Product teams are growing and with them a plethora of product suffixes: there are now product managers, owners, designers, analysts, strategists, and others all sitting on product teams. Product managers now also have more adjectives attached to their titles, whether it’s based on their seniority or their field, and as the discipline evolves, so will job descriptions. But there is one conspicuous function on many product teams today that doesn’t always have “product” in the title: data scientist. Data scientists facilitate data-based decision making, experimentation, and innovation, key drivers that can put the product team ahead of the market. Being on the product team ensures they have alignment with- and a sharp focus on the product and business objectives.
And yet, in our poll this week, 69% of you did not feel that it was absolutely necessary to have a data scientist on a product team. Our debaters (one of whom is a Ph.D. in Computer Science) were likewise not sold on the idea that data science is integral to a well-functioning product team.
Definitely not. With some level of analytical skills (good for any PM to have) and the proper tooling, a dedicated data science resource is overkill. That's not to say it would hurt if the team was large, but in a small to mid-size product team I'd use that headcount elsewhere.
Head of Product, ActionIQ
Yes and No
Data Science is transforming software in massive ways - every company should invest. Personally, I'd rather put whatever scarce data brains I can hire into building machine-learning products and features than into analyzing my own product usage using data science.
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk