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IT and industry-experts should work more closely together

September 03, 2013

One of the most significant problems facing companies right now is the lack of highly skilled IT professionals to manage their business strategies and the needs that come with Big Data. The IT services of yesteryear, where staff members typically maintained the technological infrastructure, have given way to a more proactive approach that many organizations have integrated into their day-to-day work or are in the process of implementing. This has ramped up the necessity for decision makers to employ workers who not only can keep the IT infrastructure functioning, but who are also capable of matching software, hardware and data with business solutions.

However, some companies' focus on technology alone may have led to neglecting their industries, or failing to achieve collaboration between business and IT. One of the advantages of Big Data is that it draws in information from a multitude of sources, allowing organizations to apply solutions to a problem that they didn't know existed, or to find trends that otherwise would have been difficult to notice. Decision makers should take this same philosophy to their IT planning, particularly for proactively overcoming business challenges. 

​Employ a diversity of skill sets for data and IT projects
InformationWeek recently suggested that when an organization is creating a data science team, it should include subject-matter experts to ensure it's asking the right questions. The ability to collect data is one thing, but making sense of it and applying it in a constructive fashion is another matter altogether. The news provider further recommended that decision makers hire physicists and statisticians for these teams, along with computer scientists. 

"Most companies only think to hire computer scientists because they think Big Data is a technology problem; but it's not," Josh Sullivan, vice-president of the Strategic Innovation Group, told the source.

Sullivan told the news provider that many organizations make the same mistake of focusing solely on computer science skills. While these are an integral component to any Big Data project, focusing on those abilities alone can leave decision makers neglecting context-sensitive talents that might enhance their current initiatives. He noted that companies should consider the questions they want to ask of their data before they begin coding it, and that including subject-matter experts will help Big Data programs derive business value from the research.

InformationWeek noted that Dow Chemical's combination of IT workers and topic-specific professionals helped it save billions from its freight and raw materials budget.

Sullivan told the news provider that individuals like music majors can provide creative thought to a data science team, which they can apply by combining data in a manner similar to composing. The addition of physicists to these teams was also deemed beneficial due to their application of quantitative skills to a project. The combination of sports schedules, school seasonality and other factors with plane schedules, fares and historical passenger loads was cited as a key element of a recent Big Data initiative by an airline.

InformationWeek further reported on Sullivan's criticism of businesses that hoard their information, and don't consider the overall needs of their industry. Rather than segmenting data, he feels that it should be more widely shared within an organization.

"Every line of business has its own BI dashboards and analytics and it's kind of like trying to read a map through a tube," said Sullivan to the source.

Find the right collaborative team
Third-party IT staffing providers can help companies find the right blend of IT talent and industry-specific knowledge that can help them optimize their Big Data or other significant IT projects. As difficult as it is for organizations to find skilled IT professionals, finding those workers who possess the collaborative ability and subject-specific knowledge to implement a Big Data project as part of a team can be even more problematic.

Diversity in skill sets can also assist with IT planning, as each business's needs differ from others'. Enterprise resource planning, bring-your-own device and other IT solutions are rarely a one-size-fits-all answer and both consulting and employment from a third-party staffing provider can assist decision makers in implementing the right policies and IT institutions that are most beneficial to their specific industry.

As the InformationWeek article suggests, adding a greater deal of diversity to an ongoing IT project can boost its effectiveness and potentially make more sense of the information gathered from a Big Data initiative. New projects might receive an even greater boost by including this strategy early on, as this can avoid needing to change tactics partway through the endeavor by asking the right kind of questions early on. By applying the IT talent management that third-party IT staffing solutions can provide, decision makers can have a leg-up on instituting these programs.

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