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Data science lifts the value of business data to new heights, creating extra opportunities for organisations of all kinds to be better at what they do.

Want to become more appealing to customers, or get more decisions right?

A growing weight of evidence says that applying this professional discipline can make that happen.

Naturally, the experts who wield these skills are called ‘data scientists’ but – and I hope they’ll take the compliment from me saying this – you can also think of them as glorified statisticians. The Harvard Business Review believes data scientists have the sexiest job of the 21st century, and defines their modus operandi as “making discoveries while swimming in data.”

Why is this important?

Look around at the increasingly data and software-driven world that we live in. Data science is a direct response to the digital business aspirations and possibilities that exist today. And it’s a direct beneficiary of the extreme computational processing resources made possible by cloud technology. Read this short history of data science for more on how data science is a product of its time.

Ever heard a colleague talk about ‘data mining’?

This is much the same concept as data science but a little more rudimentary. Data mining evokes the idea of picks and shovels; of rummaging around in the dark; a precursor to precision. Data science is what happens next, harnessing algorithms and equations to extract value from those raw materials, applying the power of machine learning and a truly scientific methodology.

Here are just some of the ways of deriving business value from data science:

  • Become More Competitive

Organisations have invested in business intelligence, big data analytics and so on to exploit an advantage over competitors who do not. Data science perpetuates this arms race and is the basis for competitive intelligence; a mechanism for defining, collecting, analysing and presenting information about products, customers, competitors and many other factors as a pool of constantly relevant knowledge to support strategic decision making.

A great example of this is when businesses apply data science to their sales information and use this to hone a more successful marketing approach.

  • Convert More Opportunity

Businesses must succeed in a changing environment, and data science can open your eyes to just how dynamic and fast-moving that environment really is. This creates the platform to recognise opportunities and be confident about choosing which to pursue to fruition; adjusting anything from pricing of products to entire business processes.

One example here would be the opportunity to enter the market with a new product. Data science transforms ‘hope’ that the product will be successful into a realistic expectation. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it would indicate a more solid basis for the level of likely demand, as well as the costs, challenges and opportunities around producing and selling the product.

  • Increase Market Reputation

The intelligent, aware and agile business is highly competitive and gains a heightened reputation among peers, customers, shareholders and potential employees. This is achieved by the advanced ability to understand the market and the sentiment of customers, and to avoid bad decisions.

Organisations that use data science will typically benefit from increased market reputation. Data science will also enable them to analyse their own measurement of market reputation – most likely based upon industry norms – and target improvements over time.

  • Respond Faster to Crises

While much of the focus around data science sits squarely on the telescopic level of detail it can provide, don’t overlook its other compelling trait – speed. Because data science is an organic process rather than a single point in time, businesses that use it have the privilege of gaining instantaneous insights that enable them to respond to fast-moving events.

The ability to put data science practices to work quickly is a huge asset in mitigating against impending disaster such as a hacking breach, where every second counts. However, it could just as easily be used for taking advantage of unexpected, timebound opportunities.

Data scientists are in high demand and it’s easy to see why. illumo digital employs the methodology of data science to support what our customers need to achieve with more efficient business processes and successful customer engagement, amongst other things. Is it sexy? Mmmmm, well it’s certainly very attractive!

All this is a far cry from the condescending, old-fashioned view of anyone possessing a keen interest in sifting through data to find patterns, correlations and applications. In a famous episode of The Simpsons, where Homer goes on to unwittingly join the NASA space program, one of the opening scenes reveals the latest, crushingly boring team of astronauts as “…a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician.”

Times have changed. Start getting used to championing these data-driven goliaths rather than poking fun in their direction, or the joke could be on you.