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The Puget Sound is a wellspring of tech innovation and disruptive trends. Home to innovators like Amazon, Microsoft, Nordstrom and Starbucks, our “local” companies have accomplished great feats: ushering in personal computing, disrupting the publishing industry, and creating community around a cup of coffee. And newer faces to the scene, like Socrata and Tableau, are pushing boundaries in business further still with data visualization tools and open data initiatives.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce recently held a meeting of the minds to explore how Seattle is harnessing the economic potential of Big Data; that is, the trend of businesses identifying and strategically implementing insights from the epic volume of digitally stored information available to them. Led by panelists from Cray, IBM, Microsoft and Tableau, the discussion explored several facets of the impact Big Data is having on business in the region, including a work-culture shift as organizations expand to include new types of roles and increase all employees’ familiarity with analytic tools.

Data-centered job titles on the rise

As companies of all sizes move to harness the rich stores of customer data they’re likely sitting on, with aims of improving the customer experience and generating new revenue streams, they’re realizing they need a new kind of expertise.

A new job category has been born: the data scientist. Like the software developer of decades ago, there is a short supply of people with the specialized skillset needed for a growing demand. Barry Bolding, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Cray, predicted, “In 4 to 5 years, the best data analyst for your company will be a person who has domain expertise and can use analytic software.”

In the world of communications professionals, we’re also seeing emerging demand for a new leadership skillset. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role is evolving into that of Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT). The Harvard Business Review has a great article on this role here.

Integrating new skillsets into the business environment won’t be limited to making a new hire, according to Ellie Fields, vice president of product marketing at Tableau. Fields talked about the need for a “new bar for data literacy” that will run horizontally across organizations.

The people on a team who know the ins and outs of the industry—who hold the domain expertise upon which a business is built—are in the best position to know what to do with data insights and make actionable decisions. But they’ll need a baseline understanding of how data analytic tools work and how to find insights.

At Weber Shandwick Seattle, we’ve been adapting our communications and marketing practices for quite some time to be more data insight-driven. (Learn more about our philosophy here). We see great potential for brands to find a voice and mine insights from their data to tell compelling stories. Stay tuned to this blog for more postings on Big Data trends.

Photo courtesy of John Westrock.

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