Big Data Opportunities for SMEs

Small Business News – 16th January 2013

A recent report says that the demand for big data processing and services will almost triple over the next few years…

The phrase "big data" has become popular in recent years as more sectors of society start using the term and a recent report has predicted that demand for big data specialists will increase by 243% by 2017.

As more sectors try to leverage big data, there is the potential threat of a skills gap if specialists are not found. Business leaders are saying that they are already experiencing difficulties in recruiting big data specialists with some 57% expressing such concerns.

At the same time there is also an opportunity for firms to specialise and tackle big data for commercial gain with predictions that the industry could be worth £200 billion to the UK economy by 2017.

The big data challenge is such that the government has taken an interest, with MP Dr Liam Fox saying:

“It’s quite clear that this incredible resource that is big data is such that if we can unlock its potential to lead to efficiency and, more importantly, innovation in business, then clearly that is going to create wealth.”

On the practical aspects of the big data conundrum, Dr Fox added:

“Data handling skills are important for all of us and increasingly so. When I think back to when I was at university, there were none of these analytical tools that are available today.”

Recognising the need for action, the government has acknowledged that it needs to work with academia and business to tackle the problem.

Business analytics firm SAS has partnered with universities to develop courses in order to produce graduates with the right skill sets and has already staged a careers fair at Brunel University in Bristol. Ten firms attending had over 100 vacancies offering salaries at 25% more than average to encourage the right data analytics skills.

Big data proponents believe that with the increasing need for data analysis skills will need to be introduced much earlier, with talk of data-related sibjects being part of the school curriculum at some stage in the not too distant future.

Professor Andrew George, the Vice-Principal, Education & International at Brunel University, said of the future ideas:

“We think you will find courses on data analysis being included in social sciences, and included in history courses because we are going to be using that sort of data. Even an historian now has more and more big data to deal with as they look at genomic sequences from different ages and try to follow lineages – and they need to be able to understand how to handle big data as well.”

The research by SAS and e-skills is the largest of its kind in the UK with over 1,000 organisations contributing data to the study.

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