Data marketing boosted Australian economy by $20bn, reckon Google and PwC

By Rosie Baker and Nicola Riches | 12 September 2014

Data-driven marketing practices added a staggering $20bn to the Australian economy last year, a new Google-commissioned report has found.  But the shortage of talent that can fuse data smarts with business brains means there's more going untapped.

According to the Google PwC report, the Australian economy benefited $67bn through innovation in data-driven insights across three distinct areas: organisational processes, operational processes and marketing. The figure accounts for some 4.4% of GDP.

However, the analysis shows that some $48bn was potentially left untapped by business. In a list of 19 sectors including mining, healthcare and financial services, the advertising industry was not singled out for examination. But the media and telecoms sector is thought to have contributed at least $2.3bn to the calculations.

The problem facing Australia, says the Deciding with Data report, is that it suffers a lack of skills in this particular area and this is therefore seen as the number one barrier to innovation. “Data experts will be a scarce and valuable commodity,” Google said in the report adding that 4.4 million IT jobs globally will be created to support big data by 2015, but only one-third of them will be filled.

The report concludes with four key recommendations: accelerate the provision of ‘open data’ as an important economic input; agree on a social licence to use data to maximise economic and societal value; increase access to data by adopting an open digital architecture and enhance Australia’s skill base with more people who can derive insights from data.

Lithium Technologies chief scientist Dr. Michael Wu, agrees that the shortage of skills is a problem, but that it's born from a misunderstanding in the marketing industry of what it needs from data scientists.

In 2012 The Harvard Business Review called data scientist "the sexiest job in the 21st century", but Dr Wu thinks that's actually detrimental because it confuses the industry. Marketers are wrongly assuming that a one size fits all data scientist will solve the data conundrum.

“Marketers what to hire a data scientists but they don't know if they deed someone at the infrastructure layer or the business analyst level. They all work with data but the tools are completely different. It's three distinct roles. It's data infrastructure to capture, process and serve data. Then there’s statistical models to predict actions. The third tier is the decision science layer - business analysts.

“The problem is the industry calls anyone who works in data a data scientist and that's why there's a shortage because there is rarely a person who would do all three things. As the field of data science matures people get more specialised but the [catch all] 'data scientist' will become extinct.”

Jodie Sangster, CEO of ADMA, told AdNews she agrees that the crossover between data and business understanding is the problem but that there aren’t any marketing of business degrees in Australia that bridge the two skillsets.

She added though that while it is a problem for the Australian market, it's not unique.

“The overall message is that we need more talent because were missing out and need to find the next generation who understand and use and apply data to boost the economy and drive innovation. [The Google PwC report] is an Australian report, but it would be interesting to benchmark against the rest of the world. I don't think that many other countries are any further ahead than us in terms of having the right talent in place. You get pockets of it like silicon Valley and parts of Europe, but the talent gap is a critical issue. There are stats that show only about 60% of the [necessary] jobs are going to be filled – that's a problem. We need to get up to speed with getting the volume of people through.”

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