By Scott Klososky With Karen Macdonald

For many years, the business community has focused on gathering data as an important tool to support successful strategies and effective decision making. What’s become apparent, though, is that simply having the data isn’t enough – raw data doesn’t deliver value. Instead, the right data, analyzed correctly and applied to specific business processes and plans, is needed to realize the optimal benefit from the data that’s collected.

Larger companies have addressed this hurdle by hiring data scientists, an expensive solution that also delivers limited results: these scientists first need to learn the business to properly apply their analysis, and because they’re in such demand, turnover is a constant threat.

A new solution to empower data analysis has emerged in recent years: training “Citizen Data Scientists” from within the company. These individuals solve several of the key issues with professionally trained data scientists – they know the business and its industry, empowering them carries no additional staff cost, and recruiting them to a Citizen Data Scientist Program (CDSP) can increase their engagement while also delivering exceptional value to the organization.

The value of making data-driven decisions cannot be overstated. One industry study has found that companies that excel with data science are twice as likely to be in the top quarter of financial performance. They make decisions faster and they stick to those decisions because they’re confident in the underlying data rationale – they have the data to prove that they’ve made the best possible decision.

A CDSP enables many people in an organization to use data to make better decisions, driving wide-scale business improvements. It can be developed by a data scientist already on staff or by partnering with an outside company like Future Point of View. A strong program employs three training levels:

Level 1

Teaching data science basics and the foundations of data activation and establishing data science practices including setting up a RIVERS OF INFORMATION® and finding new data sources, developing a data science vocabulary, and starting to learn what data is available and how it can be used within their department.

Level 2

Undertaking data science lab projects focused on practical applications to improve internal operations.

Level 3

Undertaking data science lab projects focused on externally facing improvements or products.

One key facet of effective CDSPs is empowering trainees to undertake real-life projects to apply what they’ve learned. This demonstrates to them the value of and maintains their excitement about, the new skill they’re learning.

Finding the right people to become a citizen data scientist is also a critical step in the CDSP process. Ideal participants possess basic math and statistics skills and have:

  1. a contextualized vision of the organization;
  2. an understanding of how analytical techniques can be applied to business problems;
  3. an appetite for how data analytics can support business priorities;
  4. a network within the organization so they can find new data and learn whether any given analytic will deliver value;
  5. a perspective on an individual business area and how to apply analytics within it;
  6. an ability to go to bat to justify the business value of data science; and
  7. hands-on experience using dashboards and analytics in their career.

Because data science can deliver value throughout the organization, having one or two employees from every department trained as a citizen data scientist will yield the strongest results. In smaller organizations, a CDSP can engage as few as two employees and still garner significant benefits and ROI.

The CDSP movement has blossomed in the past few years because it’s not very expensive, team members are honored to be included, excited to learn to skills and proud to positively impact operations, and most of all, the organization benefits from making informed, data-driven decisions.

To learn more about FPOV’s Citizen Data Scientist Program, reach out to Scott Brady at

Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, FCC Services provides leadership development, talent selection, risk management, insurance management, claims administration, and other additional services to a variety of client segments.