Data Scientists are normally not the best sellers and communicators. They are simply – data scientists. If you are serious about transforming your business using Big Data, machine learning, advanced analytics, and sophisticated automated data driven workflows – you had better find that passionate sales personality with the ability to translate technology into tangible business outcomes and put a governance model in place which elevates these questions to the very top of the organization. It is simply not as easy as – we have hired a bunch of really smart data scientists and we are setting up an Hadoop platform.
Your organization has got a lot of really skilled analysts and perhaps even a few good data scientists. Still not becoming a data driven company? Check out your governance model. Where do these people sit? Are they all stuck in the good old BI department? That is for sure an effective way of not capturing the full potential of Big Data and machine learning – across the business.
Why? Big Data and machine learning are at its core a business development opportunity that has got the potential to radically transform how companies go about their business. Business development demands creativity, freedom, experimentation and… the ability to sell the vision and the potential of this new field not only to the leadership but also to the various parts of the organization that can reap the benefits.
This begs the question about WHO in the organization is actually responsible for selling the vision of Big Data and turning it into reality? And what are actually the requirements on a dream data scientist? Well, if we start with the second question there are really 4 things that a data scientist needs to master:
- Programming and database knowledge
- Math and statistics (it is already getting harder)
- Domain knowledge (this requires passion and an interest to really learn stuff outside your core domain, ie hacking)
- Communication and visualization (whoa – this is the selling part of the job)
Anybody who has taken part in a DISC assessment knows about our 4 different types of personalities and behavioral styles. You have all styles in you, but 1 or 2 of them are usually “who you are”, although you can certainly adapt your behavior based on the situation or what the job requires. When looking at the 4 things above you quickly realize that they are difficult to find in one person. The data scientists that master all 4 are few and far between and it does not matter how technically skilled you are if you cannot sell the value and potential of what you can accomplish to the organization.
So how does an effective organization bridge this gap? It is improbable that you will be able to recruit enough super data scientists to make it happen. And if you do manage to find them, there is a fair chance that their communication skills will perish in the dungeons of the IT or BI department. A better way could be to put them closer to the business, into the very reality they have an opportunity to transform. That will increase the chances of making Big Data happen. Even better though, is if you can find the people and the organizational structure and governance model that can help bridge the gap between disruptive new technology and the passion, selling, evangelism, persistence and almost religious fervor required to actually make it happen in an organizational culture and among people who “already know everything”.