Data is the new currency, talent the new investment

  • There’s no escape: Go digital, or go the way of the dodo
  • New roles being defined, like chief digital and analytics officers

Data is the new currency, talent the new investmentDIGITISATION is widely seen to be the next wave of economic and social advancement. Data and information now generate more economic value than the traditional global goods trade.
In a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study of more than 70 companies across sectors like consumer, financial services, retail, travel, media, technology and automotive, it was observed that most organisations 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, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, social media and mobile web services are drastically transforming the business landscape and reshaping boundaries.
Most importantly, digitisation 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, according to McKinsey.
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

Data is the new currency, talent the new investment

In fact, the trend has led Gartner to predict that at least 90% of the world’s organisations will have a chief data officer role by the end of 2019.
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 organisation.
Generally, larger organisations that are keen to fully realise 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 organisations.
The chief analytics officer will be responsible for capturing and tracking the analytic models that are developed and deployed throughout the organisation. He or she will probably also need to be in charge of protecting the organisation’s analytical assets.
Besides these, as organisations 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% 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.”
Closer to home, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) 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.
In Malaysia, the National ICT 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. The Association also believes that the current workforce requires upgrading and upscaling.
Talent creation

Data is the new currency, talent the new investment

It is obvious: Organisations 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 organisation 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 centre 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 programmes.
Their work area features a multimedia 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 organisations are staying on top of new technology trends and upskilling their workers with the adequate skills they need to keep up in today’s digitised workplace and industry.
On the industry level, more such efforts are required to allow us propel to the next phase of development.
Policy makers, public sector organisations, 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.
Daniel Ng is senior director of Asia Pacific at Cloudera.
Related Stories:
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Too much data, we’re only human after all
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Top 5 trends for 2016: Big data gets even bigger
The rapid rise of the chief digital officer
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