The Best Data Science Team Structures for Success: Centralized, Decentralized, and Hybrid Models
By Saeed Mirshekari

June 26, 2024

Data Science Team Structures: A Comprehensive Guide

In the rapidly evolving field of data science, the way teams are structured can significantly impact an organization's ability to leverage data for strategic advantage. This comprehensive guide explores various data science team structures, their advantages and disadvantages, and best practices for setting up a data science team that aligns with your organizational goals.

Types of Data Science Team Structures

1. Centralized Data Science Teams

In a centralized model, all data scientists are part of a single, dedicated team that serves the entire organization. This structure often falls under the leadership of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) or a similar executive role.


  • Consistent Standards: Centralized teams can enforce consistent data standards and practices across the organization.
  • Resource Efficiency: Shared resources and tools can reduce redundancy and costs.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Easier knowledge sharing and collaboration among data scientists.


  • Bureaucratic Bottlenecks: Centralized teams may face delays due to bureaucratic processes.
  • Limited Business Context: Data scientists may lack deep understanding of specific business units’ needs.

2. Decentralized Data Science Teams

Decentralized teams are embedded within individual business units or departments. Each team operates independently, tailoring their efforts to the specific needs of their domain.


  • Domain Expertise: Data scientists gain deep insights into the specific business areas they support.
  • Agility: Teams can quickly adapt and respond to their business unit’s needs.


  • Inconsistent Standards: Risk of fragmented data practices and standards across the organization.
  • Duplication of Efforts: Potential redundancy in tools, resources, and efforts.

3. Hybrid Data Science Teams

The hybrid model combines elements of both centralized and decentralized structures. Typically, a core team manages data infrastructure, governance, and strategy, while satellite teams are embedded within business units.


  • Balance of Standards and Agility: Ensures consistent data practices while allowing domain-specific adaptations.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: Core team handles common tools and infrastructure, reducing duplication.


  • Complex Coordination: Requires robust communication and coordination mechanisms to function effectively.
  • Potential Conflicts: Misalignment between core and satellite teams can arise.

Best Practices for Building a Data Science Team

1. Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Clearly defined roles within the data science team can prevent overlap and ensure that each team member knows their specific duties. Common roles include Data Engineers, Data Analysts, Machine Learning Engineers, and Data Scientists.

2. Foster a Culture of Collaboration

Encourage collaboration not only within the data science team but also across other departments. This can be achieved through regular inter-departmental meetings, shared goals, and collaborative projects.

3. Invest in Continuous Learning

The field of data science is always evolving. Investing in ongoing training and development can keep your team updated with the latest tools, technologies, and methodologies.

4. Implement Robust Data Governance

Establishing strong data governance policies ensures that data is used responsibly and ethically. This includes data privacy, security measures, and compliance with regulations.

5. Leverage the Right Tools

Selecting the appropriate tools and technologies is crucial for the efficiency of a data science team. This can range from data visualization tools like Tableau to machine learning platforms like TensorFlow.


Choosing the right data science team structure is critical for harnessing the power of data in your organization. Whether you opt for a centralized, decentralized, or hybrid model, understanding the advantages and challenges of each approach will help you build a team that drives data-driven decision-making and innovation.

For more in-depth resources and examples of successful data science team implementations, visit the following links:

By thoughtfully designing your data science team and adopting best practices, you can unlock significant value and insights from your data assets.

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About O'Fallon Labs

In O'Fallon Labs we help recent graduates and professionals to get started and thrive in their Data Science careers via 1:1 mentoring and more.


Saeed Mirshekari

Saeed is currently a Director of Data Science in Mastercard and the Founder & Director of OFallon Labs LLC. He is a former research scholar at LIGO team (Physics Nobel Prize of 2017).

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