Democratising data to bridge the data science talent gap

The demand for data scientists is at an all time high

So much so that a recent report by Indeed identified a 344% increase in job postings for data scientists since 2013.

This need comes at a time when data analytics is becoming mission-critical to more and more businesses. New data is constantly available, volumes are increasing and businesses need to use the data to drive deeper and more meaningful insights as they look to become more competitive.

Data scientists are key to unlocking the story behind this data. These highly-skilled professionals interrogate and identify key patterns and trends within the data available to them, making a significant contribution to a company’s overall performance.

However, as alluded to above, data science requires a broad array of complex and scarce skills including (but not limited to) quantitative disciplines such as statistics, machine learning, operations research and computational linguistics. And, unfortunately, as the market currently stands, there simply aren’t enough skilled and qualified people to fulfil this demand.

That said, there is a middle ground where the gap can be massively reduced. Organisations can upskill and train existing employees to ensure everybody can handle data and prove effective in the data value chain – particularly in lines of business where its reach and impact can be most felt, for example in marketing and product development.

The rise of citizen data scientists

This is where “citizen data scientsts” come into play. According to Gartner, “citizen data science bridges the gap between mainstream self-service data discovery by business users and the advanced analytics techniques of data scientists.”

This allows organisations to incorporate data science more easily and more broadly within the business. It is a complementary role to the expert data scientist who is typically a coder with a deep involvement in the development, training, and use of algorithms and models. Citizen data scientists, on the other hand, bring business and industry vertical domain expertise that many data science experts lack.

While this is an emerging role and title within organisations, its presence is growing at speed. Gartner predicts that the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists through 2020. This is because more and more organisations recognise that leveraging citizen data scientists can be an effective way to start bridging the current skills gap.

It’s also important to stress that citizen data scientists may already exist in many organisations, but just not with this specific job title. Therefore education continues to be a priority to ensure businesses understand the value of leveraging citizen data scientists as part of their data-driven culture.

A promising future for data science

One way organisations can enable these citizen data scientists is by bringing data science and business intelligence (BI) practices together, providing them with timely access to insightful, trustworthy and governed data.

Due to significant enhancements in open data frameworks, senior managers can now leverage insights directly within their familiar visual BI tools, allowing them to exploit complex data science algorithms under the hood. This means they can self-serve reports whenever they need to.

With the signigicant rise of data analytics in organisations, we’ve also seen the democratisation of BI dashboards for knowledge workers, analysts and senior staff, giving them customised up-to-date reporting on key business metrics.

The next evolution will be for BI reporting to become fully self-service, empowering all employees with the latest up-to-date metrics that are relevant to their job. This is thanks to ever-more powerful and intuitive BI tools that are augmented with self-learning features and functions sitting on high-performance analytic databases – databases that can even cope with the Monday morning workload without a hint of slowdown.

Given the increased demand for a “data-driven” approach to business, leading organisations are ramping up efforts to democratise data access while increasing their use of data science disciplines to enable them to be more forward-looking and competitive organisations. As such, the citizen data scientist role will only continue to become intrinsically woven into organisations as a way to bridge the current data science talent gap.  

About the Author

Helena Schwenk is Market Intelligence Manager at Exasol. Exasol is passionate about helping companies to run their businesses smarter and drive profit by analyzing data and information at unprecedented speeds. The company develops the world’s fastest in-memory database for analytics and data warehousing, and offers first-class know-how and expertise in data insight and analytics.

Featured image: ©Oleksii