How Palantir's Current Woes Should Resonate With You

Despite their size, they face the same issue: business knowledge


Palantir have been credited as one of the biggest and most exciting data companies in the world. They are so successful that they are claimed to be the third largest private startup currently operating in the US, which is some feat when you think about some of the companies that have come out of Silicon Valley in the past few years.

They have become famous because of some of the genuinely important work they have done with the military and police forces across the world. They claim to have helped uncover human trafficking rings, helped to find exploited children, and even finding Osama Bin Laden.

However, all is not well at the company, and a recent story from Econsultancy claims that the company have been losing some very significant clients. These include Coca-Cola, American Express, and Nasdaq. For most companies, losing clients of this size would be enough to bankrupt them. However, for a company worth nearly $20 billion, it was more concerning for the ramifications than the initial financial loss.

It has also experienced considerable staff turnover, which, if the trends for the first few months of the year are anything to go by, will hit 20% in 2016 - up from 13.6% last year. They attempted to explain this by saying that their 'really strong culture' isn't for everyone. However, the more worrying trend is not necessarily the number of employees they have, but more that those who are there may not have the required knowledge of each of the industries in which they work.

An internal email from the company claimed that Coca-Cola 'wanted deeper industry expertise in a partner', which is the key element and what other companies need to be looking at when they are recruiting people into their data team.

There is now an increased number of people working with data, but this is no longer enough for companies who have had a strong data programme for a number of years. They now need people who understand their business and their industry in order to come up with the best possible insights.

This is a skill set that is much harder to find as it combines both business acumen and technical knowledge, which is rare. There is also increased demand across the board for data knowledge, and those working in data can readily switch roles - often with considerable salary increases.

As this process occurs, the chance for those working within data to learn deep business or industry knowledge is lost and instead they move to another company, in a different industry, and begin the process again. It is adding to the breadth of their knowledge and technical skills, but what is needed by the most data mature companies is a deeper knowledge of their industry combined with robust technical skills.

We are moving from an immature data market into one where the best data scientists aren't simply those who know how to use software and manipulate data, but can do so within the context of their company's needs. 

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