Data is an increasingly important player in the success of modern businesses. A new study by EMC suggests that few are adequately prepared to deal with this new reality. The EMC Data Science Study validates what many already suspected: Companies are not using their data to its full potential and the people who can help them are in short supply.

Data About the Data Study

Data has become quite the celebrity. Big data, data journalism, social media scoring, quantitative marketing and numerous other topics are all over industry news sources' and business leaders' minds. In fact, data and its impacts have become such a hot topic that mainstream press regularly covers big data. Why all the discussion and excitement?

We are generating and collecting massive volumes of data. It’s no longer just the important details like sales transactions or customers  being captured and stored. New technologies like mobile sensors, social media, surveillance, medical imaging, smart grids and are tracking almost every mundane detail of daily existence. The potential value of this data is tremendous; it can be scrubbed, dissected and analyzed to provide insights that drive competitive advantage.

There is one tiny problem: There are not enough people with the necessary skills to help companies capitalize on the opportunities that data provides -- at least according to the 497 data scientists and business intelligence professionals from around the world included in the EMC study.

The study was global, but included deliberate samples in the United States, India, China, the United Kingdom, German, and France. The professions included in the study were not quite as diverse. Some may question the findings because only data professional were included, which represents a large opportunity for bias. However, even skeptics will likely agree that professionals with the necessary statistical, big data and analytics skills are a challenge to find.

Survey Findings

The study focuses on data scientists. Data scientists aren’t just a new moniker for business intelligence professionals. According to EMC,

It may be helpful to think of data science and business intelligence as being on two ends of the same spectrum, with business intelligence focused on managing and reporting existing business data in order to monitor or manage various concerns within the enterprise. In contrast, data science applies advanced analytical tools and algorithms to generate predictive insights and new product innovations that are a direct result of the data.”

There were a number of interesting findings:

  • Informed Decision-making -- Only 1/3 of respondents are "very confident" in their company's ability to make business decisions based on new data.
  • Looming Talent Shortage -- 65% of data science professionals believe demand for data science talent will outpace the supply over the next 5 years.
  • Customer Insights -- Only 38% of business intelligence analysts and data scientists strongly agree that their company uses data to learn more about customers.
  • New Technology Fueling Growth -- 83% of respondents believe that new tools and emerging technology will increase the need for data scientists.
  • Lack of Data Accessibility -- Only 22% of data scientists believed that employees had adequate access to data to validate business ideas quickly by running experiments on data.

As data continues to grow in importance for driving business strategy and achieving competitive advantage, we can expect a lot more studies that explore what it means.