The Economist has recently defined the Data Scientist as “the “sexiest” job of the 21st century, combining the skills of the IT expert, of the statistician and of the narrator to extract the golden nuggets hidden under mountains of data”.
Undoubtedly, data collection and analytics have become two of the key processes in the world of digital business, functional to the digital transformation of companies.
Nonetheless until now Big Data (collections of miscellaneous data, structured and non- structured, defined in terms of volume, speed, variety and truthfulness) have been mainly accumulated without being converted into an available asset. Their storage and preservation are indeed just the first tile in a complex process: Big Data work like a large artificial lake – first you build the dam, then you wait for it to fill up with water and, once full, you start using the ‘raw material’ as a source to produce electricity, to irrigate, to drink. The digital transformation is letting several fields of application of data analytics emerge, the aim being to improve the business. A case in point is advertising: the collection of data concerning customers implies an increasingly precise definition of the reference target on which to construct ad hoc advertising campaigns.
As for storage too, there is still room for development: it’s important for original data to be filed using criteria that make their use easy. The exponential increase of Open Source databases in 2016 is the direct consequence of this need. Next to the pioneering Hadoop, faster and more flexible frameworks were created, like Exasol and MemSQL, able to meet both the “need for speed” characterizing the digital revolution, and the need for a single storage space to file data from different sources.
There are three main growth objectives in the world of Big Data for 2017, i.e. the development of security guarantees, the improvement of usage and the proliferation of digital catalogs.
The need for more security guarantees is determined by the relevance that technology has in the management of information: the web is the natural habitat of information flows that become more accessible, and as a consequence more exposed to risks, like data thefts. It is therefore necessary to pay attention to access to data archives, not to be the victims of attacks or intrusions. The authorization to access databases must be managed by professionals, and systems dedicated to these operations – like Apache Sentry or Apache Ranger – are destined to increase in number and to be improved in terms of efficiency.
The second objective of this year is an as easy as possible use of Big Data, both for companies and individuals. Even though the access and understanding of data is still a real obstacle, “self service” analytics platforms are being developed, allowing end users to move easily within databases to extract the information required. In parallel, to lighten archives, Data Preparation devices are proliferating, to collect, select and merge data.
The last frontier of development in the use of Big Data is the growth of catalogs that simplify data search: Alation and Waterline are just two of the companies devoted to this activity, using “machine learning” to automate data search in Hadoop.
The world of data analytics is already a key industry of the digital world but it’s still highly complex, and it requires an increasingly targeted and in-depth training. Companies look for Data Scientists, professionals able to lead them through the digital transformation and to identify new business opportunities. Bologna Business School proposes a full-time Data Science Master‘s course for newly graduated students: the Master’s provides a sound IT preparation, the understanding of technological aspects of the digital business, the awareness of corporate dynamics and it aims at preparing students destined to be employed in the “sexiest job of the 21st century”. The general aspects of the digital transformation, with a specific focus on Cyber Security, are dealt with in the Digital Technology Management/Cyber Security Master‘s course.