Why your firm needs a data scientist

New kid on the block: Symantec says every office will soon need a data scientist
Part analyst, part artist, they’re the future employees that will save you money, says Symantec’s Ian Wood

OFFICES are busy places. Although the dream of the paperless workplace won’t happen, the amount of information generated in every office is exploding. Information Governance Initiative (IGI) recently showed that the average office’s data doubles every two years, and over the next decade the amount of data worldwide will multiply by 44 times.

We all know that information is growing, and yet there remains little concern about governance and management to keep it all secure and safe – away from the wrong hands. Businesses and consumers alike are talking about big data and the exciting potential it brings; the data scientist is the person who helps make sense of it all.

Best described as “part analyst, part artist,” the role requires deep technical skill, in addition to an analytical and creative approach to realising the sheer potential our data has. Futuristic this may sound, but it won’t be long until data scientists represent a staple part of the office environment. Here are three ways they will transform your office.

Most of your office’s data is “unstructured,” meaning that it does not live in a secure corporate database. According to a 2014 report by IGI, unstructured data is growing 50 per cent faster than its ordered counterpart. Common offenders include emails, social media, instant messages and any documents saved to personal desktops (as opposed to the corporate server).

With this lack of order in mind, think about how many times workers must have had to re-build documents or repeat processes unnecessarily, because important data has been mislaid or put in different places. With a data scientist to manage your corporate information, your business can save time and money by removing the need to repeat time-consuming processes.

As data explodes, offices need someone who is able to extract real value from vast amounts of stored business information. The key objective for the data scientist is to determine significance, and to understand what data is important to protect. While this includes mining unstructured data for valuable information, it’s equally important to recognise and delete information that holds no business value. While personal meeting notes, for instance, may include information that is valuable to your business, the sheer volume of unstructured data that’s generated each year within an enterprise can be costly in terms of storage if it’s left unmanaged.

In customer-facing businesses, such as retail banks and travel agents, the information contained in unstructured data can be analysed to improve customer relationship management and marketing. For example, it may be useful to know that a customer prefers to bank online or chooses holidays based on friends’ recommendations on social media. Your company’s data scientist will not only be able to analyse the figures, but suggest a strategy based on the findings.

At Symantec, we see the key business benefit of the data scientist as providing the agility to see through the regulation “layer cake” that each office must comply with. As the pivot point, who has overseen every layer of corporate information, they can ensure that your information complies with country level rules, regulations and policy, in addition to EU-level regulations and the impending EU data privacy laws.

For a data scientist to provide true business benefit, it’ll also be crucial for them to have a thorough understanding of the current cyber landscape, and the threats that businesses face. And while it’ll be their responsibility to govern your office’s information, you will still need adequate tools to ensure that your information is secure.

Ian Wood is head of information management at Symantec.

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