Data proficiency more important than second language say EU business leaders

Data and analytics skills could be more important in business than industry experience, management experience, or a second language. 

That’s according to the Business Grammar Report, commissioned by Alteryx, surveyed over 500 European business leaders and found that almost a third (30%) consider data and analytics skills to be the most important skill or capability for a potential new employee. France places the most importance on data and analytics for new hires, with 37% citing it as the top skill. 59% of European business leaders consider data/analytics to be one of the two most important skills for new employees, compared with only 28% feeling the same way about multilingualism.

Out of IT and into line of business users

Alteryx research found that the shift in the importance placed on data and analytics has also been reflected in the way businesses manage and interact with data. Recognising that data can no longer be confined to the IT department or technical specialists, the study uncovered that only 15% of European business leaders across the five countries leave data analysis to an IT or centralised business intelligence team, while 29% reported that they are empowering business users with self-service analytics tools. The UK leads the way in business user empowerment, with a third of businesses (34%) currently harnessing self-service analytics tools. France and Germany are blazing a trail when it comes to advanced analytics, with almost half of businesses in each country (47% and 46%, respectively) embracing it right now.

Data analytics is now considered so integral to business that four out of five European business leaders surveyed feel that data analytics should be a compulsory part of all MBA programmes. The opinion was particularly marked in the Netherlands and Germany, where 88% and 87%, respectively, are in favour of this approach.

“Our research found that European business leaders would be willing to offer a 36% higher salary to someone who is data proficient over one who isn’t,” commented Stuart Wilson, VP EMEA, Alteryx, Inc. “The change in attitude that’s taking place in boardrooms today shows the value of being data-savvy and how important it is that effective analytics are made available to business users. It makes sense to equip every business analyst with self-service tools that allow them to ask questions of their data.”

Driving data decisions

Decisions about how data is looked after are spreading throughout organisations. In total, 42% of those surveyed reported that decisions about how data is accessed, integrated and analysed still lie with the IT team, but 30% reported this is the purview of departmental leaders and 25% attributed this responsibility to the executive leadership. Furthermore, 67% feel it’s become easier to get the data needed for decision making over the last year. Almost a third (31%) of Dutch businesses look to their executive leadership for decisions about data access, integration, and analysis, whereas this is only the case in 15% of French companies. In fact, French IT teams still take the lead with data management and analysis decisions according to 51% of respondents, compared with 31% in Denmark. Departmental leaders are the most likely to make these decisions in Denmark, taking the lead 40% of the time, compared with only 24% of UK departmental leaders.

“Most organisations depend on the IT department or business intelligence team for analytics-based decision-making, but things are changing. European business leaders are demanding more agile and flexible insight. Organisations can boost the speed and quality of analytics by adopting a “DIY approach” and providing self-service analytics tools,” Wilson explained.

“In the last few years, we have seen tremendous change in the data landscape,” commented Andy Cotgreave, senior technical evangelist at Tableau. “We’ve moved from a place where data was hidden away in the darkest corners of an organisation to a point where it can be harnessed by almost anyone. Every business user has the opportunity to uncover value in data, and the research from Alteryx shows this has been recognised at all levels in European organisations.

“Data has opened up competition in the modern business world – we know that the answers companies want are out there, waiting to be discovered. The winners are those organisations which equip and educate their teams to find and share them,” Cotgreave continued.

Challenges remain

The research highlighted that a number of challenges still exist around data analytics in business. When it comes to getting the data needed for decisions, incomplete data is the biggest problem for 41% of those surveyed. (This is particularly true in Germany, with 53% reporting it as their biggest obstacle). Just under half (48%) of the time, data received from another department or business division needs to be cleaned, repaired, or re-organised before it’s ready for analysis. This problem is particularly true of the Netherlands, where it’s an issue 54% of the time. Only a quarter (26%) of European business leaders report that their teams have all the data they need in one place, with almost half (46%) reporting that they use data from more than five separate sources for decision making. Less than a third of Danish teams surveyed (30%) are drawing on five data sources or more for their analysis, compared with 56% of French and 51% of Dutch businesses.