By Joe Dermody
IRISH companies are striving to keep pace with data analytics skills shortages while third-level colleges race to make up ground on a five-year lag on industry-wide demand for skills in this area.
Companies across every sector from professional services to retail are seeking out specialised data analysis retraining for in-house accountants and other key staff. Notably, they’re turning to the Analytics Institute of Ireland (AII), which is based in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin.
The institute has plans to launch a branch in Cork, where demand is also soaring. It is offering a series of targeted certified courses such as its Management
Diploma in Data Analytics, Certified Data Scientist, and Certified Data Engineer.
Some 550 industry leaders from a wide range of sectors attended this week’s National Analytics Conference, which the Analytics Institute hosted in Dublin’s Mansion House. The institute had to turn down people seeking to attend. A small event a few years back, next year they’ll be needing a bigger boat.
“We had to shut the event a few weeks before we went live,” said Lorcan Malone, CEO of AII. “Salaries are surging, people are telling us they can’t find the talent they need. There is far more demand than supply.
“I believe we are looking at a five-year window before the colleges can catch up. And, of course, it takes time for students to become fully effective in the workplace. That’s why we’ve launched an online professional certification, working with different companies who are helping us to define our courses in line with their needs.”
Support level data analysts are earning over €35,000 on average, quickly rising to €48,000 for a data analytics practitioner, €53,000 for a consultant practitioner, €80,000 for a data analytics manager, and up to €100k to €200k for team leader and director roles.
Why are they in such demand? Why has data mining suddenly become so essential to the successful running of a business? The key benefits from analytics being sought by companies are deeper insights, the ability to react quicker to changing market dynamics, and to increase customer satisfaction and retention.
Those were among the key findings of the first National Analytics Maturity Report, conducted by the Analytics Institute and UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School and backed by EY Ireland.
Companies are using data to gain a better understanding of their customers and their opportunities. Data analytics also covers areas such as GDPR and data privacy, the veracity of data, real time analytics, machine learning and AI, and the emergence of new data sources.
Right now, new technologies such as robotic process automation, blockchain and quantum computing are less impactful for most organisations. The study primarily focused on Ireland’s top 100 organisations.
“The heart of data analytics is understanding the customer better to get a measurable performance improvement,” said Mr Malone. “For instance, Dublin Airport Authority use it to predict customer flows and spending patterns. They used predictive analytics to know the right products and the times when people will spend money.
“Of course, analytics doesn’t do away with gut instinct in business, but it supports your instincts with data that will ensure you are more effective.
“Of course, gut instinct isn’t always effective. Rather than just always looking in the rear view mirror, organisations are now using predictive analysis to ensure better performance.”
Why now? The current explosion of interest in data has largely come about due to lower costs in AI and computing power. Organisations are running algorithms to get real-time solutions in a way that was neither doable nor affordable 10 years ago.
Eoin O’Reilly, partner and head of data analytics at EY, told the Mansion House audience that he is seeing huge use being made of data analytics and automation in sectors like recruitment and real estate.
Where business analysts previously had to spend days sifting through thousands of documents, they’re now using computing models to come up with real-time solutions to inform their business decisions.
Mr O’Reilly said: “The ‘human’ element is a challenge being faced by many. We need a solid pipeline of talent across the STEM spectrum to address the current deficit, and businesses leaders must focus now on future-proofing their existing workforce through training and development. Ensuring an organisation has data-savvy managers as well as technical experts is the magical formula to move from insight to action.”
Mr Malone added: “Data analytics is delivering extraordinary improvements in productivity. I think we are currently at a tipping point; we’re seeing this move from seeming futuristic to more and more just being a matter of fact in business.
Kilkenny Tourism is using data to analyse people’s spending patterns at events, assessing the opportunities and gains in various festivals. SMEs are increasingly using Google analytics to assess web traffic and adapt the site accordingly; retailers are using stock inventory data when ordering; or even a call centre analysing inward and outbound calls.
The use of secure, anonymised data is becoming more commonplace. Most consumers have moved from raising ‘Big Brother’ flags about data mining to seeing the benefits in their daily lives. It is this cross-sectoral explosion of interest which is putting the immediate skills shortages in the spotlight. And this is where the AII’s suite of courses comes into play.
“We see our certification of skills as being key to help
organisations train new people and to retrain their existing staff,” said Mr Malone. “We’re a relatively new organisation, we’ve only been around a few years. We’re hoping to open a Cork chapter soon.”
Liam FitzGerald, former CEO of United Drug Group plc, will assume the role of chair of the Irish advisory board of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in January 2019. An active board member since 2006, he brings vast experience and his networks across Europe and the USA to connect students with the world’s most successful companies. He holds a BComm and MBS from UCD, and has been recognised as UCD Smurfit School’s Alumnus of the Year. He succeeds Niall FitzGerald who, after his four-year term as chair, joins the emeritus board after leading the School through a transformative period since 2014.
James Byrne of Glanbia Agri Business has been named as vice-chair of Retail Excellence’s e-commerce committee, a group which is focused on training, standards and strategic planning for retailers with an omni-channel operation in Ireland. Retail Excellence maintains a number of partnerships with eCommerce Europe as well as some of the largest tech companies in the world. Retail Excellence collates a wealth of monthly data from online sales, promotes the European Trustmark and assists businesses in understanding and complying with regulatory issues like GDPR.
Mary-Jane Halpin has been promoted to director of HR and business change with insurance broker Cornmarket Group Financial Services, which serves the financial needs of public sector employees. She will drive the digital and people strategy for the business while leading and influencing change management programmes. She was previously the company’s head of HR for seven years, and led the customer service app MyCornmarket. She previously worked in HR roles for law firm Matheson, Caledonian Life and Royal Liver Assurance. She is a member of CIPD. She holds a Business Studies degree from Dundalk IT and a Masters in Strategic HR from NCI.
Seán Finan has been appointed as the new CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA). A former president of Macra na Feirme, he is a chartered engineer and part-time farmer from Ballinlough, Castlerea, Co Roscommon. He holds a Civil Engineering degree from NUI Galway and a Certificate in Agriculture. He has previously worked in engineering and management roles with John Sisk & Son over a 12-year period. He also currently holds the voluntary post of vice-president of the European Council of Young Farmers, CEJA. IrBEA was founded in May 1999. Its role is to promote the bioenergy industry and to develop the sector.
Colm Kearns has been promoted to account executive with Heneghan PR, having joined in November 2017 as an intern. He provides support across corporate, technology and healthcare clients, including ABP Food Group, Home and Community Care Ireland, Wisetek, and Rentokil Initial. He holds a Masters in PR from Dublin Institute of Technology. He also holds a BA in English and Anthropology from Maynooth University. Mr Kearns has worked as a sales and marketing intern at Dublin-based technology company MentorPitch. Heneghan PR integrates public relations, public affairs, crisis communications and digital.
Eilís O’Connell has been appointed to the Teagasc Authority. She is the assistant secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, responsible for HR and corporate affairs. She has served as a civil servant for over 27 years. She brings a range of experience to her current role, including previous senior management roles in HR, corporate services, public procurement and change management in both the Department of Defence and the Office of Public Works. She replaces Brendan Gleeson as the Department of Agriculture’s representative on the Teagasc Authority, following his recent appointment as secretary general of the Department