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Volume 23, Number 12 -- March 25, 2013

Analytic Skills Is The Top Big Data Priority, Lavastorm Says

Published: March 25, 2013

by Alex Woodie

The concept of "big data" came into vogue a few years back as organizations began adopting new ways to deal with the increase in data volume, variability, and velocity. But according to a new survey conducted by toolmaker Lavastorm Analytics, the biggest analytics investments organizations are planning to make in the coming years are aimed at educating and training people, as a shortage in analytic skills looms.

The term big data is fairly new, but the concept is not. By most accounts, the amount of data generated in world has been increasing at an exponential rate for quite a while now. In the IT world, the ever-increasing size and variety of data sets is a natural force that drives innovation. At the turn of the millennium, massively parallel supercomputers crunched huge data sets for scientists, while corporations used online analytical processing (OLAP) setups to sift through mounds of consumer-oriented data, looking for nuggets of "actionable" data.

The tools and technology surrounding big data are rapidly evolving right now (anybody remember OLAP?), but the overall challenge remains the same: How can companies glean real valuable information from raw--and increasingly unstructured--data?

In fact, "gleaning insights from their data" is the number one analytics-related challenge organizations face right now, with 25 percent of respondents reporting that as a challenge, according to Lavastorm's 16-page report, titled Analytics 2013: A survey on analytic usage, trends, and future initiatives, which is based on a survey of about 600 IT professionals in multiple industries conducted by Lavastorm on the Internet. The next most pressing analytics struggle is getting access to data, with 22 percent, and manipulating and integrating data at 19 percent.

The top analytics-related investment that organizations will make in 2013 revolves around people, according to Lavastorm's report. The report puts "people" on top with 53 percent of respondents investing there, followed by tools with 51 percent, training at 43 percent, and data sources at 30 percent.

Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents say they will increase their investment in analytics in 2013, Lavastorm found. "The increased investment in 2013 is expected to be used as often for people as it is for tools," the report states. "However, despite the increased investment, the survey respondents expect a shortage of analytic skills."

This piece of data could help IT personnel looking for a direction to take their careers. The question then becomes: What sorts of skills will the analytic personnel of the future need? The short answer: Definitely not OLAP.

When Lavastorm asked what analytic-related area they're investing in 2013, OLAP came in 16th place, with just over 6 percent of respondents saying it's an area of investment. Predictive analytics was the top vote-getter, with 51 percent of respondents saying they're investing here, followed by big data at 35 percent, dashboards at 32 percent, and reporting at 31 percent.

When Lavastorm asked users what "self-service" analytic tool they're currently using, Excel was the clear winner, with 76 percent of respondents saying they used the ubiquitous spreadsheet program. Other popular self-service tools include the open source R statistical programming language with 35 percent, SAS with 34 percent, Microsoft Access with 28 percent, IBM's SPSS with 23 percent, Tableau at 18 percent, and straight SQL at 16 percent. Other vendors' tools to make the cut include SAP's BusinessObjects, StatSoft's Statistica, Mathworks MatLab, QlikTech's QlikView, Microstrategy, IBM's Cognos, Teradata, and Lavastorm's own tools coming in at 17th.

"Overall the survey points to the fact that data management is a tough problem and requires the right tools, processes, and skilled people to access, integrate, and analyze data," states Lavastorm Analytics CEO Drew Rockwell in a press release. "While we see many people still using basic tools like Excel, there is a clear need for more powerful, yet easy to use, tools, such as the Lavastorm Analytics Platform and engine to tackle the problems of big data and data diversity."

Lavastorm's Analytics Platform brings a multitude of tools and technologies to apply to customer's data, business processes, and applications. Last fall, the company added an R analytics pack, to go along with existing capabilities in the areas of reporting, ETL, SQL editing, cross referencing, data cleansing, and fraud detection. The Lavastorm platform emerged from Martin Dawes Systems, a provider of an IBM i-based customer care and billing system, and has been used extensively in that environment.


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