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Making Dollars and Sense out of Big Data

Companies have the ability to capture insane amounts of information, which allows them to better understand their customers. However, having the skills to be able to decipher, interpret, and successfully use all this data is a growing concern for most organizations.

According to a new Avande survey, “more than 60 percent of respondents said their employees need to develop new skills to translate big data into insights and business value.” Anders Rienhardt, head of Global Business Intelligence for the Dutch manufacturing VELUX Group, said in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “the standard way of training, where we simply explain to business users how to access data and reports, is not enough anymore. Big data is much more demanding on the user.”

Anders is not alone in his views. As a result of this new challenge, more and more businesses are developing plans to help beef up their workforce’s skills if they are to get their arms around Big Data. According to Jeanne Harris’s HBR post, Data is Useless Without the Skills to Analyze It, most managers believe that employees need to become:

Ready and willing to experiment

Managers and business analysts of today must now be able to apply the principles of scientific experimentation to their business. “They must know how to construct intelligent hypotheses. They also need to understand the principles of experimental testing and design, including population selection and sampling, in order to evaluate the validity of data analyses,” writes Harris.

Adept at mathematical reasoning

Take a minute and think here, how many of your managers today feel totally confident at their ability to analyze, interpret, and use numeric data? This is a skill that is going to only become increasingly important. Rienhardt explains, “business users don’t need to be statisticians, but they need to understand the proper usage of statistical methods. We want our business users to understand how to interpret data, metrics, and the results of statistical models.”

Getting the team to see the big picture

When it comes to data, it’s super easy to get too granular and miss out on the larger picture – something that Harris refers to as “data literacy”. She believes that “Data literacy skills must spread far beyond their usual home, the IT function, and become an integral aspect of every business function and activity.”  For example, manufacturing giant Procter and Gamble has placed a new emphasis on developing some type of “baseline digital-skills inventory that’s tailored to every level of advancement in the organization.” This would not only help employees learn the necessary skills to analyze big data, but also give managers a broad understanding of baseline skills that their employees have.

“Tomorrow’s leaders need to ensure that their people have these skills, along with the culture, support and accountability to go with it,” says Harris. To be successful we all have to dig in and get up to our eyeballs in the complexities of analyzing large, unstructured and messy data.

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