The continuing importance of data science

Helen Stembridge

Helen has spent a number of years working with companies helping them make commercial propositions from the data they have available to them. She has worked with The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, The Royal Mail Group and the Financial Times to name a few, extracting knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data. With a background in business development and now at Headforwards, Helen  focuses on the science of data and analytics to provide insights into the minds of customers.

Creating powerful insights

Data science is one of the fastest growing fields in tech and one of the most exciting, as it has such huge potential to help shape the future of business and society. UK demand for data scientists has tripled over the last five years, as more and more organisations see how it can help transform their performance.

Today’s organisations generate huge amounts of data the whole time. Hidden within this data are potentially valuable insights that could lead to new revenue streams, streamlined operations and improved services. This is true for organisations as diverse as local authorities, the NHS and private sector enterprises.

Data science is the key that unlocks maximum value from an organisation’s data. When data is mined, it can uncover insights that are pure gold.

As the data becomes more sophisticated, multiple sources of complex data need to be analysed – and this is where the scientific process comes in. Data scientists build intricate algorithms and predictive models to extract the data the business needs, leading to actionable insights. These insights can make all the difference to an organisation, helping it find the smartest solutions and allocate resources in the way that will have most impact.

For organisations such as local authorities which are currently facing the challenge of budget cuts, this has never been more important.

New techniques

The rise of data science is set to transform the way that organisations such as local authorities work and this is facilitated by the growing availability of free, open-source tools for both collecting data and performing analysis.

By harnessing the latest techniques, organisations can create a step change in their approach.

For example, local authorities are now developing their use of data science on two key fronts.

Firstly, they are introducing new analytical techniques, such as machine learning and predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and A/B testing. Secondly, we are seeing expansion of the types of data local government exploits. For example, administrative data can be repurposed, social media data can be harvested and businesses such as mobile phone companies can become partners, sharing data.

With the amount of Big Data increasing and data generated from the Internet of Things (IoT) set to rocket, the application of machine learning will become even more crucial.

At Headforwards, we are ahead of the curve when it comes to data science. Recent projects range from helping a global telecoms company identify patterns in cloud usage to helping a local authority identify trends in the community, leading to improved planning.

As the technology continues to evolve, data science will be used to help inform decision making even more widely and will find its place right at the heart of operations and planning. It will help managers make the smartest decisions and deliver improved value for stakeholders.

Benefits for the public and private sector

Here are just some of the myriad of ways in which data science can be used to create advantage.

  • Local authority services: Local authorities provide a wide range of services to their citizens and need to deliver these in the best targeted and most cost-effective way. Data science can help to identify and predict trends in their local community, providing insights that allow them to align service delivery with future needs, delivering the best value to stakeholders. Local authorities can also use data science to gain a bird’s eye view of their organisation, shining a spotlight on how resources are being deployed across services, so they can be as effective as possible. And by making use of new types of data collection, including for example smart devices such as sensors on dustbins (as used in Scotland to improve refuse collection services) they can ensure that service delivery reflects community needs.
  • Healthcare delivery: Data science is transforming healthcare in a number of ways. It makes it easier for doctors to accurately diagnose patients and hence, make faster decisions that can save lives. Data science has also helped in the emergence of applications and wearables that can monitor patients on a constant basis to help prevent health problems. In addition, it plays a vital role in pharmaceutical research. Here, machine learning algorithms are used to extract and analyse biological samples from patients to develop innovative cures.
  • Business Marketing: Data science can provide vital information about the factors driving sales as well as help organisations identify and predict trends so they can develop new products to meet their future customers’ needs. It can also be used to generate a more granular understanding of customers and create personalised customer experiences. In today’s competitive environment, businesses need to regard their data as their biggest asset and leverage it to provide powerful insights that allow them to gain the edge over their competitors.

As you can see, data science is radically changing the way organisations and businesses work. It is being embraced right across the private and public sector and its use will accelerate further in the years ahead. No wonder it has been described in the Harvard Business Review as the sexiest job in the 21st century!

New and emerging trends

As the landscape continues to evolve, new trends can be spotted that are beginning to define the future of the data science industry.

Firstly, automated data science and machine learning will continue to rise in importance. Everything from data cleaning of Big Data to automatic model design and training will continue to grow.

One other important current advance is Natural Language Processing (NLP). In the past, the only data that could be analysed was numbers. However, NLP means that natural language and text can also now be analysed by data scientists, to help unlock further insights.

Another hot topic right now is the privacy and security protocols surrounding data. Data comes from individuals and the privacy of this data must always be protected. Expect to see new processes to establish the security and integrity of data in the months and years ahead, as well as new protocols around the ethics of data science.

Lastly, as data grows, so does the need to store it – and this is where the cloud comes in. Cloud computing companies are now offering platforms for Data Analytics and Google Cloud offers its own platform for data scientists.

This is a sector where change is happening at an extraordinary rate and where the opportunities are almost limitless.

At Headforwards, we are proud to be at the forefront of Data Science in the UK and we are excited by its future potential, as the industry continues to evolve.

Further reading

BI & Data

We recently embarked on a new challenge, working with our local authority as they look to improve the access and confidence that residents and members have to technology

Read more

Create value through software

Every step of each Headforwards project, development is centred around the clients’ objectives

Read more

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