How to know when you need a data scientist

Entrepreneurs often ask me if it’s the right time for them to hire a data scientist, while people at more established companies want to know when it’s a good idea to grow their existing analytics or BI practice into a data science team.

Data scientists are hard to find and can be difficult to support, so make sure you have a strong reason for bringing them into your company.

You should hire a data scientist when:

  1. You know you could be making better business decisions. You have been collecting data that you know can help inform decisions, but it’s too difficult to access or takes too long to analyze, so you end up making decisions without it. Or perhaps your existing metrics tools don’t let you combine data or answer the specific questions you have about your business. It’s time to bring in a specialist.
  2. You know you could be making better product decisions. You might have tried some A/B testing or cohort analysis tools, but they don’t get to the heart of your product vision. More importantly, a data scientist can observe behavior and have theories about why people are engaging in that behavior, which can help you decide what to build and test in the first place.
  3. You are building a data product or want to monetize data directly. A data product is a product that is based on the combination of data and algorithms. Some of my favorites are spam filters, Dark Sky iOS app, and NetFlix recommendations. If this is your business model, you should have a data scientist on your team already!

What are your reasons for hiring a data scientist?

Photo credit: ntr23 on Flickr.


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