Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Nicolaus Henke, Jordan Levine, and Paul McInerney for the McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. To read the complete article, check out other resources, learn more about the firm, obtain subscription information, and register to receive email alerts, please click here.
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The search for vital analytics talent has often focused on data scientists. In this article for Harvard Business Review, we describe the overlooked analytics role that’s even more critical to fill.
It’s no secret that organizations have been increasingly turning to advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve decision making across business processes—from research and design to supply chain and risk management.
Along the way, there’s been plenty of literature and executive hand-wringing over hiring and deploying ever-scarce data scientists to make this happen. Certainly, data scientists are required to build the analytics models—largely machine learning and, increasingly, deep learning—capable of turning vast amounts of data into insights.
More recently, however, companies have widened their aperture, recognizing that success with AI and analytics requires not just data scientists but also entire cross-functional, agile teams that include data engineers, data architects, data-visualization experts, and—perhaps most important—translators.
Why are translators so important? They help ensure that organizations achieve real impact from their analytics initiatives (which has the added benefit of keeping data scientists fulfilled and more likely to stay on, easing executives’ stress over sourcing that talent).
What exactly is an analytics translator?
To understand more about what translators are, it’s important to first understand what they aren’t. Translators are neither data architects nor data engineers. They’re not even necessarily dedicated analytics professionals, and they don’t possess deep technical expertise in programming or modeling.
Instead, translators play a critical role in bridging the technical expertise of data engineers and data scientists with the operational expertise of marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, risk, and other frontline managers. In their role, translators help ensure that the deep insights generated through sophisticated analytics translate into impact at scale in an organization. By 2026, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that demand for translators in the United States alone may reach two to four million.
What does a translator do?
At the outset of an analytics initiative, translators draw on their domain knowledge to help business leaders identify and prioritize their business problems, based on which will create the highest value when solved. These may be opportunities within a single line of business (e.g., improving product quality in manufacturing) or cross-organizational initiatives (e.g., reducing product delivery time).
Translators then tap into their working knowledge of AI and analytics to convey these business goals to the data professionals who will create the models and solutions. Finally, translators ensure that the solution produces insights that the business can interpret and execute on, and, ultimately, communicates the benefits of these insights to business users to drive adoption.
Given the diversity of potential use cases, translators may be part of the corporate strategy team, a functional center of excellence, or even a business unit assigned to execute analytics use cases.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.