Business & Technology Review

The great data disconnect

Last updated on August 30, 2021 at 01.58 pm

Alteryx, Inc., the analytics automation company, has highlighted a critical imbalance between the advanced skill levels that data workers possess and the utilisation of these talents within organisations. While Gulf businesses hire workers with the skills, desire, knowledge and analytical expertise for success, the research highlights that these same businesses are not drawing on this deep well of talent.

In a YouGov survey commissioned by Alteryx of UAE and KSA data workers in large companies, Alteryx found that almost two-thirds of data workers possess the advanced analytic skills needed to deliver business insights using descriptive (57 per cent), prescriptive (61 per cent) and predictive (60 per cent) analytics. Yet despite this enviable skillset, just 28 per cent of workers use these talents to unlock business benefits such as greater efficiency, or revenue growth through creating data models.

While data-driven insights have eluded many companies due to a lack of skilled data workers, businesses across the Gulf are falling behind due to underutilising the talent of those in the workforce. Despite the clear link between data-driven insights and business efficiency, we see a newly emerging phenomenon — a lack of talent utilisation stalling business transformation efforts.

“Employees with strong data skills are a core requirement for developing business resiliency and the ability to pivot at speed, but to maximise the potential of these workers — democratising their access to data and facilitating their ability to deliver insights — is the missing link,” comments Alan Jacobson, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Alteryx. “Digital transformation has moved beyond boardroom discussions. It’s now mission-critical for businesses to fully leverage analytics and data science to decipher the massive influx of data developing across lines of business.

“Despite the inherent value of data-led decision making, there is a critical disconnect between the expertise we see in the Gulf and the value these employees can bring to both driving new strategies and further optimising the business to run smarter.”

Making full use of the analytic expertise available is a core requirement for the Gulf to continue competing on a global stage. Despite the majority of data workers (72 per cent) being able to generate additional revenue through data, these experts are often limited to creating static reports (61 per cent). Just 35 per cent use their skills to create exploratory analyses and only 37 per cent use data to identify future outcomes based on historical data through predictive analytics.

Alan Jacobson, Chief Data and Analytics Officer Alteryx

The business case for analytics excellence

Eighty-nine per cent of data workers in the Gulf currently rank their skills as ‘above average’, and report they are given the time (61 per cent) training (60 per cent), and tools (59 per cent) to succeed. Why then, in an environment where workers are ready and able to help businesses drive value from data and analytics are so few empowered to take full advantage of these skills?

While not every data worker needs to become a fully-fledged data scientist, by ensuring that these specialists are empowered to deliver insights across business functions, organisations can turbocharge their transformation efforts with pre-existing resources and thrive in an increasingly data-rich environment.

Strategies to create the data-centric business of the future

Develop a culture of data: A huge 80 per cent of workers believe that data literacy is important, or a key to success. While data is important, its use is limited without the workforce to affect business change through analytic precision. To take advantage of these high levels of data literacy, businesses need to integrate top-down thinking to facilitate a culture of analytics.

Reduce time investment on basic tasks through automation: Data workers are overwhelmed with basic tasks. Twenty-seven per cent of workers spend more than six hours each week judging if data sources are trustworthy, 28 per cent spend more than six hours searching for valuable data, and 27 per cent spend more than six hours on data cleaning. Data workers able and ready to perform advanced data work must be enabled to do so through the automation of basic, manual, and repetitive tasks — freeing up their time to perform more advanced analytics.

Upskilling teams on delivering business value through data skills: Eighty-three per cent of workers believe the pandemic has increased the importance of data skills to make business decisions. With higher value workers delivering a disproportionately higher return to their employer, we see a significant correlation between an increased salary and the use of advanced data skills such as identifying risks and developing action plans (56 per cent), and improving decision making (49 per cent). For those in lower-income brackets, these figures are 38 per cent and 39 per cent respectively. Empowering workers to leverage data assets and deliver high-impact high-value insights is hugely valuable to businesses.

“Human beings are the biggest success factor for any digital or analytics project, but often are the last factor to be considered. While technology after technology can be layered onto a transformation project, true effectiveness comes from developing data-driven cultures that combine advanced data technologies with the ingenuity of the human brain. Only by investing in

data teams — leveraging their data skills to drive data science and analytics automation — will workers be able to deliver business-changing insights.”

Courtesy: Alteryx, Inc.

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