Data scientist: unicorn or key in providing actionable customer insights

Today's customer is talking about companies, themselves, what they want and what they need all the time. Is your brand listening and do you know how to gather the intelligence and action the insights?

Johannesburg, 29 Nov 2016
Read time 2min 20sec

Consulting and technology firm BSG recently held its third Fast Fish Forum in Johannesburg, with experts from the financial services and healthcare sectors exploring how best to use big data to drive customer insights. Developing a better understanding of customers emerged as a key imperative in today's highly competitive, customer-centric and fast-moving markets. Customer touch points are many and varied and to remain competitive, a company needs to meet their customers' needs better than their competitors.

Dr Julia Keddie, head of analytics at BSG, believes for an organisation to do so they need to have deep insights about their customers, to truly understand what motivates them to buy and what drives their decisions.

"Big data gives organisations access to more customer behavioural data than ever before. To remain competitive and be seen as industry leaders, organisations must turn this data into intelligence to enhance customer value," she advises.

Ideally, data analytics should be part of an organisation's enterprise strategy to reveal intelligence that can enable real-time decisions. Keddie believes for this need to be addressed, organisations should consider structuring their companies accordingly by reviewing people, processes and infrastructure. "BSG has found that data analytics is not very mature in South Africa, mainly embedded at departmental level and not entrenched across the company. Data projects we've undertaken have revealed information the company didn't realise they have."

Prior to embarking on big data analysis an organisation needs to understand what intelligence is needed from the data to ensure actionable insights. This requires the data science capability to work closely with business decision makers, as improving business performance is a key consideration. Keddie explains data science is not one person but a capability with a variety of data analytics and big data technology skills.

"Data projects need to be driven from the business level and business executives need to take ownership, as it's their data being worked with. BSG finds that big data is often misunderstood and senior executives need to be leveraged and educated on the value of big data analysis. The organisation needs to decide, upfront, who is going to drive the data science capability and what form it should take and where it needs to reside in the business. For example, will it be business asking for answers or the data science capability going to business with insights."

If organisations want to survive and compete they need to be making decisions based on data. Fact-based decisions can improve customer service and customer experience, risk management, operational efficiencies and performance can be better managed.

Generating insights needs to form part of a company's DNA, constantly testing and learning what techniques work best for them.


BSG is an African consulting and technology company with 20 years' experience across the banking, specialised financial services, insurance, telecommunications and oil and gas sectors. Clients utilise BSG's services because we 'get it done with you', by creating flow between business and IT executives. Through a collaborative approach we solve our clients most important business problems, accelerate their business performance and grow the sustainability of their people. BSG enables this customer-centric approach by journeying with our clients from needs to results, using fact-based decision-making. Visit it at

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BSG Gerian Miller (+27) 11 215 6666
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