As Published In
Oracle Magazine
January/February 2013

AT ORACLE: In the Field


Evolutionary Thinking

By John Matelski

 

Is the data scientist the next step on the information technology ladder?

Leaders of public and private sector businesses are tasked with constantly analyzing the landscape of their organizations and evaluating the impact that changing business requirements and evolving technology capabilities may have on them. The imperative is to ensure that change is managed, and that technology is leveraged in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

The role of the DBA has historically been based upon data systems engineering requirements. The DBA typically designs and recommends structural configurations to maintain optimal database availability and performance, and also designs and implements operational monitoring and administration strategies to keep the data infrastructure secure and as defect-free as possible.

Responsible Addition

In addition to the need for DBAs and their information design, configuration, operational, and administration responsibilities, there is also a growing need for individuals who have the ability to create logic behind the data, extract data, formulate models, and apply quantitative business analytics that facilitate making key proactive business decisions. Data-driven decision-making has become pervasive in most organizations. Private sector companies make data-driven decisions to drive profit and gain a competitive advantage, while public sector agencies do so to ensure that they are making decisions that result in the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer or constituent dollars.

There has also been increasing interest in a new class of data professional that is a blend of both the aforementioned skill sets. Individuals who can model and mine in data environments of all sizes are referred to as data scientists. Data scientists use a combination of their business and technical skills to investigate data, looking for ways to improve current business analytics and predictive analytical models, and also for possible new business opportunities. You may be saying to yourself, this sounds like the role of the business intelligence (BI) professional. I believe that it may be helpful to think of data scientists and BI professionals as being on two ends of the same spectrum, with BI focused on managing and reporting existing business data in order to monitor or manage various concerns within the enterprise. In contrast, data scientists use advanced analytical tools and algorithms to create predictive insights and new-product innovations that are a direct result of the data. Data scientists do not merely address business implications; they focus on critical problems that have the most value and impact to the organization.

Because the data scientist role is a new function for most organizations, a generally accepted job description has not been defined yet. The lack of clarity poses a challenge to organizations that may be at the forefront of embracing this role. But it also may create exceptional opportunities for individuals with the right skill set and who have the desire to raise the profile of both the function and the role.

On paper, it would appear that many DBAs have the prerequisite skills to be data scientists. It will be interesting to monitor how the DBA and data scientist roles will evolve organizationally, and how the positions will complement or supplement each other. As the role of the data scientist becomes more prevalent, individuals and organizations will want to stay engaged in the evolution.

Engagement

Next Steps


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Leveraging the knowledge of a broad-based community is an optimal way to stay current on trends, as well as to be an active participant in relevant discussions. Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) is constantly updating, expanding, and fine-tuning its core offerings to encompass and embrace evolving knowledge areas, and providing them in preferred delivery channels to get the information disseminated as soon as it becomes available.

IOUG is now conducting industrywide research assessing changes in the Oracle data infrastructure landscape to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of what role the data scientist will play in organizations. IOUG will be looking out two to three years to determine what impact the data scientist role will have in Oracle shops and how IOUG can address these changes through education and information sharing. IOUG welcomes your participation in this research, and as is the case with all of IOUG’s engagements, it partners with recognized experts in the technology industry to ensure the accuracy and applicability of its findings. By employing the combined power of a collective community and engaged experts, IOUG will continue to be at the forefront of best practices and lessons learned in the technology community.  


Matelski Headshot

John Matelski
is president of IOUG and has been an active member in Oracle user groups since 1997. He is currently the chief information officer and director of IT services for DeKalb County, Georgia.

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