Data skills

Data skills deficiencies impeding efforts to improve customer experience


A shortage of data skills is hampering business efforts to improve customer experiences. 

25th Oct 2019

UK organisations are unable to deliver on the promise of personalised customer experiences because of a shortage of data skills, new research reveals. 

A survey conducted by digital marketing software supplier Adobe indicates that a significant number of businesses acknowledge the importance of personalised experiences to their customers, with nearly half citing gathering real-time customer information (46%) and improving targeting abilities (40%) as strategic priorities for next year.

But in reality, many organisations are likely to fall far short of reaching these goals as they are unable to tackle even the basics of data management adequately, the research suggests. 

The report entitled ‘Mind the Data Gap’ surveyed 750 senior executives, to find that few (17%) are currently undertaking data hygiene practices, such as cleaning and standardising existing data sets, effectively. Meanwhile, under one in five respondents indicate that they are confident of being able to aggregate both online and offline data.

According to the findings, the key problem likes with a dearth of suitable data skills within organisations (cited by 27%), while the absence of suitable technology (24%) and the lack of a data-centric culture (22%) are also congtributory factors. 

Gavin Mee, Adobe’s vice president of Northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, warned brands that it was crucial to do something about this situation if they were to deliver on the “heightened expectations of their customers”, particularly in relation to speed and convenience.

“Having the right skills to capture and analyse data are important, but so too is instilling a data-centric culture across the business that means insights and technology platforms are used to create amazing, personalised experiences,” he said.

But while there is a dearth of data talent, companies are being warned not rush into the recruitment of unsuitable staff. 

Data science expert and author David Stephenson has acknowledged that there is a marked skills shortage, but has wartned against  filling the gap with generalist data scientist roles.

Instead for an organisation to truly transform its business and ensure it is able to make data-driven decisions, he has recommended hiring six types of specialists, if possible. These consist of:

  • Business analysts to “answer basic but important data questions asked by your business units”. If you hire no other kind of data scientist, these Stephenson says, are the ones to focus on;
  • Data engineers to collect data and prepare it for analysis, structure your data warehouse and/or big data system and ensure your data pipeline flows smoothly;
  • Algorithm specialists to write the models that, for example, can predict customer demand, churn or future revenues;
  • Web analysts to analyse online customer behaviour on both the company website and across mobile applications;
  • Reporting specialists to create visuals that are able to communicate any data insights clearly and effectively.

Stephenson adds: "Pulling your data team together is a challenging task, particularly in today’s labour market. But, done right and combined with proper strategic support from the top, the competitive benefits you’ll reap will make you wonder how you ever managed without such a team."

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