Big Data Talent Will Decide the Future of Small Business Credit: Big data image via Shutterstock

Rod Smith, Vice President of Emerging Technologies at IBM, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

To get an idea of how fast and furious the pace of data generation is, consider Facebook generates 2.7 billion likes made daily on and off of the Facebook site, 300 million photos uploaded and 500+ terabytes of new data "ingested" daily. Similarly, President Barack Obama's (@BarackObama) acceptance speech at #DNC2012 set a new record for political moments on Twitter, with 52,756 Tweets per minute coming just after its conclusion. This all just highlights the growing importance of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, in registering consumer sentiment and creating vast amounts of consumer data — data that drive valuable insights from the campaign trail to Main Street.

In 2013, big data will drive the emergence of a new "data democracy" and spur new innovations to an ever growing spectrum of businesses — large and small. Big data , a capability that not too long ago was only available to larger companies and institutions, can now empower SMBs with never before accessed customer insights while enabling a deeper understanding of client expectations. Big data is playing a huge role in enabling small business owners to operate more efficiently, target new customers, conduct analysis that will help them to improve offerings and grow bottom-line results, and drive overall economic growth.

Many wonder whether this massive amount of information might be too much for smaller businesses to manage. Or does size really matter?

[What Is Big Data?]

Big data is spurring new applications that will enable small businesses to innovate on new products, services — and most of all interact with their customers in a way that was never before possible. These new applications drive down the adoption costs of Big Data analytics , making this technology even more attractive to SMBs. All this will create new disciplines and professions where big data is new competency.

There is no question that there is a shortage of big data skills (and data scientists) in the workforce. But this need is particularly keen when you look at those experts who know not only how to manipulate large volumes of data into coherent and useful information, but also how to navigate a small business environment and apply these data skills towards business growth.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills over the next 8 years. Additionally, the McKinsey Global Institute forecasts a need for approximately 190,000 more workers with analytics expertise and 1.5 million more data-savvy managers in the U.S.

The current skills shortage applies especially to the specific knowledge and expertise in understanding how to apply predictive analytics tools towards mountains of big data — a capability that even many data scientists still lack. However, as Big Data continues to gain prominence as the currency powering our economy, a greater emphasis will be put on gaining big data and analytics skillsets. This emphasis will translate into opportunity for small businesses interested in leveraging the efficiencies of this technology in a way that enables the business to take advantage of the big data streams flooding their organizations.

To capture this opportunity, technology leaders and educational institutions will need to continue to come together to lead the way in expanding and strengthening offerings and programs that will fine-tune student skills and understanding of big data and analytics in order to meet this growing demand for professionals who are highly skilled in analytics.

Recognizing that a practical understanding of analytics is key for 21st century jobs and competitive success, the business community will need to work with global universities that are developing top-notch curriculums in big data, analytics and cognitive computing that will launch graduates into successful careers.

The good news is that the need for SMBs to exploit big data opens the door of opportunity for the IT channel and the overall SMB space, which represents $231B market opportunity. Big data analytics can enable smaller customers to take advantage of all the data percolating inside their organizations. New or expanded revenue streams await solution providers who can differentiate themselves by providing a more affordable analytics offerings to SMBs. Solutions providers should train staff in solid big data skills, or recruit professionals who can bring that expertise to their organization and clients, particularly to the small and midsize clients. They must fill their hiring pipeline with budding big data miners, investigate and invest in big data tools directed toward servicing SMBs, and integrate all into their operations.

As we continue to witness big data weave its way into the essential fabric of how business is conducted and markets won, the development of big data talent is key to applying the power and opportunity of big data. By developing talent and skills in big data, analytics and cognitive computing professionals, the possibility of innovating tools that help build a smarter business are many.

The small business is uniquely positioned to take advantage of capabilities that come with big data to accelerate their next wave of innovation and grow their share of the market, over the next several years.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.