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July 18, 2019

Data Engineers: The C-Suite’s Savior

Richa Dhanda

(PayPau/Shutterstock)

Today’s competitive marketplace requires companies to be data-driven. Why? Because data has become the fuel for organizations to deliver better and faster decisions, quickly respond to customers, and analyze, understand and act on new opportunities (or threats) ahead of the competition. However, becoming a data-driven organization is not easy.  As highlighted in a recent Gartner report,  “despite massive investments in data and analytics initiatives, nearly 50% of organizations report difficulties in bringing them into production.”

That’s where data engineers come in. Their role is to help the company make the best use of data to accomplish business objectives. And, as demonstrated by a recent survey of Fortune 1,000 decision makers, this role is absolutely critical as established companies are being disrupted by technology-savvy new entrants.

Surveys say 80% of big data C-suite executives acknowledge the potential threats of technology disruption and displacement, yet only 7.3% of them feel confident that they were well-prepared for the future.

Data engineers can prepare companies for the future – for technological innovation that can help them meet potential threats head on. They can automate digital transformation projects, enabling companies to bring more data-driven projects into production. And, they can empower C-suite’s desire to disrupt the industry with evolving technologies – AI, machine learning, and more.

Combined, these capabilities comprise the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back regarding the need for data engineers. Today, data engineering jobs are in high demand with a significant skill shortage in the market.  In fact, over 127,000 data engineering jobs are posted on the Indeed job board compared to less than 35,000 postings for data scientists (numbers tabulated on 5/23/2019).

Barriers Facing Data Engineers

As an emerging practice, data engineers face unique challenges every day. For example, roles may not be defined, and they’re often given more complex than necessary tasks, sometimes better suited for data scientists. Not to mention, there are limited resources and tools to help with the day-to-day requirements of the job.

To understand the complexity of the situation, let’s breakdown the data engineer’s role and the daily challenges that they face.

Data engineers work with the business and translate their need for data-driven insight into technical and data requirements. However, the scope and intensity of data projects have increased in recent years and new data sources that did not previously exist are emerging every day.

In addition, data is now more distributed– on-premise, on mobile devices, and across multi-cloud environments. Part developer, part data scientist and part analyst, data engineers play a crucial role in enabling organizations to get value out of the data faster and at scale.

Data integrity is just as big of a part of the equation. Accurate data is essential for decision making, regulatory compliance, satisfied customers, and maximizing opportunities. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, 47% of data records are created with flaws and errors that impact work.

Can data engineers save the data for data-loving executives?

As data becomes more widely consumed in an organization, it must be delivered in a format that can be consumed without inaccuracies, inconsistencies or human flaws. It must be clean data to deliver trusted insight. Fortunately, data engineers own the end-to-end data strategy and help data scientists and analysts capture data lineage, operationalize data models and data sets, and deliver trusted data throughout the enterprise.

Just like with most jobs, the distractions for this role are endless. New technologies and tasks are introduced regularly, and data engineers cannot be locked into a solution that limits their agility. Also, compliance with regulations such as GDPR and the CCPA must be closely monitored as this can quickly shift the requirements for a project.

To stay on track with their jobs, data engineers must focus on the company’s overall data strategy, which many times includes assisting in performance and analytics projects, authorizing data for different audiences, and ensuring data governance for regulation compliance. In summary, data engineers are responsible for ensuring that the right data is delivered for the right job with integrity and at the speed expected by the business.

Priming Data Engineers to Save the Day

Luckily, new tools and processes have emerged to alleviate the pressures of a data engineer. But, before diving into that, it’s important for data engineers to understand the business and focus efforts on a collaborative goal. This will help teams leverage data for faster and more informed business decisions and operational excellence.

Tools and technology are just as valuable and play a big part in the data engineer’s role. There are solutions to help collect, govern, transform, and share data, so more time can be spent analyzing data than integrating and managing it. Automation has been a key technology for data engineers as it simplifies processes making data more manageable. It can be applied to machine learning, analytics, the data delivery process, and much more.

To deliver trusted data at the speed and scale at which businesses need it, data engineers are also leveraging modern data integration and integrity solutions. This helps automate data pipeline creation, reduce integration complexity, more easily comply with security and privacy requirements, and easily adapt to technical and business changes (increased agility).

Data engineers have become valuable resources that can harness the value of data for business objectives, which ultimately plays a strategic role in a complex landscape that is essential to the entire organization. Understanding and navigating data needs has the ability to transform data and empower data engineers to propel an organization into a thriving data-first company. As a result, organizations can stay competitive and innovative, ultimately giving C-suite execs one less thing to worry about.

About the author: Richa Dhanda is the vice president of product marketing at Talend. Prior to Talend, she was the head of product marketing at Dell EMC and served two years at director of product marketing at Nutanix. 

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