More of today's businesses are using or starting to use data analytics for competitive advantage. The ones who want to push the needle even further are hiring data scientists.

Data scientists are an emerging breed of statistician who helps organizations solve very sophisticated problems, preferably problems that competitors have not solved or problems competitors have solved that could be improved.

Actual data science talent is hard to find and hard to retain. "Data science" is the hot keyword phrase in resumes these days so more job candidates are using it, hoping they'll land a higher-paying job.

"Real" data scientists tend to have graduate degrees in math or statistics as well as programming, machine learning, and data visualization skills, among other things.

As you may have guessed, data scientists who possess all those skills aren't cheap. According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary in the U.S. is more than $113,000.

The best data scientists I know make more. A lot more.

What if you could have hundreds or thousands of these rare creatures working of your behalf and you didn't have to spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars?

Welcome to the world of data science competitions. Here are four reasons you should consider hosting one.

1. You want to solve a difficult problem

"Difficult" is the operative word. Most data scientists have advanced degrees in math or statistics. Many of the competitions are about predicting something which involves machine learning and lots of data.

It's not unusual for hundreds of data science teams to compete in a single competition. Imagine. Hundreds of teams solving your problem.

The Kaggle community currently exceeds 600,000 data scientists. Its competitions include predicting seizures or taxi routes, classifying malware, and improving lung cancer detection.

DrivenData competitions include predicting blood donations and which water pumps will fail.

The Kaggle community works on business and social problems. The DrivenData community focuses on social impact.

2. You want to improve your algorithm

Predictive analytics is becoming more popular in every industry. While some industries, such as insurance, have used predictive analytics for years, even insurance carriers could probably use some help with at least one of their algorithms.

Because there isn't any one kind of data scientist, you'd benefit from different people who have different skill sets and knowledge that can approach your problem differently.

3. You want to hire a data science rock star

You can collect resumes and interview people as usual, or you can have a lot of very smart people compete for a job. The latter allows you to watch how well individuals problem-solve and work in teams.

Data science competitions are a way to get access to top data science talent. How can you be sure it's top talent? The fiercest competitors rank at the top of a competition's leader board.

High leader board rankings are bragging rights that can make a contestant's resume more attractive and valuable.

4. You want out-of-the-box brain power

Someone outside your industry will likely solve your problem differently than someone inside in your industry.

In 2016, hedge fund analysts with no medical experience came up with the winning algorithm for heart disease diagnosis.

Is Crowdsourcing For You?

Crowdsourcing is a way to get access to people and brain power you wouldn't even know how to find. Before you decide whether a data science competition is for you, check the links above.

If you poke around the sites, you'll get a clear idea of what problems have and haven't been solved, as well as information about how the competitions work.

A little research on your part may open the door to a problem-solving alternative you hadn't even considered.