With all signs pointing to greater big data spending by businesses, the question is: Do you want to get the most out of your investment? To do so, experts say businesses shouldn't just invest on big data technologies, but on big data talents as well.

Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm, recently released its report, Survey Analysis: Big Data Adoption in 2013 Shows Substance Behind the Hype, which revealed that organizations are increasingly investing in big data and will continue to do so over the next couple of years.

According to the study, 64 percent of organizations have invested or plan to invest in big data in 2013 — 30 percent have already invested in big data technology, 19 percent plan to invest within the next year, and an additional 15 percent plan to invest within two years.

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Further, a recent market forecast by market intelligence firm ABI Research also predicted that business spending on big data will exceed $31 million in 2013 and reach $114 billion by 2018.

Like many tech sectors, however, Big Data faces a significant skills gap leading to an impending work force shortage. According to a study by McKinsey & Co., by 2018, the United States will face a 35 percent shortfall in highly skilled statisticians and data analysts that businesses need to make sense out of big data.

As major universities implement and expand big data programs, businesses also need to prioritize big data hiring and evaluate the role they play in shaping tomorrow's big data work force.

Don Patrick, president of Infogroup Targeting Solutions, a provider of real-time business and consumer data, talked with BusinessNewsDaily about the importance of investing in big data talent and resources.

BusinessNewsDaily: What are the indications that there is or will be a big data work force shortage?

Don Patrick: Businesses understand the role big data plays in their success, and consequently, they’re expanding their data analytic capacities at a rapid pace. As these departments expand and improve their technology, they are having trouble hiring professionals who are trained in managing, analyzing and applying the data to their business goals. The shortage is apparent now, but the gap is expected to become even larger. According to McKinsey and Co., the shortfall could reach 35 percent by 2018.

BND: What types of professionals will there be a shortage of?

D.P.: There is currently an influx of enormous amounts of data. Although there are many data professionals, there is a shortage of those who can analyze the information and effectively make data-driven decisions. Big data is useless without someone who can piece it all together, reach insights, and understand how it can be used to serve customers, improve marketing and sales efforts, and cut costs. The more information there is the farther and farther we fall behind when there is not a qualified professional to manage it.

To put it in terms of job titles, companies will be looking to hire business analysts, data architects, data mining engineers and database administrators.

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BND: Universities are now offering big data programs — how important is it that businesses also invest   data talent and resources?

D.P.: Very important —  with data about to reach its peak within the next decade, businesses that fail to make a change will fall behind. The only way to beat these odds is by investing in the necessary resources to make sense of the massive amounts of data out there. In comparison, many companies have finally realized the value of social media and are now investing millions in research and implementation. Why not do the same for big data if it has also been proven to increase ROI? The data exists, the challenge lies in applying it to your business goals and the only way to make it work is to invest and seek further resources.

BND: What steps should businesses take when adopting and investing in big data?

D.P.: Remember that technology and analytics go hand-in-hand. This shortage wouldn’t exist if organizations invested in analytics across the board. Don’t spend 80 percent of your budget on data warehousing without investing both technology and human resources in making sense of it all.

BND: A recent Gartner report predicted that it will take businesses five to 10 years to reach optimum productivity with big data. Why are businesses struggling to keep up?

D.P.: Data is constantly changing, and the leading data providers are able to offer the information in real-time. If businesses are not investing in real-time data, they’re always going to fall behind. Additionally, the big data boom is still relatively new, and businesses simply do not have the resources and technology to make sense of the data and understand how it can be used to advance their business goals. For some businesses, the idea of “data-driven decisions” are not even discussed or thought about. Old habits die hard — it’s often much easier to stick with what you know rather than take on the challenge of a brand new approach.

BND: What can businesses do to be more productive with big data in less time than Gartner predicted?

D.P.: Other than taking the initiative and investing in Big Data resources, businesses must change the way they look at data. It’s no longer stagnant. The customer and the channels they choose to interact with businesses through are constantly changing. Real-time big data is the only way to get a handle on the surplus of information. Businesses that refuse to step outside of what they already have in their wheelhouse will be left behind as opposed to those who make the switch sooner. Understand that big data is not just a fad and businesses that truly take the time to invest in the data and learn how to use it will see the results.

BND: How are startups and small businesses affected by these trends? Should they be concerned?

D.P.: Startups and small businesses are not exempt from this trend. In fact, they could be some of the most easily affected counterparts of big data. With less resources and technology to analyze data, they are at risk of losing sight of important customer data. On the other hand, with much less data to worry about, startups are able to take advantage of the information faster. But it’s still a matter of taking the initiative just like any other large organization.

BND: What advice do you have for students and professionals that hope to get a job in Big Data?

D.P.: Become statistics experts and study math, computer science or industrial engineering in school. Not only are these jobs in high demand, but they are also to applicable to almost any industry. Until there is a big data degree, apply the skills you learn in school to real-life work experience. The only way to really get a handle on the industry is to be a part of it.

BND: What advice do you have for businesses looking to hire big data talent now and in the future?

D.P.: Find those with mathematical skills who can also see the big picture. After all, the purpose of an analyst is to create a connection between data insights and business problems. Find someone who is action-oriented and able to proactively provide solutions based on their insights.

BND: Where can businesses look for more resources on investing in big data and preparing for Big Data hiring?

D.P.: Infogroup Targeting Solutions (ITS) is the leading provider of real-time, high-value business and consumer data. With data on over 250 million consumers and business, we help businesses of all sizes improve their marketing and sales efforts by providing relevant, timely data.  For more information, visit www.infogrouptargeting.com.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.