Whether you are just starting on your BI journey or are continuing to improve on past successes, a shortage of skilled and experienced BI resources is going to be one of your top challenges. You are definitely not alone in this quest. Here are some scary statistics:
  • “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.” (Source: May 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report on Big Data)
  • “… trigger a talent shortage, with up to 190,000 skilled professionals needed to cope with demand in the US alone over the next five years.” (Source: 2012 Deloitte report on technology trends)
  • “Fewer than 25% of the survey respondents worldwide said they have the skills and resources to analyze unstructured data, such as text, voice, and sensor data.” (Source: 2012 research report by IBM and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford)
There are no easy short-term solutions to this challenge (with some exceptions — see the last bullet). The usual “create a competitive talent recruiting and retaining strategy and processes” is the right place to start, but it’s not going to be enough. Here are additional steps you can take as you staff your BI centers of excellence, competency centers, solution centers, programs, and projects:
  • Work with local schools, colleges, and universities. Create a data/BI scholarship fund. Sponsor BI classes. Create BI (summer) internships for students. This can help ensure a steady stream of graduates to apply for your BI positions.
  • Look inside your “shadow IT” organization. I’m sure I will not surprise you by telling you that no matter what other BI tools your organization uses, Microsoft Excel is and will continue to be your No. 1 BI tool. Find those people and entice them to come out from the shadows and work on your enterprise BI apps and platforms. These will end up being your top BI resources. In a large organization with millions of spreadsheets and hundreds of places to look for these people, consider using spreadsheet management tools to find them (Cimcon Software, Compassoft, ClusterSeven, Lyquidity, and when (or if) you upgrade to Microsoft Office 2013, Excel will come with such spreadsheet management capability, via a product that Microsoft acquired from Prodiance in 2011).
  • Work with the pros. Bring in third parties to help, but make sure you are working with consultants who have the experience, expertise, and critical mass of local talent, plus the global reach. Leverage our most recent BI Services Wave research to shortlist and select the best consultants to fit your needs.
  • If all else fails, you may truly be ready for BI outsourcing. Consider cloud BI vendors like Gooddata and Birst and some of the leading consultants mentioned in the previous bullet to not only host your BI platform, but also take on the task of building, maintaining, and delivering all of the BI artifacts: reports, dashboards, alerts, etc. 
Did I miss any other best practices? As always, curious to hear from all of you.