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Tackling the talent crunch for digital analytics in Asia

Attracting and retaining the right digital talent remains a challenge in Singapore and the rest of Asia. Fai-Keung Ng, regional director, Southeast Asia, AT Internet, identifies some solutions.

Going digital has been a recurring theme over the last few years. Whether you are providing a digital solution or looking to undergo a digital transformation, attracting and retaining the right talent is a challenge in Singapore and Asia. Agencies across the digital space recognise this challenge and offer training programmes that support development of talent in this market.

As part of this digital space, digital analytics has proven invaluable for businesses, offering data-driven insights that can deliver ROI. However, growth in demand for digital analytics seems to be outstripping available talent. As a result, smaller companies turn to tools which can generate simple insights and look to their digital agencies to solve more complicated problems. There is difficulty in finding a suitably skilled digital analytics consultant who is able to ask the right questions and support the achievement of business objectives via digital channels.

Given the ever-increasing volumes of data and the need to understand the collected information, it is insufficient to just rely on tools without human talent. Well-trained digital analytics consultants are crucial to ensure data-derived insights can be translated into effective business decisions. Yet, finding the right digital analytics talent is easier said than done. In recent years, demand steadily climbed for data analysts and scientists, but with demand outstripping the supply. An AT Kearney Study found that two-thirds of leading companies have been unable to meet the demand for analytics talent.

Why Asia needs to fill its digital talent gap

A dearth of skilled analysts is evident, according to a 2016 PwC survey that identifies the shortage of skills as a key hurdle to digital growth within companies. In addition, Asia – a latecomer to the digital analytics and big data game – retains the perspective that digital analytics revolves around report generation. Digital analysts appear to be mostly fulfilling data conveyance roles, and not so much of translating the information into useful, actionable insights that generate additional value and integrating acquired data into real-time decision-making.

Within Asia, however, Singapore-based firms have pulled ahead in incorporating data-derived insights into making business decisions.

Asia – a latecomer to the digital analytics and big data game – retains the perspective that digital analytics revolves around report generation.
A top media organisation in Singapore has recognised the need for digital analytics to better engage its online consumers in order to grow brand loyalty and find opportunities to monetise its digital platforms.

To stay in the forefront of new media, the organisation is deploying digital analytics to continuously improve its users’ online and mobile experience. Working together with digital analysts has enabled this media group to get a better view of customer activity across its digital platforms and draw actionable insights from content consumption patterns, which can then enhance decision-making for the business.

While businesses can obtain simple automated insights on their processes, either through free or premium tools, these insights represent only a small part of the upside analytics can bring forth.

Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense of the US, famously classified problems using known-knowns, known-unknowns, unknown-unknowns framework. This framework quite adequately summarises the problems analytics can solve for business:

  • Known-knowns – Intuitive and action-oriented problems. These can typically be handled by automated tools.
  • Known-unknowns – Problems require setting up hypotheses and data exploration. These require strong analytical tools and talents in analytics.
  • Unknown-unknowns – Problems that are vague and have no clear hypotheses; large amount of data and algorithms are required for data mining and for finding pattern in data. To solve these problems, you need large quantities of quality data, data exploration tools and data scientists.
What businesses need, rather than just a tool, is a combined solution: technology and human talent.
Solving the latter two types of problems is where the potential lies and how companies can create a competitive edge. However, they are often overlooked due to lack of analytics knowledge and talents in our region.

A combined, collaborative approach

What businesses need, rather than just a tool, is a combined solution: technology and human talent. As most companies often lack the time and expertise to undertake a proper analysis of their digital data (such as interpreting data with context, extracting actionable insights, and putting this data at the heart of their decisions), working with specialised analytics consultants can offer a strategic advantage.

A digital analytics tool can only generate its full value when paired with the expertise of an analyst or a consultant, who have the crucial responsibility of ensuring a smooth transition between derived data and decision-making in the business context. Yet, as a first step, they should be able to ask the right questions, based on an in-depth, accurate understanding of the business, and approach external vendors armed with the knowledge of the problems that should be solved.

Digital analytics companies that cater to clients across different geographical regions also offer the ability to translate and share knowledge across different markets. Taking the e-commerce sector for example, digital analytics companies working with e-commerce clients across Southeast Asia are not restricted to just the best practices for using analytics solutions in the region. Instead, they can tap into experiences with the more mature US and European markets and use these as guidelines on how to best leverage tools and generate insights.

Digital analytics for the future

The adage 'every business is a digital business' remains an overarching opportunity for digital analytics and analytics companies. With digital transformation becoming the heart of every business and companies increasingly taking their offerings online, more avenues open for digital analytics to optimise processes.

More than just owning a digital analytics tool, companies must aim to complement their analytics solution with an experienced digital analytics consultant and industry knowledge, who can examine business questions from a problem-solving perspective. This result can only be achieved with the right talent asking the right questions, which can then lead to gaining the right insights for business success.

This story was first published in Marketing magazine.

Photo / 123RF

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