The global COVID-19 pandemic has shattered norms and redefined how business is conducted, affecting some businesses more than others. While the field of data science has had tremendous momentum for some time, a significantly greater number of organizations will be looking for ways to reinvent themselves and gain traction as the crisis winds down. Companies also will be looking for ways to harness data that can help them prepare for future shocks and emerging trends.

In a recent Simplilearn webinar, Ronald Van Loon, a renowned leader in data science, analytics, and automation, shared his views on how the data science field will change as we come out of COVID-19, how data science can help organizations evolve, and more.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Data Science After COVID-19

As Van Loon explained, organizations generally had time on their side when researching and implementing data science and IT infrastructure solutions. Projects could take at least one year to get up and running; but after the disruptions of COVID-19, businesses dramatically shortened the time for deployment. Even digitally mature companies were forced to not only embrace these technologies in order to survive, he said, “but also accelerate this maturity as quickly as possible.”

For example, entire corporations (including multinationals) were forced to move entire operations entirely to a remote and wireless platform. But even after the pandemic, he added, companies plan on maintaining this accelerated pace of digital transformation in order to remain competitive and plan for future disruptions.

This renewed focus on business continuity and resilience will require some changes in how data science is implemented, including wider adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) for automating certain repetitive tasks. As companies strengthen their infrastructures and update their technology, Van Loon expects to see the following data science trends:

  • More connected, agile infrastructures
  • More technology-driven research
  • New technology solutions from smaller developers
  • Brands trying to navigate the accelerated pace of digital maturity required to remain relevant and competitive

Using Data Science to Recover and Reinvent Your Organization

While data science was important before the pandemic, its role in helping businesses become resilient to change and disruption will be highlighted even more as we emerge from this crisis, Van Loon said, pointing out that resiliency will become even more important than efficiency as companies move forward.

For example, retail stores that were more dependent on brick-and-mortar sales before the pandemic had to make drastic changes if they hoped to survive. Some of them went out of business, but the ones that survived will be moving toward aggressive new business models to help them boost sales and better cater to online shoppers

Van Loon expects a continuation of this trend away from in-person shopping, even after the pandemic has abated. Some ways to better enable online shopping are adoption of augmented reality (AR) or 3D technologies to reinvent online shopping models. 

“AR really helped [retailers] innovate by allowing customers to virtually ‘try on’ items or have an interactive experience before they buy, Van Loon said. “But they need data scientists to create the machine learning models” that will enable a rich and effective customer experience. 

In fact, he added, data scientists will be the main drivers of these types of technologies. The benefits of data science for companies as they emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and look for ways to adapt and thrive include:

  • Organizational stabilization, building new processes, and predicting what’s next
  • Establishment of new communication channels and workflows
  • Preparation for adapting to changes in the work environment
  • Identifying (and adapting to) changing consumer patterns
  • Use of AI and machine learning to analyze data for emerging trends 

The ‘New Normal’ in Data Science After COVID-19

Disruptions in the economy and daily life can force any organization to make drastic, 180-degree turns just to survive. Van Loon said he believes the rapid and massive infrastructure upgrades many organizations made to facilitate remote workforces will continue as we move out of the COVID-19 crisis. Data scientists will be needed to optimize workflows, maintain security, comply with applicable laws, and automate certain processes.  

Van Loon explained the changes that already have occurred in data science since the pandemic began:

  • 75% of business intelligence, data, and analytics professionals are working longer hours since the pandemic (according to Forrester Research), which may continue for the foreseeable future
  • The move toward increased remote work will continue, reducing the need for professionals to relocate and expanding the talent pool for organizations
  • More demand for localized and reconfigured supply chains, prompting a demand for more specialized data skills
  • Acceleration of AI and automation to better weather economic downturns, given the high cost of personnel (also to avoid the need for social distancing guidelines)

“For data scientists and analytics professionals, more opportunities will arise as organizations build out these types of capabilities,” Van Loon asserted. “In general, I expect that data scientists will have a much different environment in the coming months as we shift to the post-COVID world.” 

Enhancing Your Data Science Skills for Post-COVID-19 Success

Van Loon described the post-COVID-19 era as an opportunity for the next generation of data scientists. But to get to that next level, he added, they’ll need to significantly enhance their skills. In the post-COVID-19 world, he said, the emphasis will be on the skills needed to help streamline workflows “and give organizations a specific, competitive edge.” 

The key skills that data scientists will want to add to their tool kits include data privacy and security; specialized AI and machine learning skills; and skills associated with the acceleration of cloud computing. Some specific examples include data translation skills associated with the task of understanding AI algorithms and the ability to communicate insights derived from data to various business leaders.

AI specialization is one of the top “hard” skills that organizations will be leveraging as we emerge from the pandemic. “So, if you are—as a data scientist—well prepared with machine learning and artificial intelligence-related skills, you are in a good position,” Van Loon said.

Fortunately, there are abundant opportunities to upskill without leaving home. Simplilearn offers the following courses to help you prepare for the next generation of data science:

Data Privacy and Security

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Cloud Computing

Back to Business as Usual: New Challenges for Data Scientists 

At some point, organizations will resume “business as usual,” which won’t resemble what we considered normal prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Van Loon said he believes the overarching challenge for data scientists in the post-COVID-19 world will be uncertainty, depending on where you live and operate. 

Companies will need to track and respond to “changes in economic activity, cultural norms, societal values, and behavior resulting from this pandemic,” he said, stressing the fact that different regions will require different responses. Regardless, he added, organizations will be looking toward more data-driven decisions and will need to accelerate their digital maturity. 

According to Van Loon, data scientists will be tasked with:

  • Helping organizations prepare for ongoing uncertainties as they reopen
  • Helping organizations better position themselves for future growth
  • Mitigating immediate problems while building out secure working environments for the long term
  • Reinventing agile operations and supporting cloud scalability 
  • Helping with supply chain risks, rebuilding, and business continuity
Looking forward to a career in Data Science? Check out the Data Science Certification and get certified.

Seize the Future of Data Science Today

While the global economic system and entire civilizations have felt the pain of the COVID-19 crisis, it also presents incredible opportunities for data scientists and those aspiring to enter this exciting field. It was already on an upward trajectory, but organizations will need to embrace data science now more than ever. Take advantage of this unique time in history to upgrade your data science skills from the comfort of your own home with Simplilearn. 

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