Big data: analytics' pot of gold

But there are concerns over whether UK businesses, and the UK IT sector in particular, has the skills it needs to help businesses exploit big data. In particular, the figure for the jobs boost from better data analytics depends heavily on UK companies increasing their IT and analytics teams' capabilities, or where work is outsourced, by that work going to UK firms.

This is by no means certain. Already, CIOs are reporting shortages of business intelligence and analytics specialists. The problem is, if anything, more acute in the lines of business themselves. There is little point in IT building sophisticated new analytics tools, if the business lacks the skills needed to interpret the results, and turn the data into decision making.

In fact, unless the skills gap is plugged, and plugged soon, it is not just the jobs benefits but the wider economic opportuntity presented by big data that could be lost. When it comes to skills, work could go to India, Eastern Europe or even the US. But companies ignoring the big data opportunity would be an even worse outcome.

This point is not lost on the Cebr: "the jobs figures do assume there is a labour market that is available, trained and skilled," said Shehan Mohamed, the report's main author, and a Cebr economist. "There is a need to close that gap over the next five years."

To an extent this is already happening, and the IT industry is playing a role, for example though SAS' Curriculum Pathways project, which aims to boost the understanding of statistics and analysis in schools.

But it is also an area where CIOs and IT directors can take a lead, and use this report, and others like it, to show that there is more to data management than good housekeeping.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro