The solution areas and topics of greatest interest were Artificial Intelligence, Customer Intelligence, Supply Chain Analytics, and making strategic use of large disparate data volumes. The most common phrase overheard at the conference, whether on stage or in the networking breaks, was “data scientist”. Data scientists were the talk of the conference, and viewed as a mechanism to create a competitive differentiator.
What is a Data Scientist?
At the conference I heard no less than 10 different definitions of what a data scientist is, all of them different. From my point of view a data scientist is an individual that understands data, knows how to apply statistical models to data correctly, and can communicate the results of data analysis and statistical models to the business effectively so the results can be acted on. I am sure there is a better definition but that is my take based upon what I see in the marketplace.
Does it Matter?
In the end I don’t think the definition matters, primarily because in retail, wholesale, and manufacturing industries true data scientists can be scarce due to high price tags and limited budget. Former Retail Systems Research analyst Nikki Baird wrote, “Data scientists? I can honestly say that I have never met a data scientist in retail. They are a class of user that appear to have all the frequency of unicorns and dragons in the retail enterprise.” The quote is several years old, and subsequently I have met many data scientists that work in the retail industry, but the overarching scarcity observation is still interesting. Data scientists are extremely valuable resources, but they can be expensive. Retailers are not just competing with other retailers for talent, they are competing with Wall Street banks, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies that have a war chest available to pay top dollar for top talent in one of the hottest professions in any industry.
OK, So What is the Best Way Forward?
Considering every retailer will be competing for scarce talent, the best way forward is to hire talent where available, and cultivate your existing talent through data literacy programs and access to technology. Most organizations have data focused employees that can be trained on the company’s data, and outfitted with an analytics platform that will allow them to explore information and find relationships in their data. In the retail industry we believe that the Qlik Analytics Platform can address the 3 major shifts we see in the retail marketplace: The Empowered Consumer, Agile Supply Chain, & Changing Role of the Store. In the end, the goal is to use data to make better decisions – which drive business outcomes.We invite you to get started with Qlik Retail Solutions, and jump start your data literacy program.