CXO

CIO Jury: Nearly 60% of IT leaders have a data scientist on staff

Many companies are hiring data specialists to gain insights from a growing amount of available information. But barriers such as costs remain.

In this era of big data, nearly every company has the ability to collect information about its customers, employees, and industry. This has led to a higher demand for employees with specific skills who can effectively organize and analyze this data to glean business insights.

Indeed, data scientists are in high demand, taking the coveted no. 1 spot on Glassdoor's Best Jobs in America list in both 2016 and 2017 and boasting high average salaries for those with the right skill set.

However, we are currently facing a shortage of professionals with data science skills: By 2020 the number of annual job openings for all data savvy professionals in the US will increase to 2.7 million, IBM predicted.

SEE: Job description: Data scientist (Tech Pro Research)

We surveyed the TechRepublic CIO Jury panel about their data science hiring. When asked "Does your organization have a data scientist or specialist on staff?", seven tech leaders said yes, while five said no.

"The function is outside of IT, but we have been developing a small team for a few years now to focus on data analytics and information design," said Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer of the National Council on Compensation Insurance. "Collecting data is a core function of our organization, so growing in this area is a natural fit for us."

Some companies have transitioned another employee into this role. At Payette, "we have a Building Scientist/Programmer on staff who has taken on our role as Data Scientist, gathering and mapping building energy and performance data," said Dan Gallivan, director of information technology.

Rocky Goforth, senior director of IT infrastructure and cybersecurity operations for supermarket chain Raley's, said that while the company does not have a data scientist on staff, it does employee three separate groups of data specialists to handle the "exponentially" growing amount of data. These groups include those focused on corporate/financial data, those focused on the overall grocery industry and external data, such as food prices and customer behaviors, and those focused on internal customers that participate in a loyalty program.

While Puerto Rico's comptroller office does not have a data scientist on staff right now, "we are looking forward to hire a data specialist in a near future because of the emerging need," said N'gai Oliveras Arroyo, IT director of the Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico.

Sometimes, the ability to hire a data specialist is dependent upon the industry and the finances involved.

"Hospitals in India are acutely aware of the need but are reluctant to convince the Board that there is a clear and immediate need for such skills," said Inder Davalur, group CIO of KIMS Hospitals Private Limited, who was not a part of the CIO Jury this month. "The market in India has a good supply of hardcore statisticians and academic statisticians. However, hospitals do not see a way to justify the costs."

John Rogers, IT director of Nor-Cal Products, Inc., who was not a part of the CIO Jury this month, said that his company does not have a dedicated staff member; however, he acts in that capacity when needed.

To learn more about how to break into a career in data science, click here.

This month's CIO Jury included:

  • Michael R. Belote, CTO, Mercer University
  • Simon Johns, IT director, Sheppard Robson Architects LLC
  • Dan Fiehn, group IT director, Markerstudy Group
  • Arkadiusz Olchawa, IT director and CIO, Itaka
  • Florentin Albu, CIO, Ofgem E-Serve
  • Cory Wilburn, CIO, Texas General Land Office
  • N'Gai Oliveras Arroyo, IT director, Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico
  • Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer, National Council on Compensation Insurance
  • Rocky Goforth, senior director of IT infrastructure and cybersecurity operations, Raley's
  • Tyler Foxworthy, chief scientist, DemandJump
  • Dan Gallivan, director of information technology, Payette
  • Joel Robertson, CIO, King University

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the top issues for IT decision makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director, or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, click the Contact link below or email alison dot rayome at cbsinteractive dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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