6 Key Big Data Skills Every Business Needs

By Bernard Marr

Part of Big Data for Small Business For Dummies Cheat Sheet

What are the key skills required to use big data successfully? The list here includes six key skills that all businesses should develop, either through recruiting data scientists who match these attributes, or by developing these skills in existing employees:

  • Analytics: This involves determining which data is relevant to the question you’re hoping to answer and interpreting the data in order to derive those answers. Key skills include a knack for spotting patterns and establishing links, the ability to make sense of a range of data (both structured and unstructured) and a sound knowledge of industry-standard analytics packages like SAS Analytics and Oracle Data Mining.

  • Creativity: Anyone can be formulaic – you need to aim for innovation that will set your business apart from the pack. Creativity is especially important for any business hoping to make sense of unstructured data – data that doesn’t fit comfortably into tables and charts. Valuable creative skills include a knack for problem solving (perhaps even spotting problems others aren’t yet aware of) and the ability to come up with new ways of gathering and interpreting data.

  • Maths and statistics: People with a strong background in maths or statistics have a good grounding for big data-related work. You’re looking for at least a basic grasp of statistics and the ability to wrangle messy data into figures that can be quantified so that you can draw conclusions from them.

  • Computer science: This very broad category covers a whole range of subfields, such as machine learning, databases and cloud computing. It may cover everything from plugging together the cables to creating sophisticated machine learning and natural language processing algorithms. Key skills include a solid understanding of database technology and a firm grasp of technologies such as Hadoop, Java and Python.

  • Business acumen: People who work with big data need a firm grasp of the company’s goals and objectives, as well as an understanding of whether the business is heading in the right direction. This includes understanding what makes the company tick, what makes it thrive and why it stands out from its competitors (and if it’s not thriving, why it’s not).

  • Communication: You can have the best analytical skills in the world, but unless you’re able to present findings in a clear way and demonstrate how they can help to improve performance and drive success, all that analysis will go to waste. Great interpersonal and written communication skills are vital, as is the ability to add value to data through insights and analysis. A knack for storytelling and being able to bring data to life through visualisation techniques will also help immensely.