Over the past two years I have had the privilege of managing 12 of Corinium’s CDO and CAO conferences, with two of them – Chief Analytics Officer, Spring and Chief Data & Analytics Officer, Canada being within the last month. At the two latest events, I noticed a significant change in the conversation around data and analytics talent and skill requirements. It is evident that, over the past two years, these needs and requirements have shifted greatly.
The age old conversation about talent is an area which has been talked about a lot… at every conference… and comes up in conversations I have on a daily basis. Where to source, attract, retain and train talent? What skills do you need? And, do unicorns really exist? Are all questions which people want answers to and, whilst there are many conversations and debates which can be had around this, there are no hard and fast answers to any of these questions as yet. However, one thing I have noticed which is particularly interesting is the ways in which the desirable skill sets are changing. Previously, there was huge discussion about ‘hunting for unicorns’, these magical creatures which not only had the analytical, statistical and mathematical genius but also the communications skills of a world leader. I had many conversations with people saying that they didn’t exist and others where they said the reason no one can find them is because they have them all! But, unicorns aside, the industry was looking for people with a broad skill set, fast forward to today and there is a whole new skill set which is now in demand and set to be even more important in the future.
Enter the artists and translators…
There is an ever present divide between the analysts that crunch the numbers and the decision makers within the business, and as all too many failures have taught us, unless you have a hotline to the business (and they are willing to listen) you are setting yourself up failure. Ultimately, data and analytics teams not only need to be able to effectively communicate their findings and translate the impact they have on the business, but they also need to be able to address the inherent fears within some departments – be that the fear of becoming obsolete, being unresponsive to change, being adverse to constructive criticism or just ignorance. They need to be able to battle all of these areas to be effective within their roles and have an impactful analytics department. Additionally, creative thinking is a skill which I am hearing about more and more and I expect to see demand rise for these types of skills in the future. Why? Perhaps as more and more companies utilise data and analytics teams to gain competitive advantage, that advantage becomes even harder to attain, and marginal gains become all the more important. The focus soon shifts from ‘analytics for competitive advantage’ to ‘its all about the data’: the types of data you have access to, and how agile your business can be will define your advantage within your respective market place. Crucially, you can have access to a wealth of data and a great analytics team, but if your team can’t think ‘outside of the box’ when looking at the data, and think of new ways to utilise it, or a new questions to ask – questions that maybe the business has not even thought about yet – then you will never truly excel . A person that truly understands the business and can think creatively about a problem, I believe will be invaluable for the future of an analytics team’s success.
New roles for driving value and accountability…
In addition to this, key skills which are also creeping up the ladder of desirable attributes is entrepreneurial skills, curiosity and leadership skills. I am already witnessing companies appointing newly created roles within analytics teams (particularly within Financial Services and Insurance), acting as project managers, having clear deliverables and KPIs for their analytics projects, presenting back to the business and working very closely with the departments to which they are tasked to help, to make sure that real value is being delivered through their activities. This is when I believe an analytics team can become most effective, not just by having a forward thinking, innovative and effective Chief Analytics Officer but also through developing and harnessing leadership and communication skills within a team.
Supply and demand
With an evolving need for new skills, as well as a rapid pace of change within the technology space, can supply ever meet demand? This is where academic partnerships become so important. Creating an open dialogue between business and academia to promote knowledge and data sharing as well as internships, are critical for ensuring that the new potential hires entering the market are ready for the needs of the business world. Speaking to the CAO from one of the US’s biggest insurers revealed how their data and analytics team has a internship scheme with a local university, allowing students to join their team for up to 6 months and gain exposure to a number of disciplines, which is hugely beneficial. Not only this but another leading company told me that they use some of the brightest high school students on a project by project basis to help shape the next generation. Additionally, demand for analytics/statistics courses, projects and hackathons is also rising, with institutions such as Georgia Tech running clubs for ‘analytics interested’ students, with some of the most gifted being from many different disciplines, not just statistics.
Talent is just one area that has evolved over the past 2 years (there are, of course, many!), however in such a disruptive space it is exciting to see how things are going to develop further in the coming months and years. As the proliferation of analytics within businesses increases and moves from being a ‘nice to have’ to being a part of everyday activities, it will be not only your data that sets you apart but your talent that will define your success.
To follow the ever evolving conversation, join us at the largest gathering of senior analytics leadership in North America, Chief Analytics Officer, Fall taking place in Boston on October 2-5, 2017.
By Vicky Matthews:
Vicky Matthews is Portfolio Director US/Canada, Chief Analytics Officer Forum at Corinium Global Intelligence. Vicky has organised and launched the CAO brand in the US and Europe and continues to develop and evolve the event series across the US and Canada. Consulting with the industry to discover what keeps them awake at night, find solutions to their challenges and stimulate valuable cross-industry discussions to facilitate growth in the sector. For enquiries email: [email protected]