Roles in a data driven organization

All this talk all the time about Big Data and Advanced Analytics is all well and good, in fact it is something I do most of my time. The technology is there and has great potential. The biggest question now is how to use these technologies to their full extent and maximize the benefits of the technologies for your organization. The answer lies in becoming a data driven organization.

A data driven organization is an organization that breathes data, not only in the sense of producing data, but also in the sense of analyzing, consuming and really understanding data, both their own as well as the data others can provide. In order to have a sense to become a data driven organization, you will need to change People, Process and Technology. There is enough talk about the Technology in the market already (and on this blog), so I will come back to that later and not go into much detail now. Let’s look at the other two: People and Process. I view Process as very much related to People: bringing in new skills without the proper Process in place for how to work with them and for the new People to work together will not be very useful.

So, what People do you need? In other words: what roles do you need in a data driven organization? I see four required roles in any organization that wants to be more data-driven. This is not to say that these four roles should be four different people; it is very well possible that someone might take on more than one role. I am however confident that there exist very few people who will able to do all four roles since each requires specific skills, focus and passion.

The four roles are: Wrangler, Scientist, Artist and Communicator. Let’s look at the four roles in more detail.


The role Wrangler, or data wrangler as others call this role is responsible for identifying, qualifying and providing access to data sets. In this sense the data is the wild horse that the wrangler tames. This role is a need for the Scientist role to work with qualified, trustable and managed data sources. In much situations, this looks a lot like the current data management roles already present in organizations. This role lives mostly in IT. Keywords here are databases, connection strings, Hadoop, protocols, file formats, data quality, master data management, data classification.


More popularly called the Data Scientist, a lot of people seem to believe that as long as you hire a Data Scientist you are a data driven company. This is much the same as saying that if you have Hadoop you ‘do Big Data’. This is about as smart as saying that if you got your driver’s license you make an excellent Formula 1 driver. It is just not true, sorry. Note also, that the opposite applies; if you are a great Formula 1 driver you could be a very bad driver on open roads. Running Hadoop does say you use Big Data. Hiring a Data Scientist does not mean you are a data driven company.

A Scientist is someone who applies maths, a lot of maths, to convert data into information. He or she applies statistical models and things like deep learning, data mining and machine learning to make this happen. Scientists are the rock stars of this data-focused world since they are the once actually making the magic happen. However, they cannot do it alone. They need good quality and trustable data, which is what the Wrangler supplies. Also, these Scientists happen to be ill-understood by the rest of the organization. This do this experiment: have your (Data) Scientist stick around the water cooler for 15 minutes every day and let him / her talk to people (I know, for some this is hard already). Then, check how quickly the person the Scientist is talking to disconnects. My experience is that someone who is not a fellow Scientist or Communicator will not make it for 15 minutes. Just try it, you will see what I mean.

Keywords here are data mining, R, Python, machine learning, statistics, algorithms.


The Artist role converts information the Scientist brewed up to insight that the consumers can understand and use. This role focusses on esthetics and the best way of data visualization to bring the message across in the best possible way. While the Wrangler is a very IT focused role and the Scientist is very mathematical, the Artist often comes from the creative arts world. The Artist just loves making things understandable and loves making the world a better place by creating beautiful things, such as great looking reports and dashboards. They often employ storytelling and other powerful visual methods such as infographics to convey their message to the consumers.

Keywords: data visualization, dashboard design, signaling colors, storytelling.


The last role in data driven organizations is a chameleon; If you look at the types of person in the Wrangler, Scientist and Artist role it is clear to see that these are very different people, with different backgrounds and different passions. Just as much as some of them find it hard to talk to the rest of the organization they can find it difficult to talk among their own and work together. In order to make sure there is no communications breakdown, many organizations invest in a Communicator; someone who has enough understanding of the passion of the people in the other roles to be able to level with them, understand their needs and explain the needs of others to them. Sub types of the Communicator is the Wrangler-Scientist communicator and the Scientist-Artist communicator.

This concludes the roles I see in a data driven organization; of course these roles with need the be supported with the right Processes and Technology. Having a Technology platform instead of disparate tools will help you to achieve this and make the best out of the investments you are making in these roles.