EMC Tackles Big Data, Cloud Skills Gap Among IT Business Leaders

Many organizations have trouble finding IT workers with the skills needed to implement big data analytics and cloud computing strategies. But that skills gap isn't limited to engineers and developers. There's also a shortage of executives and business leaders with the skills to manage big data and cloud teams. EMC is seeking to change that with a new series of courses.

Driving business transformation built on big data and cloud is easier said than done. Part of the problem is that the skills gap doesn't exist at just the engineer and developer level—executives and managers are often short on the skills they need, too.

"There aren't just skill gaps among technologists," Tom Clancy, vice president of EMC Education Services at EMC, says. "They also exist at the business leader and manager level."

"Implementing transformational IT strategies, such as cloud and [IT as a Service] ITaaS, or data science and big data analytics, isn't just about the technology," he adds. "At EMC, we say 'transformation transcends IT,' because transformation requires new business models, new roles, new skills, new organizational alignment and, most importantly, a new mindset."

Business transformation often requires executives or business leaders with vision who are prepared to force the business to break down organizational and information silos and turn corporate culture on its ear. That vision requires understanding of the concepts, skills and strategies associated with big data and cloud technologies, and many executives lack the fundamental understanding they need, according to Clancy.

"IT transformation from multiple dimensions is transcending upon businesses as they explore new ideas and strategies to embrace IT as a Service initiatives, data science and big data analytics," says Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst with IT research firm ESG.

"The challenge is amplified by the fact that implementation initiatives expand well beyond technology as they encompass new business models and create a massive organizational impact that creates a new era of skillsets, different roles and realignment of IT staff," Duplessie says.

Most IT Teams Feel Management Lacks Big Data, Cloud Skills

Clancy says that EMC conducted a global survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals in more than 600 organizations in February 2013. The survey found that only 16 percent of IT professionals believe their management has strong skills in data science and big data analytics, and only 18 percent believe their management has strong skills in cloud and ITaaS.

"Business leaders have to plan, prioritize and educate their teams with a standardized set of definitions, skills, knowledge and strategies to embrace cloud computing and IT as a Service in order to garner agility and efficiency within their organizations," Duplessie says.

"The same formula holds true for data science and big data analytics initiatives," Duplessie says. "While we all agree that embracing cloud computing and big data analytics is required for businesses to continue to be competitive in today's market, the questions still outweigh the answers as to how to get there successfully. And as a result, businesses are littered with challenges that they need to quickly address and overcome to maintain their leadership positions and continue to improve stockholder value."

"Education can help fill the management skills gap and give business leaders the tools that they need to successfully implement IT as a Service and big data analytics strategies," Duplessie adds. "Educate, plan and execute are proving to be the successful steps that accelerate a successful transformation."

EMC Takes Business Leaders to School

As a result, Clancy says, EMC Education Services is trying something new: While the majority of its courses are aimed at engineers, technologists and developers, it will now offer a new set of courses for executives and business leaders. To begin with, EMC is offering two courses—Cloud and ITaaS for Business Transformation and Data Science and Big Data Analytics for Business Transformation. Each comes in a 90 minute version for executives and a one-day course for business leaders that offers a deeper dive.

"I think that probably there are two main categories [of individual who would most benefit from this course]," says John Baker, director of analytics at Affectiva, a company that specializes in a SaaS-based technology for reading facial expressions to measure the emotional connection people have advertising, brands and media.

Baker recently took the Data Science and Big Data Analytics for Business Leaders course. "One main category is an executive who realizes that they have to execute on a strategy to manage big data and analytics, who perhaps didn't have a background in quantitative methods or analytics. I think that the program will give them that wide background," Baker says.

"But I also think that the other category is those managers or leaders currently in quantitative roles within a company," Baker says. "It will give them a bit more depth of understanding, particularly around what is called the data analytics lifecycle."

Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Big Data, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Thor at tolavsrud@cio.com

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