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Gartner made headlines recently when it predicted big data would create 4.4 million jobs by 2015. The analyst firm opined that there’s not enough hired talent to meet the challenges of big data and finding opportunities to turn information into revenue. Gartner reasons that big data will accelerate growth in the global economy and create job opportunities.
On the surface, the prediction might make sense. We’ve talked a lot about how big data is a tough nut to crack – not everyone can do it and companies need help making sense of it, especially when 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day from sensors, social media and billions of mobile devices around the world. So I would agree that big data will bring job opportunities. There will be smart, data-oriented consultants who jump into the fray and find a lot of work from companies seeking data expertise. But 4.4 million jobs seems like a lot.
I simply don’t think we will have that many people devoted solely to tackling big data. A more likely outcome is that big data becomes a job requirement for regular business people, who will have to adapt and learn to extract value from data. Those who can’t adapt will be replaced, as is always the case.
I also think business schools will increasingly incorporate data-crunching and statistics courses into their curriculum – more so than they do now; the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth is a good example – but overall I’m not sure there will be a massive demand for big data specialists.
I agree that there exists tremendous potential gains from the analysis of data – I have already witnessed the power that harnessing big data properly can bring to large enterprises in a number of fields such as financial services, telecom and life sciences. I can only assume that all major companies will eventually be compelled to pursue this power to help drive their business forward. And data scientists and specialists will be required to help us get there and address the most complex problems, but to achieve real scale and adoption, regular business people will need to become lucid and adept in querying and analyzing the varied data sources at their disposal. They will need to come to terms with what “data-driven” really means.
So there are big opportunities in big data, but not in the form of 4.4 million big data-specific jobs. That’s a big stretch.