Published On: Tue, Feb 21st, 2017

Skilling up for the Always-On enterprise

Claude Schuck is the Regional Manager for Africa at Veeam

Claude Schuck is the Regional Manager for Africa at Veeam

NOT only does the Always-On enterprise require consistent and high quality access to data, but it also needs people that are capable of extracting the best business benefits from it. This is putting the pressure on companies to ensure existing and future employees have the necessary skills to do so.
Already, there is increasing global demand for data scientists that are able to unlock the Always-On value of the enterprise in meaningful ways. Given the number of data input channels available, it should hardly come as a surprise that data is growing exponentially. With terms like Big Data, cloud computing and virtualisation becoming part of the popular business discourse, there is no hiding the fact that there is a clear need to make sense of data for organisational competitiveness.
But it is not only data in itself that is important. Its availability is absolutely essential for the livelihood of the Always-On enterprise. Not being able to access critical information puts an organisation at a distinct disadvantage over competitors. This pursuit of constant access places a new onus on the IT specialist at the company.
The role of the IT department has evolved to be more than just providing support on the hardware and software being used. Instead, in the cloud-focused environment, IT needs to ensure that data is always available irrespective of the devices used by employees and their physical location. This means the company needs to invest in the ongoing education and qualifications of its IT personnel. Ultimately, they can contribute to saving the company more money in the future, especially when it comes to disaster recovery.

Data goes hand-in-hand with this focus on disaster recovery. Not only can its analysis aid in avoiding outages, but it becomes indispensable for simulations and providing a vital test bed for organisations when it comes to business continuity.
In South Africa, there is a significant skills shortage especially around big data. While this is hardly unique to the country, there needs to be a concerted effort by enterprise and education to address the gap that exists. Complicating matters is the dynamic and continually changing nature of data and its associated requirements. The modern data centre requires a modern data scientist.
These individuals differ considerably in how they were viewed a few years ago. While there was a bigger focus of being able to do it all in the past, data scientists today are able to specialise in specific skill sets. So what are some of the skills required to become efficient at data?
For one, data scientists need to have a very strong foundation in math, business technology, and behavioural science. And given the dynamic and rapidly changing environment of data, even if someone becomes qualified as a data scientist, there is a constant need to upskill. Technologies evolve as do the ways needed to analyse data and assist in guiding the company strategy. Decision-makers need to realise that just because they have a data scientist ‘on the books’, it is by no means a fire-and-forget solution. Continuous investment needs to be made in those employees so they remain on top of the latest innovation and trends in the field.

There are precious few tertiary institutions in the country that have put together degrees that can be defined as pure data science. For the most part, there is a component of data science involved but there needs to be a greater willingness to embrace this new profession.
But there are positive signs. Recognising the importance of data in the country, the University of Pretoria has introduced a Master’s degree in Big Data Science for next year. It provides a good example of how a university can leverage its experts and existing disciplines in a new way to embrace change.
For its part, those businesses invested in data analysis and the related solutions and technologies should also work with tertiary institutions in providing the expertise required to assist with the curriculum. In theory, they should be able to provide students with valuable internships in the field giving them experience before joining the workforce. And for existing employees looking to upskill themselves, companies should be willing to invest in both their short-term as well as long-term training.
Data is not going to go away. The Always-On enterprise is going to require even more data-savvy specialists to empower businesses to grow to the next level. Putting the required skilled employees in place has to be a given. Decision-makers need to allocate the necessary resources to the training and development of IT staff. In a data-driven and Always-On environment, they are indispensable to the continued success of business.

-CAJ News

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