Technology Training: the Next Five Years
December 16, 2013 by Bill Rosenthal

A survey of 789 business leaders by the American Management Association and the Institute for Corporate Productivity finds that the era of big data is upon us (note: the link is a PDF, and the site requires free registration for access). More than a majority of respondents (58%) say big data analytics are important to their organizations now. But an overwhelming majority (82%) say they will be important five years from now. If you’re in IT training, it seems clear you’ll be concerned with the issue of big data analytics in the near term, if you aren’t already.

Technology TrainingAccording to the report, resources and and an accepting organizational culture are the price of admission to the big data analytics game. Once in the game, organizations will find technology, data, leadership, and analytics skills to be success factors. The report quotes a 2011 McKinsey report saying the U.S. needs 1.5 million additional managers and analysts “who can ask the right questions and consume the results of the analysis of Big Data effectively.” I doubt our education system is capable of producing that many analysts and managers with analytical savvy, so it’s clear IT training will be involved. Survey respondents apparently feel the same way, because by a factor of nearly 3 to 1, companies plan on training current staff for analytics rather than hiring them.

But this is not going to be the IT training we’ve known in the past. The respondents indicated that training for analytical abilities focuses on learning “why” rather than “how.” Furthermore, the respondents believe the most effective training methods are mentoring, cross-functional team-based training, and self-study, all of which eclipse degree programs, classroom training, and online training.

The top five skills for big data analytics, according to respondents are (in descending order) critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, data analysis, communicating and presenting findings, and decision making. The bottom five skills (in descending order) are data prep (e.g., mastery of Excel), contextual thinking, visualization, curiosity, and other. So it looks like IT training will have to master new methods and adopt new emphases in order to stay in front of this trend.

The findings of the survey, of course, consist almost entirely of respondent opinions, and business has a way of developing in defiance of most people’s opinions. Nevertheless, the survey offers food for thought on how IT training might fill the enormous need for analytics talent in the coming years. Although the respondents collectively pooh-poohed classroom training, I think our approach at Logical Operations, including LogicalLabs and CHOICE, provide for some of the most effective training methods. LogicalLabs, for example, offers a secure environment for self-study. CHOICE offers social learning mechanisms, which can be easily adapted to cross-functional team-based training.

In the past, effective use of data has been based on statistical skills and data prep skills, but big data analytics means understanding the data and understanding how to explain it to others. If your IT training organization wants to get involved in big data analytics, we can help with both.