Building the right data science capability

Senior Analyst, IBM Center for Applied Insights, IBM

Data can change the world—that much is evident in how humans are interacting with weather and gaining access to water. But those who intend to make full use of their data are well advised to have a data science team ready to make that data work for the organization.

Take part in the data revolution

In a series of studies, the IBM Center for Applied Insights considered how leadership can change organizational cultures, allowing companies to take part in the data revolution. How can we capture the transformative power of data and analytics to make quick, intelligent and analytically informed decisions? To find out, IBM examined a new role emerging in the C-suite: that of the chief data officer (CDO). When we did, during in-depth interviews, we identified one of the few constants in organization culture: change. Emerging CDOs are working to evolve their organizations in ways that enable an enterprise-wide data strategy, allowing them to activate data in new ways as they build a data-driven culture.

Next, we worked to identify data-driven instigators of business value. Stepping back from looking at a single role, we interviewed a broad set of highly skilled data leaders who tie data and analytics initiatives to business needs while creating business value. We discovered that companies steered by data leaders were able to drive business operations forward and boost revenue by prioritizing data, developing from within and freeing all their data.

Integrate data science into your organization

In all this, we had a single driving goal: discovering how to effectively integrate data science capabilities within the organization. How, we asked, do top organizations scale well while making an impact in their industry?

To find out, we interviewed data scientists and their executive colleagues, asking them to describe their business case for investing in data science capabilities. They described data science capabilities as a fundamental element in an organization’s competitiveness and ability to differentiate itself. Indeed, one data scientist in the media industry replied, “When you ask me what the value of data science is, it’s almost like explaining the value of water to a fish.”

Leading firms, we found, integrate data science capabilities within their organizations to capture the untapped potential of such capabilities as a source for competitive advantage. However, many enterprises struggle to successfully integrate data science capabilities in ways that produce sustained value. Even those that attain some degree of integration can have difficulty measuring the value of such capabilities for the organization as a whole.

Our report, Breakthrough experiments in data science: Practical lessons for success, shares several accounts of real business impact generated by data science. We found that enterprises that implement data science capabilities have been observing business benefits that can range from upticks in revenue to enhanced efficiency and heightened effectiveness. And although integrating data science capabilities into an organization isn’t always easy, the success that some organizations have achieved by doing so is helping this strategy build credibility and is driving demand for such capabilities among other organizations.

Build a data-driven culture

Each organization we studied had found substantial ways of infusing data science into its culture, designing data science capabilities that could meet its needs, equipping itself with appropriate technology and showcasing its results. To learn more, review our presentation Breakthrough experiments in data science: Practical lessons for success, then check out our full report for an in-depth look at these organizations’ stories and a discussion of what actions we recommend.

If you’d like to learn more about related research on data leaders conducted by the IBM Center for Applied Insights, visit the CDO Insights page. After that, discover how IBM Advanced Analytics can help your organization invest in data science capabilities.