3 Data Professional Roles Every Company Wants to Fill

It seems like every business is looking to hire data professionals. Business leaders have realized that simply having a lot of data, or having ready access to it, is not enough. The right people are needed to manage and make sense of all that data.

The needs around data are growing exponentially. According to a recent Experian Data Quality study, 97 percent of organizations use data to power business opportunities. Many tech professionals see increasing demands from the business around data and the need to turn data insights around more quickly. Solid analytics and insights will be needed to keep pace with digital transformation and create additional efficiency. 

The good news is that businesses recognize this need and are making investments to solve for these challenges. From our research, we can see that the hiring of data professionals seems to be taking place in business-focused roles and regulation-focused roles, reflecting the tension that often exists at organizations between driving innovation and managing risk. In the next year, we envision companies seeking talent to fill these roles: data analyst, chief data officer, and data protection officer. Here’s a quick rundown on each.

Data analyst. On the business side, organizations are hiring data analysts to sit within departments or data teams. In fact, 46 percent of U.S. organizations are planning to hire data analysts in the next year. Their main goal, no matter where in the organization they are placed, is to analyze data in such a way that it can be used for business intelligence—i.e., that it is accurate, trusted information. Fifty-seven percent of businesses spend a majority of their time analyzing data, and so this role’s importance is hard to overstate.

Chief data officer. A CDO is essential to run any robust data program, which is why we see that 51 percent of C-level executives will be looking to hire for this role in the next 12 months. The CDO is responsible for developing and implementing an information strategy, which includes disciplines like data security, governance, quality, and management. They also oversee a team of data professionals that can bridge the gap between the business side and the IT department. With these roles in particularly high demand, we expect there to be shortages in talent.

Data protection officer. Regulation-focused roles are another area of investment, and data protection officers are on the front line. In preparation for the upcoming European directive known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we are seeing an increasing number of organizations planning to hire data protection officers—43 percent of C-level executives globally are looking to fill this role. The data protection officer is responsible for educating employees on the GDPR’s specific compliance requirements, as well as ensuring that employees receive proper training when handling data. While the job’s mandate is very relevant for GDPR compliance, it can also be applied to many other regulations to reduce a company’s risk.

These are just a few of the sought-after roles this year, but there are many others needed to help transform data-driven businesses. The challenge to keep in mind is that there will be shortages of this kind of talent. Not everyone can hire an experienced chief data officer or data protection officer because realistically only several hundred of them exist.

To make sure that these people are successful, it will be important for organizations to define a clear scope for each role. Too often we see companies that struggle with new data professionals because the scope of the role was too broad or the individual did not have a clear mandate. In addition, for the higher-level roles, it is extremely important that the individual can speak the language of data professionals but also be able to clearly communicate to business and C-level executives about data and how it is being used across the enterprise. Those communication skills and an ability to relate to business problems will be essential for the data professionals of tomorrow.

We expect this hiring frenzy to continue for some time. However, the hope is that these data professionals can have a meaningful impact on the business and bring positive organizational change.

As general manager of Experian Data Quality North America, Thomas Schutz serves as the company's top executive for all strategic business decisions in the United States and Canada. Schutz is focused on helping organizations proactively manage the quality of their data through world-class validation, matching, enrichment, and profiling capabilities to better enable intelligent customer interactions and decision making.

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