Do SMBs need a data scientist too?

Small to medium size businesses are not immune to the rapidly moving trends that having such a big impact on the entire industry. It is increasingly necessary to learn more about customers, their requirements and even the pattern of their activity. Do they purchase products or services in certain combinations? Are those purchases made made at certain times of day or days of the week? Does the weather have an impact on customer activity? These questions and many others are simply not answered by most business reporting systems.

Enter big data tools and analytics

Enterprises of all sizes are increasingly are turning to the use of big data tools and analytics to learn more about the requirements of their customers, the patterns of customer activity, and use what they learn to drive better utilization of their resources. The goal, of course, is helping the customer see the company as a trusted partner that provides just the right mix of products and services. Knowing the answers may also influence what products or services the company offers.

Are today's systems giving the business the right answers?

Today's transactional and business intelligence systems are based upon the strong belief that the company already knows the right questions to ask and what to do with that data once it is obtained. So, today's workloads are designed to gather the data needed to answer those already-known questions and produce volumes of detailed reports to help people answer those questions. Is this enough in this rapidly changing world? The answer is increasingly "no." Many of the old questions no longer are useful and may not be the right ones to ask in the first place.

The emergence of the data scientist

There are those in the industry that would strongly assert that success today means asking different questions. Some are suggesting that this means that companies need to add a new discipline, the data scientist, to their staff. Some are even suggesting that a new leadership position,  the chief data scientist, needs to be added to the management team to direct the best use of big data tools, software defined everything (data centers, storage, networking and workloads), and virtualized, converged systems.

The clear question is should SMBs, companies having limited funds and resources, wise to add another position just to focus on asking the right questions, in the right ways and at the right time? Would the company benefit from having someone to take on the role of facilitating the conversation between the business and IT systems analysts and between traditional business units and IT.

Partners can help

SMBs don't have to have to implement that staff position to gain the benefit of new approaches to asking questions, asking new questions and learning from the results. Partners such as IBM, HP, and Dell have this type of expertise and would be more than happy to help.

Kusnetzky Group suggests that its clients consider adding the role of Data Scientist to their team. If that isn't feasible, asking a partner for help can be the next best thing. It is important to ask these potential partners to demonstrate that it has the tools and expertise to help the company use big data and the software defined world to their advantage.

It is also important remember that cloud computing, big data, and the newest mobility technology can help or hurt. Don't blindly pursue the implementation of these approaches. If the company doesn't have the needed experience and expertise, ask for help. Partners would be happy to lend a hand.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

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