Many eyebrows were raised amongst sports fans when it recently emerged that Premier League football club Arsenal had acquired a data analytics company, one that's a leader in sports data performance analysis. This was a big step forward indicating a commitment to using modern data extraction techniques to find meaningful correlations and gain greater insights into how players affect outcomes. There's always been data at the heart of football - with live TV came the analysis of goal attempts, corners, assists, possession percentages - but this new acquisition signposted an intention to use different data in a much deeper way, helping to make better decisions and judgements in future.
Big data is changing the role of talent scouts.
Historically football club scouts tended to be ex-professional players, turning up at youth and semi-professional games, taking copious notes and using a player's instincts to spot the next rising stars. Scouting decisions in the future however will begin to require an understanding of data, of the insights that greater data can bring, and will require a different kind of scout and a whole new approach to scouting.
In the HR and recruitment sectors we focus a lot on the process and we talk about how we can and should use big data. Rarely however do we look at how it might impact our future workforce planning and hiring strategies, as different types of businesses and skill specialists embrace the opportunity to make better decisions and more informed judgement calls. With these developments will almost certainly come a need to hire a broader range of people - for example recent research from Success Factors showed businesses anticipating a 131% increase in the need for analytics skills over the next 3 years.
A quick search through job listings will return a range of roles with either 'Data' or even 'Big data' in the title. We've always had database administrators and data input operators, but now we need a much wider range of skills and responsibilities.
Some of the main roles around big data are:
- Architects - Build the data model, creating a roadmap of the 'how' and 'when' of capturing and fitting everything together
- Scientists - Processing what we capture and looking at the most appropriate forms of analysis
- Stewards - Determining who owns each part of the data, who has responsibility (and accountability) for its use and storage, essentially a development of the old database manager role
- Engineers - Effectively the operators of old but with greater responsibility for the overall smooth running of capture
- Visualiser - Successful interpretation and decision making based on data will stem from effective visualisation, so these guys look at context in creating and presenting information that is easy to understand
- Change Agents - Implementation of internal change and innovation arising from data will require people with a mix of project management, vision and commitment to continuous improvement
These roles all require a variety of experience and knowledge across programming, statistical analysis, mathematics, systems development and project management, but it would be a mistake to assume that everyone hired into a data related role will need technical backgrounds. Once you have these skills in place then they will need to be supplemented with non-data professionals who are curious and inquisitive, can interpret correlations and datasets, are natural problem solvers and strong communicators with industry-specific knowledge and expertise.
One impact of big data on hiring trends will be to bring a broad range of skills into companies and industries that wouldn't normally have them. My opening example of a sports organisation shows a need to employ people from both technical and qualitative backgrounds way outside of the remit that they typically recruit. In retail, leisure, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, professional services and the public sector the future need will be to find people less occupied with process and capture, and more focused on the interpretation and implementation of results.
As the marketing discipline has moved from promotion and print to algorithms and SEO, and hence hired to very different specs and searched for a new range of capabilities, so many other professions and industries will find themselves needing to change who they hire and how they find them.
- Will we have the recruiters and hiring managers ready to find them?
- Do our resources know where to look?
- Are our assessment capabilities up to selecting the best skills?
Big data jobs won't be just about the process and the capture, but about interpreting and using the data. After all, no-one anticipated data visualisation would become a core competency of football scouting…
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