Data science. Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Business intelligence.
Whatever the techniques, the idea of applying powerful algorithms to large quantities of data to generate critical insights and power new products and services is everywhere—and every business wants to tap into its potential.
On one end of the spectrum, Amazon recently announced that it was investing $700 million to upskill one-third of US workforce for more technical roles, including machine learning. Similarly, Microsoft announced it would partner with General Assembly to reskill 15,000 workers by 2022 in order to create a pool of AI talent.
On the other end, data scientists and experts with the right credentials command sky-high salaries. The New York Times reported that “in the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research”—and that fresh PhDs earn salaries between $300,000 and $500,000, while top experts can earn up to double-digit millions. With those market dynamics, it’s no wonder that companies are struggling to attract and retain the kind of talent they need to staff their data analytics initiatives.
But the staffing struggle obscures a much deeper challenge: most companies still have difficulty articulating what they even want or expect to achieve with their data. A few data points to consider:
- A McKinsey survey found that only 18% of companies believe “they have the skills necessary to gather and use insights effectively”
- Teradata reported that 91% of survey respondents “anticipate significant barriers to adoption” of AI technology
- Gartner found that “37% of organizations are still looking to define their AI strategies, while 35% are struggling to identify suitable use cases.”
Freelance Data Scientists Can Help You Do More With Data
Fortunately, the answer to both challenges starts with the same resource: freelance data scientists and strategists who’ve found a more lucrative, varied, and rewarding career working not as in-house resources but as independent consultants. These independent experts can be deployed to help with everything from creating high-level data strategies to implementing workstreams and advising pilot initiatives at a technical level.
At BTG, our clients have tapped our marketplace of independent consultants and subject matter experts to support every phase of their data analytics programs. Here are some examples:
- Data strategy: The head of R&D Strategy and Operations at a global pharmaceutical company was establishing an enterprise-wide data science council to ensure the successful adoption of new analytics technologies. BTG’s consultant, who had previously run an analytics startup, drafted a charter and governance for the new council, developed a comprehensive communications and training strategy and assisted in change management initiatives during the rollout.
- Data science: The VP of enterprise transformation at a global insurance giant was building a predictive pricing model to better forecast supply and demand for its buyback program. BTG deployed a data scientist who had previously served as Chief Data Scientist at Accenture to build and refine a machine learning algorithm that the client’s team used to build an enterprise predictive tool.
There are two distinct benefits to using independent talent to fill these roles. First, as independent contractors, freelance data scientists can often serve as more impactful thought partners.
“Independent consultants can often cut through politics and red tape more rapidly than people on the inside of an organization,” said Mohammad Ghassemi, an independent data science expert with over a decade of experience. “Another advantage of coming into an organization as a contractor is that it forces the organization to clearly articulate both their expectations and an associated timeline under which those expectations are to be met. ”
Second, as Heidrick & Struggles’s Ryan Bulkoski and Sam Burman recently wrote, developing comprehensive, mature strategies in AI and other cutting-edge disciplines is key to recruiting the kind of high-powered talent who can take your programs to the next level. That means the benefits of using independent talent to get smarter about data will compound down the line—whether you continue your journey by building out a bigger internal analytics group or by continuing to attract the best freelancers.
Whether you need to prioritize new data opportunities or assess and expand the ones that are already underway, Business Talent Group’s marketplace of freelance data scientists and experts can help. Contact us today to learn more.
About the AuthorFollow on Linkedin More Content by Alysha Khan