What skills do companies really want on their big data team?

What skills do companies really want on their big data team?

Summary: Senior managers are shifting their focus away from raw skills and towards more broadly focused people when recruiting data managers.


Many companies are trying to figure out how to make the best use of big data, and which skills are most needed when trying to tease the useful business insights out of piles and piles of unstructured data.

'You're a data what?!' Five jobs that will win out in the big data world

'You're a data what?!' Five jobs that will win out in the big data world

'You're a data what?!' Five jobs that will win out in the big data world

And while the hard technical skills are still essential to the success of these projects, managers are also looking for some more unexpected skills too.

In a survey of senior managers, about one in three — 35 percent — said that creativity is the most important attribute required of analysts and data scientists. Fewer than two thirds — 59 percent — believe that technical skills are the key attribute.

The end result is that fewer than half of those who were surveyed — 43 percent — demand technical IT skills or any kind of a technical or developer background. A third said they were looking at the business analyst community, while business intelligence expertise and data scientists are also in strong demand, according to the survey commissioned by data warehousing company Teradata.

But rather than trying to find all those skills in one person, a more practical approach is to build a team-based big data capability which combines the necessary business and IT skills across a group of individuals, the company said.

Songkick, the concert tracking website is an organisation that believes it understands the difficulties involved in trying to recruit the right creative skills. "We believe skills and creativity are at least as important as the pure technical skills for data scientists,” Songkick CTO Dan Quine was quoted as saying.

“Data analysis always takes place in the context of business strategy and decisions. As such data scientists have to understand what business problems they are solving and how their work advances the company's goals."

Great analytic skills will always be required, but they will also be "useless unless the results are understandable by everyone in the company and have a clear impact on business success", Quine said.

Further reading:

Topics: Big Data, Data Management


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • It's all about the data analysts!

    Thanks for this article on the shifting skills that organizations require for data analytics roles. At Alteryx we work with departmental analysts performing data blending and advanced analytics within major corporations across Retail, Communications, Marketing Services, Financial Services and Healthcare and increasingly we see the data analysts -- those who understand the business and the data but don't necessarily fit the "scientist" or PhD bill -- as the rising analytics stars in their organizations. They continue to evolve their technical and Big Data skill sets to meet the changing data landscape and to learn the latest analytics tools (Alteryx, Tableau, Revolution Analytics, etc.). But we definitely agree about the importance of combining creativity with analytic and technical skills - we have written a fair amount about this too, sometimes even referring to business and data analysts as "data artisans".
    Rick Schultz
    SVP Marketing, Alteryx