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What to Do Now About the Widening Gap in Data Skills The goal of every organization today should be ensuring they have a fully functioning and well-staffed data analytics program in place.

By Meghan M. Biro Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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With the rise of our technology driven, increasingly mobile society, as well as the steady march forward of the Internet of Things, big data is everywhere. And when I say big -- I mean big. And many people are wondering just what to do about the widening data skills gap.

Here are some eye-opening stats:

  • Big Data is big news: There has been more data created in two short years than in the entire history of the human race, and 73 percent of companies have already invested or plan to invest in big data this year.
  • Big Data means big money: For a typical Fortune 1000 company, a 10 percent increase in data accessibility could equal more than $65 million additional net income.
  • Big Data means big operating margins: Retailers who capitalize on big data could increase their operating margins by as much as 60 percent.
  • Big Data means big potential: Here's the kicker, though -- less than 0.5 percent of all the data created and tracked is being used.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Look Beyond Big Data

The rise of the data scientist.

As more businesses complete their digital transformations, we can pity the poor Chief Data Officer, who are finding it increasingly difficult to fill the roles needed. First, there's a definite dearth of qualified data scientists and data analysts out there: A study by McKinsey reported that "…by 2018, the U.S. alone may face a 50 to 60 percent gap between supply and requisite demand of deep analytic talent." And that means one thing. When the demand far outweighs the supply, those in demand aren't going to come cheap. According to a recent Bloomberg piece, the starting salaries for data scientists have already topped the $200,000 per year mark and summer internships pay anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 a month.

Related: 'Big Data' Is No Longer Enough: It's Now All About 'Fast Data'

Recruiting and hiring for big data.

So how do you recruit and hire for data analyst roles? To start with, you need to look for people who are equal parts number-crunchers and visionaries. Your talent has to be able to decipher what the data means and to describe the "big picture" the data is forming.

  • Next, partner with higher education. The great news is that colleges and universities are starting to wake up to this data skills gap. Deloitte's Analytics Trends 2016 reports that university analytics and data science programs are gathering steam, both in America and abroad. And this is where companies can benefit. As John Lucker, principal at Deloitte Consulting said recently," Companies…need to really develop close relationships with these degree programs. Creating a true courtship between companies and universities is becoming more and more important."
  • Invest in current employees. While you don't want to try and fit a square peg into a round hole, there's a possibility you have people on your team already who have that perfect mix I spoke about above. Perhaps the person in business operations who happens to have an affinity for crunching numbers and analyzing data results. Maybe one of your programmers works closely with the digital marketing teams and therefore has a deep understanding of the goals and strategies when it comes to customer acquisition and retention. Keeping your eyes peeled for these types, and developing training programs for existing employees who are interested in big data (or who know big data and are interested in learning more about the company as a whole) can save money in the long run.
  • Keep systems and technology up to date. This might cost at the beginning, but ensuring you have the best technology available will help you whether you're looking to hire or train from within. A recent Bain study found that of the 400 companies they spoke to (with revenue in the billion dollar range), at least a third didn't have the state-of-the-art tools, quality data, processes, and incentives in-house that are needed to attract and retain high-level data analysts.

If investing in tech is out of range right now, you could also consider outsourcing your data-analytics to a respected managed services provider (MSP). But be sure and treat that relationship as a partnership, and be involved every step of the way. Your MSP should be privy to how your business runs. Don't just outsource your data analytics and hope for the best.

Related: Why You Need to Embrace the Big Data Trend in HR

The goal of every organization today should be ensuring they have a fully functioning and well-staffed data analytics program in place. This requires a bit of investment, but also requires collaboration and communication between those dealing with the data, and those dealing with the results. Start thinking outside the box now, and take proactive steps to make sure your businesses growth isn't stifled by the widening "big data" skills gap.

Meghan M. Biro

Entrepreneur | CEO | Speaker | Author | HR and Tech Evangelist

Meghan M. Biro is a talent management leader, career strategist and digital media catalyst. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, Meghan has worked with hundreds of companies -- from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google -- helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. 

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