Skills gap ‘biggest barrier’ to big data adoption

A lack of adequately trained staff who understand big data analytics is one of the biggest factors that is preventing organizations from implementing the technology to help with their operations.

This is according to a new survey conducted in Asia-Pacific by Hitachi Data Systems. The report polled more than 500 business executives from around the region and found 43 percent said a lack of in-house skills was hampering their progress.

Other issues highlighted by firms include unsuitable software solutions, which produce overly-complicated reports that they cannot derive usable business insight from.

But despite this, there is a broad recognition of the potential of data analytics, should these issues be overcome. Almost half the firms surveyed across Asia-Pacific believe that adopting big data can help boost their revenue by 25 percent or more. The 500 companies surveyed estimated that this would lead to a combined $250 billion in additional income.

Seven out of ten firms in Australia said big data will be able to deliver improved productivity, profitability and innovation to their firm. Meanwhile, 76 percent expect management and strategic decision-making to improve by at least 25 percent, while 73 percent expect to see a similar boost to the accuracy of their forecasting.

Neville Vincent, senior vice-president and general manager at Hitachi Data Systems Asia Pacific, said: "The key challenge for organizations seeking to reap the benefits of big data is to acquire the right skill sets and manage communication better across the enterprise and between departments."

He added: "We believe that over time organizations will appoint a data scientist who combines the disciplines of business, statistical analysis and software development, enabling businesses to properly harness the true value from their data."

The study also found organizations are increasing the diversity of their sources when it comes to gathering information to be used in big data analytics. In Australia and New Zealand, while 92 percent of firms rely on their own internal data, 53 percent are sourcing information from third-party providers. Some 37 percent are also using social media sources, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for insight into their customers and wider trends.

Machine-generated data is also growing in importance for firms. One in five respondents said they used sources such as sensors, smart grids, RFID, network logs and telematics to make business decisions.

This is likely to result in many organizations having a vast, sprawling selection of data that needs to be analyzed, so the key to success is set to be ensuring they have a strong strategy in place for accessing the right information at the right time and sharing this among business teams.

Mr Vincent said: "Businesses should adopt policies that help break down silos, improve internal communications and establish advanced technology platforms, which can deliver a substantial lift to revenue and bottom line."

He added that the survey reveals a strong appetite for data analytics and the sector is set for strong growth in 2014, as more businesses recognize the commercial, organizational and operational benefits that this technology can bring.