Looking for Data Scientists from Within – Start with Marketing

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by Anjul Bhambhri

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data–so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from both humans and machines: from sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos posted online, transaction records of online purchases, and from cell phone GPS signals to name a few.

Today, organizations are realizing that establishing a competitive advantage depends on acquiring the relevant data that your organization can harness plus reduce the time to gain meaningful insights. Data needs to be properly analyzed to uncover the trends and insights that can impact customer engagement and improve business performance.

Companies who recognize the opportunities big data presents are focused on hiring talented data scientists who can sift through the data available today, uncover the actionable information, and provide strategic advice on how best to use that insight.

Universities are increasingly launching much-needed curriculums rooted in big data to develop students with skills in big data technology across disciplines such as marketing and engineering in order to have the right mix of business and data science understanding. In the meantime, an immediate step organizations need to take is to start to look from within to take this cross-training approach in order to remain competitive.

While there are various departments and job types such as application developers, database administrators and IT managers who possess mathematics, statistical, and even computer science skills which can serve as a basis for expanding into data science, a logical first place to focus is the marketing department. CMOs and marketing professionals possess the right combination of analytical minds that are used to crunch data on consumer trends, demographics, and sales ROI. They also have the business understanding of the domain that they are analyzing, and can move beyond the numbers to help the business as a whole.

Additionally, over the past year, the greatest number of big data use cases are happening in the marketing department. They are gleaning business value coming out of streams of text generated by social media, and trying to find out what people are talking about, and what decisions they make with that information. By using analytics, marketers can actually predict the precise moments to engage customers with the right information or the right suggestion in a personalized, authentic way.

It is becoming increasingly important for those people who may be involved in business or marketing functions to become the data scientists themselves.  In terms of observing and discovering, they are the subject matter experts and can see and identify patterns that can transform the organization. In fact, by 2017, the head of marketing, not the head of technology, will be the biggest buyer of technology at a typical organization according to Gartner. With big data, the CMO can shape everything from how brands interact with customers, to the products and services they offer, to the structure of the company itself. This influx of data is now holding CMOs accountable for business results tied to technology investments and long-term growth beyond marketing campaigns.

It is becoming imperative for organizations to speed up the process of acquiring big data skills by looking within, particularly at their CMOs and marketing department. Those with a marketing background are naturally suited for a data science role based on increasingly connected customers driving businesses to rethink how they make decisions and engage with their customers.  If we can make the CMO a data scientist, then we have achieved what we needed to, and that’s when the potential of big data will actually be realized – getting the business outcome out of tapping into what’s hidden in this big data.

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