Big data could create a job bonanza as organisations try to make sense of their huge hoards of information over the next few years.
Within three years, 4.4 million IT staff will be working on big data projects, according to predictions from analyst Gartner, with 1.2 million big data experts needed in Western Europe alone.
Some of this big data usage will be simply an expansion of existing projects to accommodate even more data — such as the fraud detection work done by banks, or the customer churn analytics done by retailers.
But across many industries demand for big data projects — the ability to find nuggets of insight inside huge volumes of structured and unstructured data — will be driven by a desire to enhance customer service, make processes more efficient and cut costs.
Governments will use big data tools to get more use out of their so-called dark data — data that is already captured but unused.
But before all this can start, said Regina Casonato, managing vice president of the information management research team at Gartner, companies will need to hire people able to analyse these big data sets — something which requires special skills.
Casonato said this will drive demand for a number of roles, such as business analysts, data scientists, data stewards, information architects and data warehouse architects.
"All these people will have advanced information management and analytical skills, and business expertise," she said.
Every big data job in the IT department will create another three in the rest of the business, Casonato predicted.
"In IT, we believe there will be need for individuals skilled in data integration, data preparation, enterprise content management, datawarehousing, large-scale database management systems and data sourcing — how to get data from social, public sites and censuses," she said.
Organisations will also need staff with skills in information visualisation, such as data and information designers and information architects, with the aim of making data shareable in-house.
On the business side, Casonato said there will be significant need for data scientists and data stewards, and the role of 'Chief Data Officer' is likely to emerge.
"In some organisations we have seen roles like the chief analytics officer, and in general, a profound demand for business analysts," she told ZDNet.
Casonato knows one large company which already employs 400 data scientists. "These jobs are already appearing – a number of companies are looking for data scientists," she said. "Legal IT professionals are also emerging as a way to understand the legal implications, the regulatory implications of information."
However, a third of these big data jobs are destined to remain unfilled, as Gartner said the education system — and training by employers — will not be able to satisfy that demand.