Julia Booth, advanced analytics business manager at BCG, said: “Data, analytics and digital are the future — understanding the key drivers of these phenomena and how to get value from them will differentiate organizations the world over.”
The comments by McKinsey and BCG, made this week to students at a conference at London’s Imperial College Business School, come as a slew of other elite consulting firms show increasing demand for strategists who can harness the power of big data.
“There are growing opportunities to work in consulting for people interested in digital transformation,” said Zoe McLoughlin, London Business School’s head of consulting.
The onset of large data sets and powerful analytical tools are reshaping the way companies form strategy.
But a severe shortage of talent means many businesses are looking to consultancy firms for expertise. Digital — including big data, the cloud, and artificial intelligence — is the fastest-growing consulting line in the UK, rising by 27% to $1.4 billion in 2015, according to the Management Consultancies Association.
“A large number of their clients ask for services related to digital transformation, as they want to find a better way to engage with their customers via the digital medium,” said Stephane Ponce, global consulting lead at INSEAD, the business school.
The gap between supply and demand for data analytics talent will hit 1.5 million by 2018, according to McKinsey. “It is critical to understand the value of data in today’s economy,” said Mark Skilton, professor in the Information Systems and Management Group at Warwick Business School.
It is not just elite consulting firms, such as Bain & Company, Accenture and Deloitte that need trained talent. Demand for MBAs who understand big data is surging across the board, according to Gregory LaBlanc, faculty director at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “There is huge unmet demand for data science,” he said.
Alwin Magimay, a partner at McKinsey, said that business must turn data science into a discipline. “Data scientists are today what programmers were in the early 1990s.”
Business schools have made bold bets on the need for managers to harness the same skill-sets. Duke’s Fuqua School of Business this month launched a specialist masters degree in analytics.
Meanwhile, Wharton School in March launched an MBA major in business analytics. The same month, MIT Sloan rolled out a data analytics masters degree. And in April, Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management began teaching a big data course to MBAs with Lutz Finger, LinkedIn’s analytics chief.
McKinsey’s Alwin added: “Data is destined to become so valuable that I predict that not so far in the future it will be included on balance sheets in the same way tangible assets are.”