Can Kids Run Advanced Analytics? IBM’s New Data Center Hooks ‘Em Young


Big data might be about to change the world, but only as long as we have the tools and the skills in place to understand what it all means. IBM understands this point better than most, which is why it’s just announced plans for a new Client Center for Advanced Analytics, to be located at its campus at 4600 Lakehurst Court, Columbus, Ohio.

IBM says that its new analytics center is set to create no less than 500 new jobs in the hi-tech sector over the next three years, something that should position Columbus as a leading international center for big data analytics.

Big data analytics is becoming an increasingly big business, but it’s by no means an easy task. The job of capturing, analyzing and making sense of the billions of bytes of data produced by the world’s millions of computers has become highly specialized, requiring the expertise of specially trained data scientists and software that constantly needs to evolve to keep up with the masses of data being collected.

No one is kidding themselves that big data analytics is an easy endeavor, but nevertheless it is one that’s proving itself to be highly profitable – and therefore, extremely  worthwhile. The information gleaned from sources as diverse as cash registers, Facebook and phone records to name just a few is invaluable for big businesses today as they aim to make better informed strategic decisions, detect fraud, improve customer services and give themselves a competitive advantage. As such, advanced data analytics centers like IBM’s are set to become a much sought-after commodity in the next few years.

Indeed, IT research firm Gartner predicts that many more companies will follow IBM’s lead in the next few years, estimating that companies will spend $34 billion worldwide on big data analytics over the next year. In addition Gartner predicts around 4.4 million jobs in the field will be created in the next few years, 1.9 million of them in the USA alone.

But therein lies the stumbling block – just who is going to fill all of those positions? The talent-gap is a big worry for many in the industry, with Gartner’s Peter Sondergaard going as far as to say that our educational systems have failed us:

“In the next few years, data experts will be a scarce, valuable commodity,” he adds.

But herein lies the genius of IBM’s decision to located its new analytics center in Ohio. According to the New York Times, it could well be that the company is planning to circumvent the looming talent gap by using college kids to supplement its more experienced data scientists.

IBM has entered into a partnership with Ohio State University that will see it develop new course materials for big data-related technology and business, and organize education programs for the university’s students by leading big data experts. In return, some of the much-needed vacancies could be filled by the students themselves, working on their projects at the center.

As Ron Lovell, vice president of IBM’s analytics center explains in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, “What Ohio offered was a point of coordination.”

What with the combination of infrastructure already in place at Lakehurst Court, IBM’s connection with Ohio State University, and the area’s largely untapped talent pool, Columbus is the ideal location, explains Lovell.

An example of this untapped talent can be found at OSU’s Fisher College of Business, which has just launched a new graduate program in analytics in anticipation of IBM’s new data analytics center.

Christine Poon, Dean of Fisher, said that the school “wants to attract students (to the graduate program) who have enough quantitative analytical grounding and marry that with business training. The third component would be experiential learning, such as internships on real projects.”

Poon hopes that the hands-on learning will take place at IBM itself.

“We’re dreaming big, and we think Columbus can be the go-to area for analytics,” she adds.