Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Five questions (and answers) about Data Analytics

Last December I heard +Jim Sterne speak at the Chicago DAA (Digital  Analytics Association) Symposium.  Jim is the founder of DAA and shared some key points that I thought might be helpful to my students as well as others interested in this field.

1.  What is Digital Analytics?  Jim says Analytics is more than data.  It means being able to look at customer data intelligently.The job is not just to  to make the data look nice but to make money, provide insights.

2.  What is going to be the 'sexiest' job of the 21st century?  According to Harvard Business Review, the data scientist!  This recent HBR article  talks about how LinkedIn use data science to improve how people interact with the site by suggesting people that they should know and asking them to connect.  The click-through rates on these suggestions of "People You May Know" were phenomenally high and contributed to LinkedIn's exponential growth.

3.  What do Employers need?  Companies need analyst skills like the mechanics and technology of data analysis, such as, the ability to collect, clean,  transform integrate data, store and report on it. Equally or even more important are  human-centric skills, which are explore,  analyze,  communicate,  monitor and predict.  I think this is what we call a 'whole brain thinker,' both right and left brain skills.

4.  What about this process cannot be automated?  Monitor and predict can be automated but explore, analyze and communicate, critical thinking and creativity, really are things that only human beings can do.  This is where we as data 'scientists' can add value to the organization.

5.  What further skills will the Data Scientist require?

KNOWLEDGE:  The ability to understand concepts from technology, math/statistics,  business
INTELLIGENCE:  The ability to multitask, be multilingual, a problem-solver  
CREATIVITY: The ability to drive insight from data.

Jim said to think about the Hierarchy of Data to Wisdom in this way:

Data:  This is a tomato

Information: A tomato is a fruit

Knowledge:  Fruit salad is good for you

Wisdom:  Don't put tomatoes in fruit salad

Insight:  Treat tomatoes like vegetables.

(Although I would put Wisdom as the highest form of knowledge as is traditional; Wisdom is an eternal principle  so I would say that an insight is that fruit salad does not taste good with tomatoes from which comes the Wisdom to treat tomatoes like vegetables).

Jim says Data Scientists, people who are good in Data Analytics,  make discoveries while swimming in data, their dominant trait is intense curiosity.  Right now in our Marketing 470 Marketing Technology Class we are using Google AdWords and Analytics in our AdWords projects for our corporate clients. Students seem to really enjoy looking at data and providing insights for their campaigns.  It looks like a data scientist is a rare breed and will be much in demand.  We are doing what we can in our undergraduate courses to expose the students to these concepts so they can have a chance to showcase these skills in a professional setting.  After all, Wisdom is what we seek in the educational setting, so we academics should be well-suited to helping our students along this path.  What do you think is the best way to produce "Data Scientists?"

By Debra Zahay-Blatz.
You can find Debra on and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.
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