Data drives so much of our lives today, both personally and professionally. From Netflix suggesting your next movie-pick to airplane manufacturers predicting necessary maintenance, data is ubiquitous in our lives, though often unseen and behind the scenes. Yet it’s driving much of what goes on in the world around us, both literally and figuratively. With a digital curriculum, teachers can make data-driven decisions about individual student needs, while Uber uses data to drive efficiencies within the ride-sharing service.  

But who are the movers and shakers in the industry of data and analytics that are driving developments, keeping the rest of us up-to-date on changes, and using Big Data for the greater good?

Here's the list of 17 top influencers in Big Data and Analytics, people who are highly recognized experts, prolific authors, and evangelists for the field. Some have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, while others have helped well-known brands harness the power of data and analytics. Meet them below.

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1. Ronald van Loon

Ronald van Loon has been recognized among the top 10 global influencers in Big Data, analytics, IoT, BI, and data science. With 119,000 followers on Twitter, Ronald has a huge following, and he is a highly sought-after speaker. As the director of Advertisement, he works to help data-driven businesses be more successful. He also writes compelling articles about Big Data and related topics for publications such as Data Science Central, DataFloq and Dataconomy. He is an advisory board member for the Big Data training category at Simplilearn and an online education provider. He also manages the LinkedIn group Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used to Improve Our World.

2. Merv Adrian

Merv Adrian is a Vice-President and an Analyst at Gartner with over 30 years of experience in IT. Adrian specializes in mapping the Database Management System (DBMS), Big Data and NoSQL product landscapes and opportunities. He also serves as Gartner's lead analyst for Microsoft, coordinating Gartner's research activities. Adrian blogs at Gartner.

4. Kirk Borne

Kirk Borne is a Principal Data Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton. As an astrophysicist formerly working at NASA, Borne was the expert called upon to brief the President of the United States on data mining post 9/11, as the government explored how to use data mining to detect and prevent another terrorist attack. Since then, Borne has risen to prominence throughout the industry. With 185,000 followers on Twitter, Borne’s influence in data and analytics is widespread.

5. Carla Gentry

Self-professed data nerd Carla Gentry is the owner of Analytical Solution. Gentry, a mathematician, and economists have helped brands as big as Kellogg’s, Hershey, Discover Financial Services, Firestone, and Kraft. She acts as a liaison between IT and business, to make complex data make sense and drive profits. With 296,000 tweets to her credit, she is also extremely active on social media.

6. Vincent Granville

Vincent Granville is the Co-founder and the Executive Data Scientist at Data Science Central, one of the most popular online resources for both professionals and enthusiasts in Big Data, analytics, and data science. Granville is also extremely knowledgeable about machine learning applied to Internet search technology, predictive modeling, keyword and BI, fraud detection, and data mining.

7. Cindi Howson

Cindi Howson is the Vice-President of Research at Gartner and the founder of BI Scorecard, an in-depth BI product reviews resource based on hands-on testing. Howson has advised clients on BI tool selections and strategies for over 20 years. She is also the author of Successful Business Intelligence: Unlock the Value of BI and Big Data and SAP Business Objects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference, as well as a faculty member of The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) and a contributing expert to Information Week.

8. Judith Hurwitz

Judith Hurwitz is the President and CEO at Hurwitz & Associates, where she advises both emerging and established companies on go-to-market strategies. Hurwitz is the author of eight books, including several in the “For Dummies” series, software industry thought leader, and a market analyst with a focus on cloud, Big Data, analytics, and cognitive computing.

9. Carlie Idoine

Carlie Idoine is the Research Director for Business Analytics and Data Science for IT leaders. Her areas of expertise include both business analytics and data science toolsets and approaches, citizen data scientists, optimization strategies, and processes. Idoine has more than 25 years of experience in integrating new technologies, including the deployment of enterprise analytics strategies. She provides research and advisory services focused on using analytics to solve complex business problems.

10. Doug Laney

Doug Laney leads the data and analytics strategy practice with the consultancy, Caserta. Formerly he was a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner's Chief Data Officer (CDO) research and advisory practice. He is an accomplished practitioner and recognized authority on data and analytics strategy, and is a three-time recipient of Gartner's annual Thought Leadership Award, and is regularly considered one of the top global influencers these topics. Mr. Laney specializes in and assists organizations with data monetization and valuation, open and syndicated data, data governance, and big-data based innovation. In 2001 he coined the "3Vs" of volume, velocity, and variety, now commonly used in defining Big Data, and authored "Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information as an Asset for Competitive Advantage".

11. Ben Lorica

Ben Lorica is the Chief Data Scientist at O'Reilly Media. Lorica has applied his BI, machine learning, and statistical analysis expertise in a variety of domains, including financial engineering, marketing and market research, web analytics, and text mining. With a Twitter handle like @BigData, you can be sure he is an influencer. Lorica hosts The O’Reilly Data Show podcast; he also blogs on data, technology, and culture at The Gradient Flow.

12. Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a Big Data and analytics expert, strategic performance consultant, keynote speaker, and author. He regularly publishes articles on Big Data and Analytics on Forbes. He is the author of several books, including Data Strategy — How to Profit from a World of Big Data, Analytics, and the Internet of Things.

13. Hilary Mason

Hilary Mason is the Founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, a machine intelligence research company, as well as the GM of Machine Learning at Cloudera, and Data Scientist in residence at Accel, where she advises companies on their data strategy. Previously, she spent four years as Chief Scientist at Bitly. Mason is a blogger, speaker, and influencer with 104,000 Twitter followers, and she is a co-author of Data-Driven: Creating a Data Culture.

14. Gregory Piatetsky

Gregory Piatetsky is the President of KDnuggets, one of the biggest websites in the Big Data and data science space. He is the Co-founder of the KDD (Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining) conferences and the Co-founder of ACM SIGKDD, an association of data science and data mining. He firmly believes that data science is the answer to major world problems. His Twitter handle has been recognized as the best for Big Data, where he has 106,000 followers.

15. Lillian Pierson

Lillian Pierson is the founder of Data-Mania, offering online and face-to-face training courses and workshops in the areas of Big Data, analytics, and data science. She works with many public sector enterprises in the technical domain, such as Dell and Intel, as well as government organizations, including the US Navy. Pierson blogs at Data-Mania and is the author of Data Science for Dummies and Managing Big Data Workflows for Dummies.

16. Joanna Schloss

Joanna Schloss is the VP of Product Marketing at Sauce Labs and an expert in the Dell Center of Excellence specializing in data and information management. Schloss’s areas of expertise include Big Data, analytics, BI, IoT, and data warehousing. With a combined experience in both startup and G500 environments, she has successfully launched numerous products, from business-focused analytic applications to data warehousing tools such as Business Objects Data Services.

17. Jen Stirrup

Jen Stirrup is a top influencer in Big Data and Business Intelligence. The founder of Data Relish, Jen, has 20 years of experience in the IT industry. She is a data strategist and technologist, Microsoft Data Platform Most Valuable Professional (MVP), a diversity and technical community advocate, and a public speaker and blogger. She is also the author of two books on Tableau and R, and she is in the process of writing one on Microsoft Power BI.


The field of Data Science and Analytics is so vast now that one can find influencers and experts in any number of niche domains, as well as influencers like Ronald van Loon whose expertise spans a wide range of topics. With various types of specializations, it can be near impossible to create a comprehensive and cohesive list of Big Data influencers. This list is a small step forward in pointing you towards someone who is making waves in the area of Big Data that you are most interested in.

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