We should have predicted this: Big data plans scuppered by staff without analytics skills

Organisations are still some way from being able to exploit the data they're generating, hamstrung primarily by a lack of skills among ordinary staff.

Firms have no trouble churning out data but lack the time, tools and skills to do much with it.

Three-quarters of US and UK organisations say their staff don't have the expertise in analytics to capitalise on the data they're generating, according research from enterprise software giant SAP.

That figure rises to 84 percent when it comes to the number of companies arguing for training to give employees the specific skills to use data analytics as part of their everyday jobs.

"Predictive analysis is moving from a small population of specialists to a broad spectrum of users," SAP spokesman James Fisher said in a statement.

"We could be in a situation in a few years where up to half of employees are using predictive analytics in some capacity as part of their daily routines."

More than four out of 10 organisations see time pressures and a lack of resources as the main barriers to exploiting corporate data more effectively, according to the survey of over 300 US and UK businesses in retail, fast-moving consumer goods, and financial services.

However, about a quarter of firms are already using analytics tools across the organisation and that figure is expected to rise to 42 percent over the next five years.

Aidan Anglin, chairman of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Technology Sector Group, said the most important qualifications for data-analysis roles might not be academic degrees, certifications or experience.

Instead, he cited softer skills, such as curiosity, creative flair, and an ability to visualise and communicate clearly with non-technical people.

About seven out of 10 of the organisations using predictive analytics see its role as exploiting new opportunities, compared with one in three that employ it to minimise risk.

The main specific uses of data analytics are predicting customer needs, mentioned by 85 percent of respondents, and forecasting market trends, with a figure of 84 percent.

Sales leads the way in the use of predictive analytics, with 46 percent of departments using it, followed by finance on 44 percent, marketing with 42 percent, and manufacturing on 23 percent.

Although only about one in four businesses is employing the technology to a great extent, some 61 percent see it as a priority area for investment.

Those US firms using analytics for predicting customer needs are ahead of their UK counterparts - 90 percent compared with 80 percent - and in identifying market trends - 90 percent versus 78 percent.

American businesses are also seeing fewer issues with skills and resources.