In the Future, We’ll All Be Data Geeks

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    The day is coming when bosses will expect all employees to be “data geeks,” according to a recent survey.

    SAP commissioned the survey, which asked business decision makers about the use of data visualization tools. Out of 400 surveyed, 86 percent said they believe all company employees will need the skills to analyze company data and make decisions based on data analysis.

    Executives are walking the walk, too—at least, according to themselves. Ninety-five percent say that they are frequently using data to back up their decisions and suggestions.  

    When it comes to employees’ use of data, though, they’re underwhelmed. Sixty-one percent said their company data is not being used to its full potential, and one in four business leaders rated their company as below average in leveraging data. It’s also telling that 91 percent said the best data analysis comes from specially trained data scientists. That statement seems true on the face of it, which makes me wonder about the 9 percent who disagreed.

    Employees have gained greater access to data in the past few years. SAP notes that five years ago, only 33 percent of employees could access and use data to make decisions; now, that number is 50 percent.

    One department where data analytics has already taken hold is marketing. In fact, Gartner predicts marketing’s IT budget could be larger than the general IT budget by 2018. That’s lead to some contention between CMOs and CIOs.

    “Marketing is no longer confined to simply branding a product or service, but rather is being used to draw insights that generate greater numbers of high-quality leads and create more personalized customer experiences,” writes ifbyphone blogger Katherine Buchholz. “And—you guessed it—they are doing this by using data to prove the value of marketing and drive more targeted messaging.”

    If marketing is any indicator, the business leaders in the SAP survey may be right to say we’ll all be data geeks. Buchholz offers a series of statistics that reveal marketers are invested in data. She also lists findings that show marketing’s concern and confusion over data integration. For example, she points out a Signal finding that 51 percent of marketers have yet to integrate marketing technologies beyond the most basic level, and one in two marketers say fragmented technologies hinder their efforts to create a consistent, multi-channel customer experience.

    Marketing silos can also cause problems in the rest of the organization. Christy Uher Ferguson, director of applications communication strategy for Teradata Applications, told IT Business Edge’s Don Tennant that these silos “can erode employee morale and create inter-office tension, which reduces efficiency, increases costs, and impacts the bottom line.”

    If you’d like to avoid that fate, check out my previous post, “Six Ways Profitable Companies Support Data-Driven Decisions.”

    Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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