Can Asia bridge the skills gap for marketing analytics talent?

While companies are hurrying to pull analytics and digital transformation into their firms, many are struggling to manage it.

Agencies and consultancies are already vying for this space, but it appears that another big barrier sits between analytics truly taking off: talent.

According to a global Harvey Nash 2015 CIO survey, in association with KPMG, digital innovation is dominating the agenda of technology leaders, but many companies in the Asia Pacific region are struggling to manage it.

According to the survey, 71% of chief information officers in the region believe a skills shortage is preventing their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change, 12% higher than the global average.

On the government’s end, it is playing an active role in grooming talent for this space.

For example, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has teamed up with Google and analytics consultancy Sparkline to equip fresh graduates with in-demand data analytics skills as part of its squared data and analytics programme.

The programme was launched in July last year, and has already placed 20 of its original participants in permanent positions, and 17 of those are in the industry, said a release.

The programme is part of IDA’s company-led training programme, an initiative which supports the industry in recruiting, mentoring and training entrant infocomm professionals in fast-growing technologies such as data and analytics, and mobile application development.

The next phase is in July 2015 to February 2016 and the squared data and analytics programme will provide 25 Singaporean graduates with intensive training in analytics, and give them the opportunity to work within Singapore’s media agencies, creative agencies and companies in the finance, travel and telco sectors to gain a hands-on experience.

They will also receive mentoring from top industry talent throughout the programme.

Earlier, the IDA also partnered Microsoft to train up more talent for its Smart Nation initiative.

Chris Shearmon, associate director of Prime Insight, a recruitment firm that specialises in the recruitment of data and analytics talent, said that while there was much talent at this point being generated by such government initiatives, many companies did not know how to properly place such individuals.

“There is still a gap between what skills are needed right now to solve existing business problems,” he said.

“Companies are looking for experienced hires who have the ability and track record of solving problems using data and analytics.

“Graduates will naturally be able to step up after one to two years of work experience, but there is still a shortage of experienced hires, especially those with statistical modelling capabilities, and experience using open source or newer big data technologies like Hadoop, Python, etc.

“Currently there is a lot of talent that is going to waste, opportunities to increase revenues are missed by businesses, which makes markets open for new entrants.

“Traditional marketing needs to continue to adapt, as consumers have never had it so good, so businesses must become truly customer-centric rather than solely relying on slick brand campaigns.

“The marketing industry also needs to have fewer silos and rigid disciplines, like SEO, planning, social, ATL and CRM and stop viewing digital as a separate channel or department.

“The supporting technology must be aligned to the needs of the consumers, and allowed the freedom to open up new channels and opportunities to service customers better.”