Business Intelligence Training: Are Colleges or Companies Responsible?

Future of Business Intelligence is Education 300x225 photo (bi training)

Future of Business Intelligence is Education 300x225 photo (bi training)

Author:Amanda Brandon, Spotfire Blogging Team

I recently discussed how the future of business intelligence is in education. Now the question of who is responsible for BI and data analytics training – companies or colleges – is becoming a hot topic as the need for data analytics talent grows.

We discovered one school of thought through Henry Morris, SVP for software and technology research groups at IDC. He recently wrote a two-part blog series covering how universities need to move beyond training just IT students in analytics platforms.

In the second post of the series, he covered how advanced analytics talent is coming from a different background than traditional IT. He also laid out the types of training students need at the university level, which includes an analytics unit for students studying IT as well as finance, marketing and supply chain management. 

IDC’s pervasive BI study names training as the first factor of five “most impactful in driving analytics-based decision-making throughout an organization.” Morris says he’s seen evidence of successful training on projects that bring business and IT together in larger organizations. However, he is calling for a higher emphasis on education in the “practical use of analytics into business schools.”

Neil Raden (@neilraden), an independent analyst and founder of consulting firm Hired Brains, holds the dissenting opinion that analytics training belongs in universities. He says you should “grow your own analysts through on-the job training.”

He discusses the need to remove that “I don’t have the skill set to be effective in this” mentality in an Information Week article titled, “Who Needs Analytics PhDs? Grown Your Own.” His premise is that insurance companies have created a on-the-job training path for actuaries and this is a good model for analytics training. For example, most actuaries (and Raden is one) come to the job with a bachelor’s degree. They are then given time to train for the strenuous exams as part of their work day for the first two or three years.

Morris cites many examples of how schools are working with technology companies, such as IBM’s partnership with the Yale School of Management’s Center for Customer Insights (@YaleCCI), to grow interest and training for students seeking careers in analytics or BI.

However, the downside of these programs is that if they are teaching analytics with one platform, the student may be limited in their job options. And, the technology is moving in a more self-service direction. The research from IDC and others shows the tools need to be easier to use – self-service – and training can take the stigma out of “lack of skill.”

Maybe Raden was on to something – the education component is necessary to grow the field, but only a few schools are either in the beginnings or discussions of analytics programs. A more immediate approach is for companies to look to a more robust training for all levels of analytics users.

To learn how Spotfire is helping clients meet their ongoing training needs, check out our recent on-demand webcast “Educational Awareness Session: Driving Spotfire User Adoption in 2011”.