Two thirds of businesses in Ireland plan to recruit more staff in the area of data analytics in the next year, yet the vast majority of organisations (79%) say they are experiencing difficulties in recruiting people with the requisite skills. This is according to a new report carried out by the Analytics Institute in partnership with EY and the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School. Meanwhile, just 25% say that Government support is sufficient to meet their needs as they face these challenges.

Chris Mazzei, Global Chief Analytics Officer and Head of Emerging Technology at EY, is in Ireland for the National Analytics Conference. Mr Mazzei is a leading global expert in emerging technologies and he works with clients around the world on the implementation of emerging technologies, and equipping organisations to future-proof their workforces in an age of rapidly-advancing technological change. 

Chris Mazzei says that while data analytics has been around for a long time, it is a term that can easily be misunderstood. He defines it as the use of information across lots of business decision making. He said that what has changed over the last few years is the huge explosion of the amount of data people now have access to as well as the improvement in some of the underlying technology. 

Mr Mazzei says that data analytics is appropriate for all types of businesses across all different industry sectors and across all different sizes, adding that it is all about how companies can increase revenue, decrease costs and manage risk more effectively.

Chris Mazzei said the skills shortage in the data analytics industry is a real issue when it comes to a shortage of overall technical talent who can do some of this work, but he said a bigger issue is how organisations need to think about the upskilling of their existing workforce. Despite all of the hiring that has to happen to gain real technical expertise, he said he believes that upskilling a company's current employees is key. He also points out that it is a lot less expensive for a company to upskill their workforce rather than hire in completely new people.

EY has a total workforce of 250,000 in over 700 offices around 150 countries in the world and Mr Mazzei said that the company is undertaking very significant efforts to help those employees to be more effective in their current roles. He said that EY has tried to create a series of training and experience programmes - EY badges - which gives the company employees digital certificates when they achieve a certain proficiency level in different skill areas like analytics. Some of this training is available online for free and Mr Mazzei said that more and more of this type of training is readily accessible. 

According Chris Mazzei, there is a lot of hype around areas like AI, robotics and blockchain technology. But he says that these technologies are happening now with real production implementations of systems that companies are using to draw value today. While robotics and AI are further along in terms of maturity, he said companies are mainly using proof of concepts in blockchain technology now and are just starting to move from those to actual implementations. He said that new technologies are things that companies need to be considering today.

MORNING BRIEFS - The trading company behind clothing retailer Penneys saw like-for-like sales fall in the year to the middle of September - though new store openings helped to boost its overall performance. Primark said total sales where up 6%, with its margin rising to 11.3% as it expanded its presence in Germany, Britain and France. That helped Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, to a pre-tax profit of £1.37 billion - up 5% year on year.

*** Newry-based consultancy firm First Derivatives has reported a 20% rise in revenues in the six months to the end of August. The firm took in £105.6m in the period, with pre-tax profit also rising 20% to £7.6m.

*** Amazon is reportedly planning to split its second headquarters across two locations in the US. Late last year the firm announced that it was on the hunt for a home for a major development - which would operate alongside its existing headquarters in Seattle - with reports that it is close to a deal with Long Island City in Queens, New York and the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia.

*** Denmark's finance minister has said that a European Union plan to impose a 3% tax on the revenue of large tech firms was a bad idea that would trigger retaliation from the US. The introduction of the tax is being backed by France but a number of smaller EU states - including Ireland - oppose it.