The Big Push for Big Data Skills
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 6, 2012
Lately, there's been more and more news items popping up about impending – or already prevalent – skills shortages in many vital IT areas. In previous posts, I've spoken about the challenges IT departments – especially in larger insurance operations with a lot of legacy systems – face in the years ahead.
A new survey out from Robert Half International drills down into some of the areas where demand is getting tightest. One area that particularly stands out is database management.
Data is the asset that offers competitive advantage to companies that know how to manage and use it correctly. The latest Robert Half Professional Hiring Index finds the skill most demanded was database management, cited by nearly half (46 percent) of 100 CIOs surveyed.
Database specialists are one thing. But who is going to be able to handle all this big data, and help deliver it to decision-makers in a digestible, actionable format? After all, business leaders don’t want to fuss with rows and columns and 1s and 0s, they want to know the impact x will have on growth.
The data scientist is a relatively new profession emerging in many organizations, out of a fusion of the roles of data managers, data stewards, data architects and analysts. As Ari Zilka, CTO of Terracotta, a division of Software AG, recently explained it to me, “data architects are no longer designers of schemas or storage array networks. They are scientists of the first order. The data architecture discipline has grown a thousand-fold in scope and complexity in direct response to the explosion in data.”
What kind of skills are required from this breed of professional? “Data scientists have a strong sense of algorithms, existing technology, clustering architectures, and consistency and transactional architectures,” Zilka explains.
As RHI's Neil Hedges put it: "Big Data is becoming a significant issue for organizations. Many are struggling to manage the vast amount of information passing through the business, and lack the tools required to analyze it in a reasonable timeframe, using conventional techniques. Demand is outweighing supply in certain areas and companies are struggling to attract the requisite talent to support this change."
In the data-rich, information-intensive insurance business, the ability to manage and make sense of data is critical. With so much more coming in the form of unstructured data, cloud data and social media, companies need to look at new skills to address these challenges.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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