Gartner Says Big Data Getting Bigger, Skills Lag
Published: October 29, 2012
by Dan Burger
It's a mighty big shadow that Big Data casts. As is the nature of shadows, their size has a lot to do with the source of the light. Last week Gartner was the source, and reports were published from one end of the media galaxy to the other concerning the firm's predictions for the future of IT. Big Data loomed large and predictions were appropriately big with forecasts for increasing bigness. The question this begs is: Who's prepared for this?
Anyone who has not already been handling Big Data (the capitalization makes it even bigger, don't you think?) can take a seat in the waiting room. Dr. Gartner will see you momentarily. I'm no doctor, but I can tell you a few things about Big Data that Gartner believes to be true.
The first is a lifestyle change. It's time to reshape staffing with the skills to deal with the Big Data pandemic. Those that are competent at obtaining and/or expanding competencies in areas such as data management, analytics and business expertise, and nontraditional skills necessary for extracting the value of big data, as well as artists and designers for data visualization will have a financial and competitive advantage, Gartner predicts. This won't be easy for staff-starved companies that have a difficult time implementing new IT projects and prefer it that way, but they risk losing competitive advantage (and maybe already have) by remaining inactive when it comes to stockpiling skills.
Good luck putting some meat on those skeleton staffs, because demand will soon overpower supply. Big Data is going to be a job-creation machine. Gartner forecasts that by 2015 there will be 4.4 million jobs for Big Data workers worldwide. In the U.S., Gartner is estimating the number to be 1.9 million jobs. Keep that figure in mind and compare it to the anticipated skills shortage that will only allow about a third of those jobs to be filled. Sounds like a recipe for high wages whenever demand outstrips supply. Good for the people who have the skills, but not so good for those who have to pay for the skills.
And that's not the end of the employment opportunity that Gartner sees coming this way. There will be spin-off jobs for three people outside of IT for every Big Data-savvy IT employee. Now you get the idea that Big Data will be putting this country back to work.
That's a jobs creation bonanza and a great talking point in this time of high unemployment. But who's going to take the Big Data and turn it into useful data? Making a plan for gathering and analyzing data takes people with skills. Retrained IT workers and graduating college students can't carry all of the load.
Gartner's vision of how this will be handled is that investments in the United States and other Western markets will come from companies outside these countries. And those companies will be eager to hire the needed skills from their homelands. China and India are sited as sources of companies most likely to deploy this type of business strategy.
Uh-oh. There goes the jobs bonanza, unless we can really ramp up education and training to narrow the skills gap. Ah, but such an occurrence will have the effect of keeping a lid on IT wages. Maybe that's a good thing if you are more of a skills-as-a-commodity thinker.
Compounding the far-reaching effects of Big Data is the anticipated restructuring of the IT services market, which Gartner estimates at nearly $1 trillion. This unfolds with the help of cloud computing, social media, and mobile computing. It begins as low-cost cloud services skimming 15 percent off outsourcing revenue. In addition, more than 20 percent of large IT outsourcers--those with inadequate investments in industrialization and value-added services--will disappear through merger-and-acquisition market consolidation.
OK, Gartner, where's the good news?
All this will cause CIOs to move to the next generation of business-driven solutions, Gartner forecasts. Sounds like a forced march, but OK, if that's what it takes to realize the benefits of Big Data.
Meanwhile, as Gartner is making news with its predictions (many relate to things other than Big Data, like the slow adoption rate of Windows 8 and the changes coming as a result of mobile devices), IBM was timely in its barrage of Big Data product introductions last week using its Information OnDemand conference (overlapping the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo) to launch a bevy of data-management and analytics offerings.
One that is interesting for its technology and maybe its business transformation potential connects relational databases and Hadoop environments as a way of combining structured and unstructured data that can uncover, discover, and visualize relationships in data from multiple sources. After all that is the core of Big Data projects. And because security commands a lot of attention in the world of Big Data--along with mobile and cloud computing--IBM had some products to talk about in this vein as well. (More on these in the near future.)
Possibly you noticed that IBM's vice president and group executive for software and systems picked this time to make comments in a Forbes magazine interview that indicated it's affordable software--like the kind IBM makes--that is bringing analytics to the mainstream whereas before it was only within the reach of governments and high-level research organizations.
"It isn't that people woke up and saw they suddenly had more data," IBM's Steve Mills said. "Everyone knew it was there, everyone knew they could do more if they had more data. The challenge was being able to afford to do it."
"Everyone has an agenda for transformation and change," Mills continued. "Companies are trying to improve themselves operationally, reducing overhead while improving customer relationship loyalty."
So the take-away from Big Data Week last week is that jobs will be created, but we won't have the skills to fill them. So large international companies, through mergers and acquisitions, will move into the U.S. with a plan to fill the skills gap with less expensive skilled labor in their home countries. But that's OK, because trusted vendors like IBM are making software that's a lot less expensive than it used to be.
And Big Data will have more than a designated week of celebration. It's going to be celebrated all year long and longer.
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