***Update: I think we are “Business Modelers”
Today’s post reflects my recent thinking after pondering the excellent discussion on this post.
Two recent articles
The other day I was emailed an article on TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute) with a really intriguing title: “Are Data Scientists Hidden Within Your Company?”
I Mean, How Can I NOT Read an Article With That Title???
(Click for the article)
And Whoa! “Formuleers” are the new Data Scientists? I. Am. Intrigued.
(Click for the article)
Excel Pros! We need a new name!
When I recently visited my former colleagues at Microsoft out in Seattle, we had an interesting discussion about “renaming” the Excel Pro.
I mean, “Excel Pro” is descriptive and all, and it’s fine for us to use amongst ourselves. But it sure as hell isn’t sexy – not the sort of thing we want to use to market ourselves. I mean, just say the words “Data Scientist” and you see what I mean. “Excel Pro” is very much… lacking, isn’t it?
And it undersells what we can do as Power Pivot Pros. BIG TIME.
Power Pivot Pros Should “Run” BI
If I were running a large company today, our BI strategy would be focused on Power Pivot-trained Excel pros embedded in the business units. We would have traditional BI pros on staff, but their mission would be to support the Excel pros – providing them with data and infrastructure, and occasionally “taking over” a Power Pivot model that had grown too large.
BI Pros would never build reports, analyses, or models at my corporation, with the exception of occasionally taking over models that had outgrown Power Pivot.
If you “gifted” me an army of BI consultants and stipulated that they could only be employed to build reports, analyses, and models, I would decline the free gift. Even if free, that would be a net negative for the organization.
There is zero doubt in my mind. Zero. I’ve just seen too much now. THAT is the way to run “BI” – you run it on an elite cadre of Excel pros, trained on Power Pivot. But to call them Excel pros just doesn’t do it justice.
Back to the articles!
That’s why the first article caught my eye. The world’s most valuable data resource (the Excel pro) is hiding in every organization on the planet. Sometimes in great numbers.
Here’s the “money” quote from the first article:
When people talk about data scientists being curious, that means in a sense that they’re always looking for new problems. You shouldn’t have that much trouble identifying them because they’re going to be the people who, even though it isn’t their job, are still coming up with some kind of crazy, complicated spreadsheet to do some sort of analysis — we all know that type of person.
Even if it’s not part of their job description, they’re still the ones coming up with ideas. Maybe they don’t have the skills at the time to actually do the work, but they’re thinking those ideas and they understand the directions you should be investigating.
But the article later concludes that we (the Excel pros) probably aren’t cut out to be true data scientists.
And I actually agree. I’ve been reading a book on “true” Data Science and have to say that most of us are not really those people, even though we are “close.” It involves true experimentation and solid statistical backgrounds. Steven Levitt types, or the folks who run Amazon’s algorithmic pricing routines for example.
But I also think that the worldwide demand for true data science is small compared to just understanding the numbers we’ve got.
Engineers, Formuleers, Royal Fusileers?
But the word “engineer” originally just meant “someone who operates an engine.” You know, like a steam engine – the breakthrough technology of the 1800’s. Someone who knew the ins and out of that game-changing blend of art and science, regardless of their formal training, “earned” that title.
Over the years, more “official” training and certification came into play for engineers, and the term expanded to other branches of technology.
So the parallels are pretty good actually. And I bet the word “engineer” sounded different to everyone’s ears when it was first coined versus what it sounds like in our heads today. Even the term “Power Pivot” sounded silly when I first heard it, and then it grew on me.
So maybe it’s a good name after all? I don’t know. What do you think? Is this a term we can embrace or do we ignore it?