Navigating the data maze

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Samantha Rohman, New Business Director at Profusion discusses how businesses can begin to use data effectively.

I often have conversations with clients and prospective clients that involve a mass of data and lots of confusion over what to do with it. We’re living in a time where data has become the new gold, but very few businesses know how to sift through it to find anything of value.

Many people I talk to are simply overwhelmed with the amount of data they have and don’t know where to start in gaining insights from it. Sadly, because of this, data is often pushed to one side and left to gather dust in the corner. But you can do so much more with it. Every function in a business will be improved through applying data science to its data, and the way you go about this is much like navigating through a maze – step by step with a goal in mind.

In the beginning…

When you first go about implementing a data science project it is important to set out with clear objectives in mind. These should align with your overall business aims.

Realistically speaking, a business should want to improve every one of its processes, however trying to do everything at once, especially if your resources are limited, could potentially be a disaster. Focussing on one objective at a time, instead of trying to juggle several of them, will allow you to make initial mistakes, learn from them and refine your approach. However, this doesn’t mean that different issues are tackled in isolation and treated as though they have no impact on one another – improving your customer service is likely to have a direct influence on your marketing, for example.

The second step is in ensuring you have the data that you need.

This involves collecting any data that you do not have, cleaning your data so it is in a format that can be used by a data scientist and breaking down any silos between your data sources.

In collecting data, there are some additional steps. You need to ensure you have permission to collect an individual’s data and that they know what you are going to use it for. Furthermore, securing that data safely and detailing exactly who has access to that data will prevent potential data leaks, hacks and other stumbles along the way. Doing this will maintain the trust between your business and customers.

Next steps…

Once you have your data and you know what you’d like to achieve, you can then begin to use data science and the array of techniques available to get useful and actionable insights from that data. Part of this involves ensuring you have a top class and varied team of data scientists on the job. In practice your data science team should come from a range of backgrounds. Data scientists range from computer scientists to statisticians and having a balance of these different characters brings a host of differing experiences, perspectives and methods of achieving your company’s goals. Of course, if you don’t have the resources to dedicate to building a well-balanced in-house team, then using a third party consultancy is a good alternative.

Once the numbers have been crunched and you’ve assimilated a range of interesting insights, it’s then time to make the right decisions. Usually, recommendations generated through data science offer a clear way forward, Change can be scary and it can be difficult to diverge from the status quo – especially if the usual way of doing things is what has made you successful in the first place. Luckily, the beauty of data science is that you can also use it to track the impact of any changes you make and refine your approach.

Untapped opportunities

Data is one of the greatest resources of the modern day and its importance will only grow as society gets more connected through smart cities, the Internet of Things and wearable technology. More and more business leaders are starting to truly realise the untapped opportunities held within their data stores and the role of data science is going to become increasingly high profile.

July 14, 2016
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