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Three Skills to Nourish in Next Gen Data Leaders

  • Venkat Viswanathan
  • May 04 2016, 6:30am EDT

The sheer volume of information flowing into organizations can be overwhelming. Customers, sensors, beacons, manufacturing equipment, partners, social media… the list of data sources is unending and continues to grow each and every day. By 2020, experts predict there will be an estimated 50 billion IoT devices and 1.8 trillion potentially connectable ‘things.’

Over the course of my 20-year career in analytics, I’ve come to understand the immense need for leaders who understand the value of data analytics and that there is more to the analytics process than technology. With this growing pool of data, now, more than ever before, business leaders must possess both a strong business acumen and analytics mindset.

But finding leaders to fill those shoes isn’t easy. The leadership skills that were prevalent or even necessary a decade ago might not be enough to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. And the fight for talent is fierce.

A McKinsey study predicts that by 2018 the number of data science jobs needed in the United States will exceed 490,000, with less than 200,000 data scientists to fill these positions. Smart organizations are combating growing demand and limited supply. Many are launching internal programs that nurture the next generation of data leaders. The investment can help them keep pace with technological developments and tackle the new challenges they bring.

If you’re cultivating the next generation of data leaders in your organization, there are three key skills or traits that you should nourish: a business mentality, a broad analytics understanding, and an eye for trends.

Business mentality

Future data leaders must be able to assess problems to determine what analytics solutions will derive actionable insights that help achieve business objectives. Organizations should encourage potential leaders to consult and engage with the end users (whether internal or external) to further their understanding of how data will ultimately be used.

With an extensive and growing amount of data at everyone’s fingertips, tomorrow’s leaders must be able to see through the hazy horizon of numbers and statistics to find the solution that will work best for the end-user, and therefore bring success to the organization.

Breadth of analytics experience

There are an expansive number of analytics solutions, approaches, and techniques available. Tomorrow’s data leaders must be able to assess the situation and determine the best tools and techniques for each situation.

Organizations should encourage employees to experiment with a variety of approaches and consider a multitude of data elements as they develop solutions. The ability to demonstrate experience and understanding across an array of different solutions can only help individuals become capable, future data leaders. Mastering these platforms and solutions will prepare these leaders to face what’s next in tech evolution.

Eye for trends

The analytics landscape is changing at a rapid pace with the almost daily introduction of new technologies, open source options, innovative data visualizations, machine learning algorithms, and more. The ultimate challenge is to be able to weed through these new offerings and decide which best fits your company’s need.

Encourage potential future leaders to follow and test new analytics trends and report back on the ideal use for the latest techniques. Train them to quickly analyze and understand the benefits and pitfalls. Being able to identify and relate these trends to the rest of the organization will become invaluable.

Look for generation leaders with the right attitude for business engagement and the right aptitude for analytics. Make the commitment to help them grow, and they will commit to setting up your organization for future success.

(About the author: Venkat Viswanathan is founder and chairman of LatentView Analytics Corporation, a leading data analytics firm headquartered in Princeton, NJ.)

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