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Why is the Upskilling of Data and Analytics so Important for Government?

With over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, data-driven insights are the main driver in every major business decision and are essential to discovering more efficient processes, reduction in risk or new sources of revenue.  
However, harnessing the power of data continues to be a challenge due to the ongoing shortage of data science skills in the labor market, where demand for digital skills still far outstrips the supply.
IDC estimates that by 2025, we’ll have created more than 175 zettabytes globally. As the digital world continues evolving, organizations, including government, are moving fast and need even faster solutions – low strategic output from legacy tools are no longer acceptable. The sheer abundance of data and its growing complexity means data-skilled workers who can harness it for fast and sound decisions will be at the forefront of the job market throughout the next decade.
For public sector organizations in general, there is already fierce competition for talent and for resources like classically trained data scientists. The government is in competition with the private sector for data talent so the ability to leverage existing talent and build skills is going to be critical.

What is the goal of upskilling?

Taka Argia, Chief Data Scientist at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said the goal is not to turn everyone into classically trained data scientists, but rather to create a class of “general contractors” who understand the power of data to improve the outcome of their work. Argia said that employees appreciate the upskilling effort because it trains them to be more well-rounded as auditors. While not every worker needs to become a data scientist, many businesses are upskilling their employees to overcome this shortage by building their own internal pool of talented data workers with the skills, desire, knowledge, and analytical expertise to be successful and thrive in an increasingly “data-rich” environment.

What role does technology like Alteryx play in upskilling data and analytics talent?

By providing analytics solutions that upskill information workers into data-literate knowledge workers, these knowledge workers – individually and collectively – can help drive organizational transformation. Employees have the context of the business questions to solve as well as the knowledge of the data assets available that can drive answers through analytics. The Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform™ (APA) enables every level of data worker — regardless of their technical acumen — to create breakthroughs that matter by democratizing data, automating key process, and leveraging a full suite of analytic capabilities, from descriptive analytics to predictive analytics though assisted modeling and even geospatial analytics all in a low code / no code unified platform.
The aim is to create an open culture of learning where staff communicate and work together to solve data problems. An organization’s existing data scientists should act as coaches to colleagues, encouraging them to think analytically and ask the right questions of datasets. This will help build data skills into every team, so that data analytics becomes an enterprise-wide initiative, rather than siloed into one team of analytics professionals. A unified analytics platform like Alteryx enables this collaboration, learning, and sharing of insight that fuels data upskilling efforts.

What impact is upskilling having on organizations and individuals?

At a large defense organization, a global supply chain leader said “Four years ago, I was in the Marine Corps and didn’t know what a VLOOKUP was. Now I am an SME for a team of 10 and starting with ML exploration. Within a month of using Alteryx, I was saving 25% of my time in data ETL. At the U.S. State Department, Alteryx is reducing manual efforts, incorporating R and Python into workflows, automating work, and upskilling staff to create actionable insights more quickly than ever.”
In the state of South Dakota, the audit team is enabled with a suite of automation building blocks to better identify more productive targets for investigation and as put by the audit team coordinator, “Alteryx is the ‘Secret Decoder Ring’ needed by the data team to wade through the ever-increasing volume and complexity of data.
At the U.S. Census, a dedicated staff working on the production of key economic indicators were able to reduce manual processes, deploy their subject matter expertise, and leverage vast volumes of unstructured data like satellite imagery to improve the quality and granularity of published insights … the ability to upskill, leverage new sources of data, and automate processes is giving Census the ability and the agility to enable a continuous economic indicator program that will serve the agency well into the future.”

Why should U.S. federal agencies take action now?

First, the volume and complexity of data is only continuing to grow, and agencies are going to need the talent available to make the most of the insight this data contains to improve service delivery, drive efficiency, and inform policy.
Additionally, the push to modernize government technology, including the $1B in allocated funding through the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), shines light on the commitment of the administration to helping agencies modernize high priority systems, enhancing digital services that increase access, equity, reduce fraud, improve service delivery, and accelerate collaboration and scalability. A strong unified analytics capability that democratizes data, automates processes, and upskills resources supports all these objectives and makes an investment in analytics through the TMF — a smart business decision for agency leaders.

Infrastructure and closing the digital divide

The recent bipartisan infrastructure agreement has provisions to help close the digital divide. This begins with modernizing our nation’s digital infrastructure by expanding access to high-speed broadband, but we must also emphasize the importance of the public and private sectors working together to close the skills gap. 
As a global leader in data science and analytics automation, we intend to play our part by using our resources to upskill the existing workforce and educate our next generation of data workers. We recently launched our SparkED program to provide free resources dedicated to the expansion of data literacy and skills across all learners and educators, regardless of socioeconomic status or demographics.   
We want to put the power of analytics in the hands of everyone, and the code-friendly, code-free nature of our platform, along with other private sector partners and the passionate Alteryx Community, provides us a unique opportunity to make a difference. 
Through our upskilling programs, Leeia Isabella went from US Navy Veteran to Alteryx Certification.
“When I got out of the military, I had all of these skills. But I had no clear way of showing what I was capable of. With certifications from Alteryx, I can have a clear statement saying, ‘This is exactly what I can do with data and analytics, and Alteryx has verified it.’”
The Alteryx SparkED program is offered in traditional education environments like schools, colleges, and universities, as well as online programs for individual learners wanting to acquire skills to launch a new career path. This latter group are called “reskillers” (not the same as “upskillers” who are typically getting professional training at work). SparkED provides no-cost renewable education licenses for Alteryx Designer, plus faculty training, teaching tools, and rich media learning content. The mission is to provide learners of all types, at all skill levels, with the knowledge to question, understand, and solve with data. SparkED is already at hundreds of campuses in nearly 40 countries.

Upskilling for today and tomorrow

It is critical that all organizations invest in empowering individuals of all backgrounds to learn vital data skills that will help progress their careers. This also enables organizations to recruit new individuals who don’t necessarily have an academic background or specific coding skills, which may encourage a more diverse range of applicants building a stronger team with a diversity of talent to tackle the toughest challenges. That’s the power of Alteryx analytics automation.

Got Two Minutes? Learn more about Alteryx in our new Alteryx Explained video.


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