As Data Becomes a Service, Will Data Scientists Disappear?

February 20, 2013 Paul M. Davis

Photo by Paul L Dineen via Flickr.

Even while CIOs tighten belts and demand clear-cut results from technology investments, the value of data-driven insight is evident. Gartner projects investment in Business Intelligence and Analytics software platforms will continue to increase, driven in part by the desire to perform predictive analytics in-house. “In 2013, spending on business-intelligence software will hit $13.8bn, a seven-percent rise on 2012,” ZDNet’s Toby Wolpe reports. This demand will drive the adoption of data as a service solutions, according to the analysts, who note, “organizations increasingly will subscribe to industry-specific data services that bundle a narrow set of data with BI and analytic capabilities embedded.”

Gartner’s report comes amid an ongoing debate about the role and importance of the data scientist in the years ahead. In a recent blog post, Kathryn Kelly argues that “the data scientist concept will die,” as analytics platforms become more accessible, and their use is integrated into business operations. “By offering business users intuitive data solutions, we bypass the need for the data scientist, who works in isolation,” she writes. “The new generation of solutions, on the other hand, is making it easy for business users to engage big data. An interdisciplinary team will see and use the visuals provided, and collaborate on the best decisions on a regular basis.”

On the other hand, Kelly’s Smart Data Collective colleague Paige Roberts remains confident that data scientists will continue to play a key role in the years ahead. Even as analytics solutions grow more accessible, businesses will continue to require specialists capable of diving deeper into the data, asking the tough questions that are not immediately apparent. Roberts writes, “We, as curious human beings, once we’ve reached the point where we can find all the answers to the questions we’ve been asking, simply find tougher questions to ask. Then, you’re right back where you were, needing a person with greater knowledge of analytics and analytic technology to dive in and find them, and be our bridge to that information.”

As Big Data proliferates, and the demand for predictive analytics software and services increases, it follows that the edge will go to businesses which employ skilled practitioners who dive deep, ask the tough questions, and drive innovation and competitive advantage.

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