So what’s the big deal about big data? According to McKinsey Global Institute, it is “the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. Where does it come from? Here, there, everywhere, but especially from you. Life as we know it would be incredibly difficult without it.

Before I get started, if you’re not sure what it really is, Business Innovation guest author Michael Matzer can give you a pretty good idea. But I’m here to share with you a few ideas on how to prepare and develop talent for the on-going big data revolution.

The first step, you need to actually get started with big data. Then implement advanced technology analytics tools. Now just because you buy them doesn’t mean your employees will use them. It must become part of the culture. This is the only way old and new employees will depend on the software to make business decisions.

Try this: get a respected, well-spoken VP to hold a “coffee corner” or “demo session” on how using the analytics tools simplified the decision process for him/her. Make sure the demo illustrates the time saved, ease of the tool, and put it on an iPad. For some reason it always looks fancier.

So now where do you go to find the big data talent?

battle-for-brainsHate to say it, but let me know when you find out. As of today there is an acute lack of
talent for hire. According to a 2012 InformationWeek State of IT Staffing Survey, IT companies want to increase their big-data staff by more than 30%. However, 53% cite it will be difficult to find individuals with the required skills.

Just because it’s difficult to find the talent doesn’t mean it’s not the sexiest job of the 21st century. (Hey, HBR said it, not me)

Why? Big data is still relatively new and there is very few college majors focused on data analytics. This expertise requires not only technical skills, but also mathematical and statistical competencies. This dilemma is forcing companies like SAP and IBM to work hand in hand with higher education to address the growing demand.

So how are companies dealing with the gap in talent?

Many are looking to internal employees and developing them in-house. They are doing so by utilizing resources such as big data books and training courses from companies like my former employer, EMC.

To get your internal talent interested is simple. Advertise the need for big data analysts; provide information on the benefits of becoming an analyst, and offer training courses on the analytical tools you purchased.

But who do you focus on first? suggests starting with your high-potentials and top performers first. These are the ones with an intense interest in the quanitative aspects of your business. They show no fear with new technology or with a new project.

Try the power users, or commonly called experts in cross functions. They have a comprehensive understanding of the business and have knowledge in analysis.

Don’t forget about your geeks. I mean this in the best way possible. They will work well with your high-potentials and power users. They also tend to be one in the same. However, their deep technical skills, paired with your math power users will make for a strong team.

Another route is implementing a post-grad program. Many students who come out of college with a math or statistics degree can be taught relatively technical skills. By training these new hires, you’re investing in your own future.

If you don’t have the capital to undertake such a large investment like a post-grad program, work with a local university. This provides an excellent opportunity for your company to play a role in the soon-to-be hired students, as well as share your brand and create a recruiting pool.

Try some of these out and let me know how they work. I look forward to hearing your success. If you’ve already been there done this, how did it go? Let me know by commenting on this article or let’s continue the conversation on Twitter @LindseyNNelson