As part of the interview series leading up to the Useful Business Analytics Summit today we post the Top 10 Tips from our analytics experts. Whether you are data mine more structured data, or like myself more often work with unstructured or mixed data using text analytics, I think you’ll agree that the following 10 tips are critical.
- Keep It [ridiculously] Simple (10 times more so than is necessary to get your point across).
- Hypothesize/Put Problem First
- Don’t Assume Data is Good – Check/Validate!
- Automate repeat tasks & Carve out time to go exploring
- Set a Data Strategy – don’t just collect data for the sake of collecting it
- In a rapidly expanding field, work with people on the leading edge
- Be a Skeptic about models etc.
- Look for the pragmatic and cost effective solutions
- Don’t torture Data – in the end it will confess
- Think like a Business Owner – what would you like to know?
Below are more detailed tips from some of our client experts. We’d love to hear you tips if you’ve got one to add in the comments section.
Q. WHAT 2 - 3 TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WORKING OTHERS WORKING WITH BUSINESS ANALYTICS?
Honestly, I think I’d boil it down to a single tip that is more important than all others, in my experience, but is the one most ignored and poorly executed. Keep it simple. Ridiculously simple. Ten times more simple than what you think necessary. Just about then, you are actually getting your point across in a way that people are starting to follow you. You can always increase the complexity from there, but the first time you have an experience and realize that you’ve actually conveyed a complex analytical presentation to a group of C-suite execs, you’ll understand what you’ve been doing wrong this whole time before. Hint – those head nods and blank stares aren’t what you are looking for…
- Understand that any problem is easier if you approach it correctly ...so don't necessarily take a cookie cutter approach. Conventional wisdom is not so wise in a rapidly evolving field.
- Work with people who are able to work on the leading edge ...the people who are helping expand the envelope.
Automate anything you do more than once. It’s very easy to fill your time with routine pulls of data which lie just beyond the reach of the visualization tools available to business stakeholders. You can’t ignore these requests and it frankly feels great for us geeks to bask in the gratitude of camera-ready cool kids, but these tasks may not represent the highest-value use of your time. The more experience you have with the data, the more likely you are to be the only person with eyes on a particular business problem. So carve out time to go exploring. Think entrepreneurially like a business owner, and ask yourself “if I owned this P&L, what would I want to know?”
-Ensure there is a purpose you understand of why analytics is valuable to the organization. Purpose can be a business sponsor like discovering new ways (i.e. products, markets, etc.) to increase revenue, retention, profit, or control costs. So ask the tough questions and align with executives mandates.
-Ensure clarity around the level of effort you spend gathering data vs. designing experiments, mining and analyzing data. The need / urge to have data to accomplish a specific task can lead to disparate / disjointed data gathering and management effort that can take over the data scientist or analytics professional work and analytics can become a second thought. So be a sponsor or an advocate for a data strategy.
1) Don't assume the data is good. Is the data lineage (with transformation rules) exposed? Is data quality measured and reportable as a trend?
2) Hypothesize and/or uncover non-time-based relationships: These are usually the richest.
Double check your results using data from different sources
Make sure it makes sense
In case of discrepancies use it directionally
Reach out to experts to obtain their opinion
1. Think of the broader perspective. Take a step back. Understand the business and the problem before jumping into solutions.
2. Be an analyst: Adopt a critical approach to thinking all analytical problems. There is nothing wrong with a slight dose of skepticism about models and results. It is healthy.
3. Try to find pragmatic and cost-effective models / solutions. For example you can probably do machine learning and neural networks to solve a lot of problems but a linear regression might sometimes be enough.
1. Be humble: sometimes data tells us nothing or, worse, will lie to us. Cognitive dissonance is the norm rather than the exception.
2. If you torture data it will confess to any sins (attributed to Frank Harrell).
3. Go ahead, ask questions, be curious, don't be afraid to cross cultures.
Big thanks again to our client side analytics experts. Feel free to check out our previous questions on Big Data and How to Keep Up on Analytics. Don’t forget to check back in for our next question about the value of various types of data… Look forward to seeing you at the Summit!
[Full Disclosure: Tom H. C. Anderson is Managing Partner of Anderson Analytics, developers of a patented Next Generation approach to text analytics known as OdinText. For more information and to inquire about software licensing visit OdinText INFO Request.]