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If data is the new gold, then data talent is as precious…

13 March 2018 by Mark Fallon

If data is the new gold, then data talent is as precious…

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Adrian Marples Leadership, News & Views, Data...



Ireland punches considerably above its weight as a global hub for data analytics. As firms across sectors become more data driven, a key theme is ‘analytics everywhere’ with indigenous tech firms competing with a host of other sectors for data and analytics professionals.

If data is the new gold then data talent is as precious as the commodity they mine. Demand for the skill set far outreaches supply in this relatively immature talent segment. Backgrounds are diverse, from investment analysts and software developers to management consultants and engineers. When acquiring talent, firms are more willing than ever to recruit outside their own sector hoping that hires will bring new insights and approaches to problems. At a senior level technical skills are a given, and the differentiator is the ability to bring analytics to life, to story-tell, and truly communicate the commercial or operational benefits to executives. These transferrable soft skills are often at odds with introverted personalities. The challenge for any ambitious professional is to develop a rounded suite of skills. As analytics becomes more widely used, leaders must demonstrate a kaleidoscope of expertise including EQ & stakeholder management, programme management, commercial acumen, whilst retaining enough of an intellectual sharp edge to keep the respect from those in the trenches.

As a new crop of data professionals begins to emerge, with specialist qualifications, it will be important to ensure that talent remains diverse. Data Analytics should continue to be a broad church of experience, and analytics professionals should be encouraged to pursue careers in, and be drawn from, a variety of functions. Taking a lesson from the financial crisis, the most successful banks were those with the best Risk Managers across the entire business, as opposed to just within the Risk department.

The immediate challenge for most senior professionals is to unearth more value from data, and embed analytics into company-wide decision-making. Resistance will come in the form of legacy systems and outmoded attitudes.  Stakeholders across all functions need educating on the value that analytics can bring from supply chain to fraud prevention to customer experience. As analytics successfully proliferates, organisations then need to ensure the appropriate structural framework and leadership, whether owned by a Chief Analytics Officer in a central function or with Analytics ‘champions’ in the business units.

The most impressive aspect of Ireland’s talent in the space is its diversity, both in terms of sectors and scope of work. Specialist Analytics teams grow in the professional services firms whilst others are established in utilities, transport and FMCG. Banks and telecoms firms compete with tech firms whilst Centres of Excellence, such as Accenture and Deutsche Bank, expand their remits. However, technology is moving faster than skill sets can develop. The talent gap is sourcing professionals with the programming skills required for areas such as machine learning. Universities must rise to the challenge and Ireland must improve its infrastructure and personal tax policies in order to attract global talent. Organisation cultures and legacy systems will continue to provide a challenge, as will the lure of larger cities for senior professionals who may hit a career glass ceiling. That said, the outlook is rosy, with Brexit and Ireland’s corporate tax policies bringing huge potential. The opportunities are there to be grasped but success will largely depend on the ability of the analytics community to not only harness the technology but to explain to its potential to a less technical audience.

Being one of Ireland’s only true data analytics & data science recruitment specialists, Alternatives takes a fresh approach in this relatively immature talent segment. We build relationships with passive analytics professionals, so they will take a call from a recruiter who has taken the time to understand what really makes them tick. Using executive search techniques, we truly map the market and can pin-point talent and work proactively to bring the best solutions to our clients. Like the professionals we recruit, Alternatives offers insight beyond the noise.

Adrian Marples

For more information please get in touch today at amarples@alternativeselect.ie or call 01 661 8889