Data is being put to work in more ways every day. New kinds of analytics – and new data sources – are opening the door for companies to solve business puzzles and mysteries that previously were nearly impossible to attack. To solve such puzzles, the starting point often is not the data but a strategic understanding of a particular business problem and its impact on goals and desired outcomes. Paired with a clear understanding of the business problem must be a clear process for using the results of analytics for decisions and actions.
With the increased interest in big data and advanced analytics, there has been much discussion of new roles such as the ‘data scientist’. While the data scientist is a very promising role, not all companies will have data scientists. But they do have, or need to have, other roles related to data and analytics. These include new roles for business analysts and LOB users who are more deeply involved in data integration and data quality, as well as many kinds of analytics and the business processes that create and consume data.
Expanded roles for business users are needed to include valuable domain expertise, business insight and real world judgment for analytics and decision-making processes. While there have been great advances in the technologies and approaches to processing big data, the greater value comes from applying what is learned from the analytics to the real world of a particular enterprise. If there is too much focus on technologies or simply the processing of big data, many efforts will fail. The overarching emphasis should always be on the needs of the business, as well as the people, practices and processes that comprise the enterprise usage of data and analytics.
Conversely, business users have to expand their knowledge of data and analytics to better support their technical partners in the enterprise, so that the most effective activities take place to produce the most useful results. For example, traditionally the strategic executive dashboard has been seen as the “killer app” for most CEOs, where the CEO is more the ‘passive’ recipient of intelligence, rather than a participant in its creation. But the growing importance of data and analytics for most enterprises now calls for CEOs to have a more proactive relationship with the initiatives for generating intelligence and insight.
With many IT groups reporting into the CFO, this role has greatly expanded involvement with data management and analytics processes. The CFO has the opportunity to emerge as a business transformer for the enterprise by facilitating business-oriented data management and analytics processes that are available to all who need them. And finally, a C-suite role is emerging for the Chief Data Officer who may act as a ‘bridge’ between the CEO, the CIO and the CFO.
The business technology evolution for data and analytics does not require just one role, such as the data scientist, but many – no one person can provide all the skills and expertise that are needed. A variety of viewpoints, knowledge and experience need to come into play to get the most from processing and analyzing data – and then correlating analysis with other information sources and knowledge to derive the best insight and recommendations.
Expanded business data roles can be a means to better connect technology to business needs and desired outcomes, where many of these roles are strategic and straddle both business and tech activities. Companies gain great value from such roles to better transform their organizations not only into analytical enterprises, but better-informed decision-makers and agile responders to change and opportunities.