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What big data skills do IT professionals really require?


The ever-growing consumption of the internet and mobile computing in our everyday lives has given companies, enterprises and governments huge volumes of information. While this information is undoubtedly useful, garnering it in a meaningful and fruitful way has proved tricky.

Part of the difficulty organisations have had in implementing big data is a lack of suitably skilled IT professionals. A report by Accenture, which surveyed over 1,000 CIOs and COOs, showed that 48% of respondents in the UK are struggling to find enough skilled professionals to undertake the digital transformation of their organisation.

Big data roles

The report also found that 62% of UK respondents said they expect big data projects to have the biggest impact on their organisations, highlighting the importance of big data. The rise of big data has certainly thrown up a plethora of IT based positions – Big Data Analyst, Big Data Developer and Big Data Engineer are just a few of the roles that have been created as a result of the surge in interest.

While these roles have slightly different functions there is a lot of overlap in terms of the skills and knowledge required. A commonly named aspect of these roles is knowledge of ‘Not-only SQL’ (NoSQL). This is a software package that attempts to solve issues around scalability and big data performance that relational databases are not capable of addressing. A strong working knowledge of NoSQL and its relationship with the wider big data function is essential, and expected, for IT professionals dealing with big data.

Apache Spark

Other skills that are pivotal for IT specialists working in big data is a knowledge of Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark. Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers. Hadoop can be a complex tool and those who know their way around its core principals are in big demand in the industry.

Apache Spark was originally developed in 2009 and has since been widely utilised by internet giants such as Yahoo, Baidu and Tencent. Its rapid rise in popularity is in no small part down to its speed and ease of use in comparison to Hadoop. Spark still requires a considerable level of expertise to programme and run, and a sound working knowledge of the software is very useful for any IT professional working with big data.

Data Visualisation

With so much data out there, visualising big data can be a challenge. While a working knowledge of the tools used to extrapolate the data is needed, it is a pointless exercise if you can’t properly analyse it. Tools like Tableau and SAS offer insights into the shape of your data, revealing hidden details that can change the direction in which you proceed.

The Harvard Business Review adds that the use of data visualisation is helping to deliver more complex content marketing campaigns which in turn is helping to drive better results. The study adds that data is being used to “build a foundation” to ensure that the work developed is “more relevant and effective”. It means that those in the IT industry that have knowledge of visualisation techniques are in a powerful position to help others across a range of sectors with some of the issues they might be facing.

Read our related blog: IT earning power in 2016

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