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Olivia Duane Adams

Chief Advocacy Officer and Co-Founder, Alteryx

Data analytics is already part of our everyday lives: From the apps we engage with to track our finances and monitor our fitness, to the smart watches that track our blood oxygen levels, heart rate and blood pressure.

Recent research commissioned by Alteryx, Data and Analytics in a Digital-First World1, shows that while many businesses have data workers in their organisation, not all of them have the skills to meet their potential. Many employees are mired in unproductive work using inefficient legacy spreadsheets. The research showed that, of the 78 million advanced spreadsheet users worldwide, workers are losing 106 days annually due to inefficient working practices.

Valuable role of data

The power of data cannot be understated. In our private lives, data insights drive health and wealth. In business, data-driven decisions continue to form the backbone of success. So why shouldn’t data drive our professional careers as well?

There are several challenges at play. Analytics and data automation skills remain in huge demand across the globe, but demand far outstrips supply. There simply aren’t enough trained data scientists. The good news is that you don’t have to have a PhD in data science to create analytics magic.

Poor data knowledge

Business data is everywhere, yet many businesses are in a situation where they have a wealth of data, but a poverty of insights. So why do so many organisations still struggle to pull meaningful understandings from their data?

To address this need for a workforce with analytical ability, we launched the Alteryx SparkED Education programme last year with the goal to help expand data literacy and analytics skills among all learners.

The programme provides free data analytics software, with free certifications, to learners of all skill levels. We’ve already helped thousands of students and job seekers secure the certifications that will set them up for success in their careers and beyond.

The truth is that many of the people that you need are hiding in plain sight. Instead of hiring for a limited number of positions, companies should be looking to upskill existing staff. They should provide them with the tools that enable them to become “fluent in data” which is increasingly the common language of the business.

Analytics and data automation skills remain in huge demand across the globe, but demand far outstrips supply.

Driving data with human intelligence

The good news is that the latest data analytics technologies are many stages removed from the dusty, dry world of spreadsheets. If data fuels twenty first century commercial intelligence, then the engine needs to be driven by human intelligence empowered by the right technologies. As with any modern technology, people play a vitally important role in delivering core insights to make business decisions.

To date, SparkED has helped thousands of learners from hundreds of universities across more than 50 countries to become data evangelists through a comprehensive education programme that brings the next generation of data analytics into the classroom.

In addition to students and educators, the programme also enrols those who are interested in changing their career paths by leveraging their new data analytics skills. This enables anyone to bolster their CV with in-demand certifications and skills that many businesses look for in their hires.

Training current and future employees

When it comes to educating future and current employees, the question isn’t “should we” or “shouldn’t we.” Rather, it lies in knowing where and how to do it. Accessible analytic technologies enable people from disparate teams, and with different mindsets, to collaborate, ask questions and solve problems creatively.

Ultimately it is the people of the business, empowered by the technology, who drive success. Without data literate people, even the best transformation strategy is useless.


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