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Show Me The Money! Thoughts on the O’Reilly Data Science Salary Survey

by Alan D. Duncan  |  December 4, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Publisher O’Reilly Media recently released its 2014 Data Science Salary Survey.

Whether you accept the specific details of the survey or not, It’s maybe not really too surprising that Hadoop/Hive/Python/R programmers are getting paid most – surely basic demand/supply rules apply.

However, what’s interesting for me is the underlying dynamics that may be influencing the demand/supply. I’m going to suggest that it may be a feature of the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) ratio of product to labour, based on the maturity of the tools.

During Bleeding-Edge phase, the “Products”, while having a low purchase cost (even “free”) are still relatively immature – sometimes not even proper products yet. (in the Data Science space right now, describing the available technologies as “Tools” might even be stretching it at times; I wouldn’t class a programming language as a tool…) So to compensate, you need skilled developers to get even relatively simple stuff done, and there are too few of them. Salaries go up.

Moving into Leading-Edge, as things get properly turned into true products and applications, then more money gets spent on the products (product licensing costs increase with the sophistication as complexity gets baked-in). More people are learning the skills that are in demand, because there’s a market for them, so the skills become commodity. while at the same time productising things means that deployment of solutions starts to become de-skilled. Salaries come down.

By the time you’re into Mainstream phase, product prices start to even out with competition in the market, and the skills levels also even out as the next cycle starts and the whizz-kids move into whatever next bleeding-edge cool stuff is happening. Result is an equilibrium of product/salary mix in the TCO for the purchasing community.

To understand the impacts of early-adoption vs late-to-the-party deployment, watch the corresponding shifts in overall solution expenditure and the product/salary ratio, not just the raw salaries.

Category: analytics  big-data  business-analysis  business-intelligence  data-quality  data-science  information-management  

Alan Duncan
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
22 years IT Industry

Alan Duncan is a Research Director within Gartner's Analytics and Business Intelligence research team. Major areas of interest include: the business value of analytics solutions and architectures, data governance and quality, culture of evidence-based decision making, and data-led organizational change. Read Full Bio




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