Big Data: Good For Business, Not For Jobs

Big Data is proving to be a big money-maker for businesses, but data workers aren't reaping similar rewards. A new report suggests that while many companies have committed to spending more of their budgets on Big Data marketing initiatives in the new year, job opportunities for data analysts are actually on the decline.

An annual study of 400 marketing companies from Infogroup Targeting Solutions — a Nebraska-based data analysis firm— found that more than 60 percent of marketers expect their Big Data budgets to increase in 2014. However, the majority of marketing companies surveyed said that these increased budgets won't coincide with an increase in hiring for data-related positions.

This year's Infogroup findings mark a reversal from last year's annual survey, which found that marketers were investing in both new Big Data strategies and data personnel. David McRae, president of Infogroup, expressed some concern with this reverse trend in hiring, which he says coincides with a shift from information-gathering to analysis on the part of companies.  [5 Hiring Trends to Watch for in 2014]

"A downturn in hiring could stall Big Data implementation, as the need for human capital is greatest during the analysis and action stages," McRae said in a statement.

The expansion of Big Data budgets is most likely a response to the positive return on investment that marketers saw in 2013, the Infogroup report suggests. Two-thirds of the companies that said they'd be expanding Big Data budgets in 2014 were those that had already invested in Big Data initiatives. Just 30 percent of the marketers surveyed said they were planning on investing in Big Data for the first time in 2014.

But, as McRae said, both new and repeat investments might prove ineffectual if companies don't also continue to invest in the talent needed to analyze the information collected from Big Data initiatives.

"Big Data is meaningless without manpower," McRae said. "While it's exciting that most companies are making bigger investments in Big Data, marketers should not forget that it takes people to make sense of the information."

But this stall in hiring begs an important question. If marketers aren't spending Big Data dollars on personnel, just what are they doing with that money?

Forty-two percent of the companies surveyed said their increased budgets would pay for new technologies to enhance analytic capabilities. And 73 percent of marketers maintained that data analysis would be a top priority in 2014, despite the fact that fewer data analysts would be hired.

Overall, only 43 percent of the companies said they planned on hiring for data-related positions this year. That marks a 13 percentage point decrease in new data-related hires from last year. The acquisition of new technologies for Big Data is something that McRae sees as necessary for this marketing strategies continued success. However, McRae maintains that companies should be investing in personnel, as well.

"Big data implementation is a multi-year process that requires sustained investment in technology and talent," McRae said. "To maintain momentum, marketers need to create an intentional roadmap because Big Data cannot be tackled in day."

Other recent reports outlining Big Data's increased role in business functions have found that one of the biggest obstacles to implementing this marketing strategy is a lack of skilled personnel to analyze data. Such reports suggest that companies that fail to strike a balance between data technology and analytical talent are likely to encounter big problems with their Big Data initiatives.

The Infogroup report was based on a survey of 370 marketers who attended the DMA13 Conference in Chicago. The full report is available on the company's website.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.