more defined and streamlined. Just like how data analysts and data scientists might not have existed 20 years ago, we will see more data-related roles being created.

Data talent crunch

It is obvious that we need to have the right data talents in place to keep up with this dynamic and ever-evolving environment. However, the fact is, industries are currently facing a data professional talent crunch across the globe.

In a recent BCG study, 35 percent of the company studied reported that a lack of qualified analysts and data experts hindered their efforts.  One respondent in the study commented: “We don’t have enough staff for breakthrough and new capability work…only the basic running of the day to day”.1

Closer to home, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in Singapore has projected that the country will face a shortage of nearly 30,000 information technology professionals by 2017, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity, data analytics and applications development[4].

In Malaysia, the National ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Association (PIKOM) has said that the number of IT graduates produced each year, which numbers about 30,000, is not enough to cater to the growth of the industry[5]. The Association also believes that the current workforce requires upgrading and upscaling.

Talent creation

It is obvious – organizations need to keep up as they now require talent devoted to keeping their fingers on the pulse of innovation and trends across the channels. To be successful, they will frequently have to look within as well as outside their own organization to close these skills gaps and work with their clients, distributors and suppliers to hone the capabilities of the entire ecosystem.

For example, Nestlé rotates a dozen digital acceleration team members to work for eight months at a time in a state-of-the-art consumer engagement center at the company’s global headquarters. Team members manage social communities for global brands, address fast turnaround projects focused on digital and social media, and learn through intensive training programs.1

Their work area features a multi-media content creation studio and is surrounded by large screens streaming real time data showing how customers react to data online. Team members return to their local markets as digital leaders equipped to train and inspire others. Efforts such as this show how the world’s best organizations are staying on top of new technology trends and upskilling their workers with the adequate skills they need to keep up in today’s digitized workplace and industry.1

On the industry level, more such efforts are required to allow us propel to the next phase of development. Policy makers, public sector organizations, academic institutions and private sector players will need to come together to create an environment where technology and data talent can flourish and thrive. To build the data workforce of the future, we will need an ecosystem where all parties come together and strategically identify, plan for and fill data skills gap. With the growth of talent being so valuable, it has now become a worthy investment area for countries, companies and industries across the globe.

[1] The agile marketing organization, The Boston Consulting Group, October 2015

[2] Digital Globalization: The new era of global flows, McKinsey Global Institute, February 2016

[3] Predicts 2016: Information Strategy, Gartner, 9 December 2015

[4] IT talent in short supply amid Smart Nation push, iDA, 8 February 2016

[5] People problems: The sector faces a growing shortage of human resources, Oxford Business Group


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