The data ninja – securing the right talent

It has become increasingly important to recognise data as a valuable asset, and one which can be harvested, manipulated and leveraged in ways beyond our imagination.  From increasing revenues, to driving better customer engagement and increasing service delivery to citizens, data is the single most powerful asset any enterprise or government department has at its disposal.  But.  Ah, yes here’s that illusive BUT.  Are we really getting the most out of our data?

During the research phase of my planning and preparation for the upcoming Chief Data Analytics Officer Public Sector event on 2-3 May in Canberra, Australia, I wondered whether an organisation can truly put a dollar value on their data.  However, I very quickly realised that it’s not as easy as plugging a few digits into a calculator and coming up with that magical number.  Why?  Because data is a priceless asset, and it is one which is underutilised in many senses.  It’s not only about how we gather, prepare or utilise the data.  The most important consideration is who works with it and what they do to it. One professional who plays a key role in extracting value from data is the data ninja.

A data ninja is a data scientist who is an expert at extracting, preparing and joining data and making important discoveries.

A data ninja is a data scientist who is an expert at extracting, preparing and joining data and making important discoveries. They have the nose of a bloodhound and the persistence of a willie wagtail in finding insights well hidden in this huge resource. They are worth every cent they are paid because of their very high level of skill and expertise in performing these tasks. They can deliver significant value to an organisation.


Drivers of Data in the Future


While on this train of thought, I spoke with one of my expert speakers, Dr Warwick Graco, Analytics Professional and Convenor, Whole of Government Analytics Centre of Excellence and his opinion was as such:

There are two major drivers of data in the future of the Australian Public Service:

  1. How data can be used to improve policy making, and;
  2. Enriching data to increase the value of service delivery to citizens.

He went on to say that to really reap the benefits of data and analytics, you need to secure the best talent to cleverly extract, harvest and prepare the data for use.  Interestingly, McKinsey estimates that there will be a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 data scientists by 2018. However, Dr Graco believes the challenge is far greater than this.


Making Analytics Work Effectively


The data scientist role is very important, but there are many others that are now required to make analytics work effectively and to contribute to achieving business outcomes. Examples include:

  • Data analysts for data wrangling
  • Data engineering to support large-scale production of data
  • Machine-learning engineers to operationalise the models developed by data scientists
  • Model management for managing deployed solutions e.g. model fleet management
  • Cognitive/decision scientists for determining what analytics solutions decision makers require to solve problems and reach decisions
  • Data journalists to convert the discoveries and the insights of analytics into compelling narratives
  • Information lawyers to address legal, privacy and security issues with joining and using data

Analytics is about extracting knowledge from data using advanced computational techniques. The above roles demonstrate that analytics is now very much a multidisciplinary field. It has also moved from being a back-office to a front-office function. It is now a core business and one that now has the same status as human- resources and information-technology functions in organisations.

It’s certainly an exciting time to be in analytics.


To learn more about Dr. Graco’s experiences, register for the Chief Data Analytics Officer Public Sector Australia.


About Dr Graco – Dr Graco has worked in defence, health and taxation and has been involved in analytics for over 20 years. He is a practicing analytics professional and is currently convenor of the Whole of Government Data Analytics Centre of Excellence and is a senior data scientist in Data Matching and Data Science Group of the Smarter Data Program of the ATO. He has a BSc from the University of New South Wales and a PhD from the University of New England Australia. His professional interests include digital transformation and innovation, organisational learning, organisational decision making and analytics. He is a former board member of the Institute of Analytics Professionals Australia and a member of the Board of the College of Organisational Psychology of the Australian Psychological Society.


By Charlene Cassie: 

Charlene Cassie is the Conference Director for Corinium. For enquiries, email: [email protected]







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