In Analytics

As the Wall St. Journal wrote in a recent article, “People call them unicorns.” Data scientists have a rare combination of in-demand skills that make them crucial players in development and implementing situational intelligence.

Building mathematical models that analyze data across spatial, temporal and network dimensions requires knowledge of statistics, computer science, business and communications. A Harvard University blog post describes the data scientist role as performing five essential functions:

  • Collect and clean data
  • Manage data
  • Explore data to create hypotheses
  • Make predictions based on the data
  • Communicate insights gained from the data

Workers with current and relevant skills to perform all five of these areas are hard to find, and thus are commanding a premium in the labor marketplace.

A McKinsey report says that, “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills typical of a data scientist, as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

Excellent user experience design in situational intelligence solutions can mask some of the complexity of analytics and help managers and analysts make effective, data-driven decisions. That might reduce the need for data scientists among end users, but such design requires data scientists to help create the user experience in the first place.

All this means the demand for data scientists will likely continue, making it the job of the year for years to come.

Given the high demand for data scientists, should you hire your own, or employ consultants?

You might want to hire your own data scientists if

  • You are building your own situational intelligence solutions from scratch.
  • You are buying a situational intelligence platform and need to customize it.
  • You want to do your own data integration and analysis from existing, siloed IT, operations and external data sources.

On the other hand, you might want to employ consultants if

  • You are implementing a situational intelligence solution from a vendor who will configure your analytics and visualizations.
  • Your near- and mid-term analytics requirements are not extensive, such as you are just starting work on proof-of-concept projects.
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