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People and Big Data: Focus on Individual Roles and Skills

This is the 8th post in the 10-post series, "A Marketer's Journey Through the Big Data Archipelago."

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” — Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

The People Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

Have you read Tom Davenport’s “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” article in the Harvard Business Review or Jill Dyché’s fun take-off, “Why I Wouldn’t Have Sex with a Data Scientist”?” Who knew that a data job/role could have so much, um, appeal?! Could it be that we’re now living in our own Revenge of the Nerds?

All fun aside, it’s interesting to note that the data scientist discussion is saturated with some of the same questions we’re asking about big data:

  • What is a data scientist? What is big data?
  • Can we get by without a data scientist(s)? Can we get by without big data?
  • Why can’t we use the human resources we already have — e.g., business analysts and statisticians — for big data? Why can’t we use the technical resources we already have — e.g., data warehouse and analytical systems — for big data?

When it comes to the “people” discussion of big data, you’d think it was all about the data scientist. But it’s not. “Evolve toward a competency center!” has been the battle cry of analysts and consultants for many years. And we’ve listened. We’ve established our BI and analytics competency centers by bringing the right people with the right skills and decision-making power to the table to manage our company’s reporting initiatives. And it’s working.

A Big Data Best Practice for the People Involved

So where does the data scientist and big data fit in? Do we need to set up a new competency center?

The short answer is: No, you don’t need to set up a competency center just for big data. What you want to do instead is focus on individual roles and skills to add to your existing competency center(s). This may mean the addition of data scientists, Hadoop experts or other big data stakeholders. Or this may mean that current team members need to expand their current skills and/or responsibilities to address big data requests coming in the door. It will be different for each organization.

The bottom line: Big data deserves a seat at the table, but it doesn’t need its own table.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

    • Find out how many data scientists your organization has.
    • Hug your favorite data scientist — or nerd — today. We all need love.
    • Be proactive about understanding how big data could change your current role or set of responsibilities.
    • The Organization Dragon on the north side of the island is big. He may be set in his ways and hard to move.
    • Read up on and get the training you need to stay current with this big data trend.
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