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Big Data Analytics skills development in the UK is vital to realise business benefits and economic impact

69,000 big data specialists will be needed in the public and private sector by 2017 

07 November 2013 - As the implementation of big data programmes accelerate in the UK's large organisations, the need to rapidly develop the critical analytical skills to support evidence-based business decisions is even more critical.

A report released today by e-skills UK, the employer body for the digital industries, and SAS, the leader in business analytics, predicts that around a third of the UK's larger organisations (employing 100 or more staff) – around 6,400 – will implement big data analytics programmes in the next five years, pushing the demand for big data specialists up by 243 per cent to 69,000.

Some 90 per cent of firms believe they could achieve major or minor business benefits by raising the skills of their big data analytics users. Data and analytics skills is identified by them as most likely to generate the largest business benefits. Almost half of those organisations (45 per cent) believe they would realise business benefits through appropriate training. This is especially important as three out of five large UK organisations find it challenging to hire the specialists that they need.

The impact of the rise of big data goes beyond the big data specialists. Currently, it is estimated that there are around 94 core big data users in every large UK organisation which has implemented a big data analytics programme, equating to about 383,000 people in total. These are employees - outside of the IT or data teams - who use specific big data tools such as dashboards, key performance indicator data or market analysis. Though proportionately, the rise in the number of big data users is likely to be lower than specialists (177 per cent over the next five years), and the number of users is set to rise dramatically to around 644,000 by 2017.

The report, Big Data Analytics: Adoption and employment trends, is the first one of its kind to identify current and future adoption rates for big data by type and size of organisation in the UK with information supplied by 1,000 businesses across the country.

Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, said: "Business sectors across the economy are being transformed by data, analytics, and modelling. The UK now has the opportunity to take a lead in the global efforts to deal with the volume, velocity and variety of data created each day. To do this we need to ensure the government, academia and businesses work together to further develop the skills available to us today and actively support programmes that nurture development in the next generation."

Professor Philip Treleaven, from the University College of London, points out that universities need to go beyond the traditional development of skills for financial services. "There is a real need to focus on business analytics and in particular ask our colleagues working in social science to look at the development of courses that will tap into the richness of information that is available from consumers through initiatives such as customer loyalty.

"We also need to bring students to our industry organisations that are already working with big data. If we find the right student and place them with the organisation, it provides the businesses with resources to explore just how they can turn insight from their data into business innovation. It also means that the data retains its integrity in the environment designed for it and a stronger chance of employment for the student."

Karen Price, CEO at e-skills UK, added: "We recognise that big data analytics skills are a strategic priority for UK businesses, alongside areas like cyber security, e-commerce and mobile computing. These are skills upon which companies of all sizes will be reliant in future, and in which the UK has global leadership potential. In recognition of this, we are bringing employers and educators together, to develop industry-led apprenticeships, degree courses and professional development opportunities, which will raise the skill levels of existing workers and increase the supply of new entrants with specialist expertise."


The results of this study are based on the largest study of the uptake of big data analytics ever undertaken in the UK. Data was collected from over 1,000 organisations in total – 541 SMEs via an existing Omnibus survey and more than 500 larger firms (with 100 or more staff) by way of a dedicated telephone survey. In each case, the appropriate respondent was identified via self-selection and in the vast majority of cases held a directorial/senior level position and, amongst larger firms a role of this nature within the IT function. On completion of each survey, response data were cleaned and weighted to the UK business population using estimates from the Office for National Statistics (i.e. the ONS Interdepartmental Business Register or IDBR).

ABOUT e-skills UK

e-skills UK is a not-for-profit, employer-led organisation whose mission is to ensure the UK has the skills it needs to thrive in the global information economy. It brings together the CEOs of leading employers in the IT sector, CIOs of employers across all sectors, and representatives of small companies.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 65,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know® .

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