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Becoming a highly-successful citizen data scientist: 7 key traits

Chuck Leddy | 3 minute read

Zylotech_Becoming a Highly-Successful Citizen Data Scientist_7 Key Traits _060419_headerOver the course of two prior blog posts, we’ve explored a major trend in data science: the emergence of the citizen data scientist (CDS) and how a CDS can effectively collaborate with professional data scientists to unlock the massive business potential of data. This post describes the 7 key traits of a successful CDS, traits that enable them to drive unique business value through data analytics.

Let’s begin by defining exactly what a CDS is. Gartner says a Citizen Data Scientist is “a person who creates or generates models that leverage Predictive or Prescriptive Analytics, but whose primary job function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics.”

Roots of the CDS trend: Data democratization

Basically, the CDS trend is about the democratization of data and tools, making them more usable for more people across the organization. A CDS can “automatically find, visualize, and narrate relevant findings without building [data] models or writing algorithms,” explains Gartner. Technological advances in AI and AutoML, now integrated into automated customer data platforms, mean more people with less training can “do” data analytics. There’s less need for specialized data science skills.

A CDS might be a B2B marketer who wants to deploy customer analytics to better understand her customer’s journey, using data to uncover more personalized ways of engaging customers through the funnel. A Human Resources analyst might use data analytics to discover trends related to employee retention, using data to learn exactly why employees leave and then developing proactive solutions to keep those employees working at the company longer.

7 traits for CDS success

No matter their business function, here are the basic traits that every successful CDS shares, according to Gartner:

1. Contextualized vision of the organization: A major value the CDS brings to the table is a deep understanding of an organization’s culture and its competitive market landscape. When it comes to strategically developing the “right” questions for data analytics to answer, the CDS is an expert Zylotech_Becoming a Highly-Successful Citizen Data Scientist_7 Key Traits_060419_subbecause she understands, in a holistic way, the strategic challenges the organization faces.

2. Unique perspective of individual business area: The functional expertise of the CDS means he can easily identify relevant questions and challenges for data to answer within his specific business unit. For instance, a CDS from HR may be asking what data reveals about why employees quit, while a CDS from marketing may be asking why an online customer abandons a shopping cart before checking out. The functional expert is the best person to frame the “right” questions for data to help answer.

3. Proven application of analytic techniques to business problems: The CDS isn’t a data scientist, but should be viewed as a data analytics “power user.” The CDS has workable techniques and convenient, automated tools to work with in addressing business questions. That said, the CDS may sometimes need the help of an expert data scientist for more complex tasks.

4. Appetite for what matters relative to business priorities: Since the CDS works in a functional area of the business, she understands what challenges are most important to the organization’s overall strategy and leadership team, and will deploy data to drive insight onto these key strategic priorities.

5. Involved hands-on in multiple analytic areas and activities: A CDS likes data and enjoys using it to solve business challenges. A good CDP is busy leveraging her skills in multiple areas of the organization and multiple projects, which helps her develop her skill-set and reputation within the organization.

6. Been around the block and has connections: A CDS isn’t an academic or “data wonk.” They want to move the needle on the key challenges the organization faces, using data. But the CDS is also an influencer, and probably a leader in a functional business area, someone who wields data to make the business case for change initiatives and budgets. Data is just one component of how the CDS drives change: they’ll also use relationships, their “people” network.

7. Able to go to bat to justify business value: The CDS is a data-enabled advocate for change both within their functional area and across the entire business. These are the people crunching the data and then using insights gleaned from data to lead the charge for change. They connect business actions with ROI (return on investment), and talk the bottom-line language of business. They persuade people.

Chuck Leddy is a Zylotech contributing writer.

If you liked this post, check out our recent blog post: Leveraging customer analytics to reduce churn rates and grow marketing ROI. 

Topics: Data Operations