Data & Analytics

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Minding the Analytics Gap

While analytical skills are improving among managers, the increasing sophistication of analyses is outpacing the development of those skills. The resulting gap creates a need for managers to become comfortable applying analytical results they do not fully understand. A 2014 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, in partnership with SAS Institute Inc., highlights the ways that companies can address this problem by focusing on both the production and consumption sides of analytics.

Image courtesy of Wal-Mart.

Sustaining an Analytics Advantage

Many companies have maintained a competitive advantage through analytics for many years — even decades. Those companies include Wal-Mart, ABB Electric, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Amazon. Peter C. Bell (Ivey Business School) writes that "research over a 30-year period suggests that there have been five basic ways in which companies have sustained an advantage generated through analytics." Tactics include keeping your company's analytics secret and applying analytics to the right problems.

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Analytics in E Major

The Echo Nest, a self-described “music intelligence” company recently acquired by Spotify, uses machine-learning technology to connect people with music. “At our core,” says CEO Jim Lucchese, “what we’re trying to do is what a great deejay does, or the friend that you rely on musically: to better understand who you are as a fan.” In a Q&A, Lucchese describes how the company merges machine learning and cultural analytics to describe music in an analytics-friendly way and help users find new music they’ll enjoy.

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Are Data Scientists Really a Breed Apart?

What differentiates data scientists from other quantitative analysts? It's partly their skill set and partly their mind set. “The recent emergence of the digital enterprise has created a seemingly insatiable management appetite to amass and analyze data,” write Jeanne G. Harris and Vijay Mehrotra. Data scientists are particularly able to make sense of so much information. For instance, 85% said their projects often or always address new problems, compared to 58% of analysts who made that claim.

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If You Think Big Data’s Challenges Are Tough Now

Although workers and consumers generate two-thirds of all new data, that’s about to change. Sensors and smart devices — from traffic lights and grocery store scanners to hospital equipment and industrial sensors — are beginning to generate an enormous wave of data that will increase the digital universe ten-fold by 2020. Guest blogger Randy Bean, CEO of NewVantage Partners, explains what this means for executives trying to adapt to a rapidly changing, data-centered business environment.

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Detecting Bias in Data Analysis

Data analysts may have external agendas that shape how they address a data set — but Boston College's Sam Ransbotham argues that a savvy manager can identify biases by learning to question the underlying assumptions that go into dataset cleanup and presentation.

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Gone Fishing — For Data

When you’re dealing with data on the massive scale that a company like GE uses, a data warehouse just isn’t big enough to house it all. And organizing it ahead of analysis is more of a burden than a help. GE’s CIO Vince Campisi explains to MIT Sloan Management Review why his company is now storing data in a data lake — and how that approach changes the kind of human resources his company is looking for.

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How to Hire Data-Driven Leaders

For recruiters, the technological developments of the past 3 years have been transformational, says Tuck Rickards of Russell Reynolds. With the transformation of business to a more real-time, connected, data-driven focus, the type of talent companies seek — even the type of organizational structure they’re building — has undergone a quantum shift. But the changes aren’t yet done: “The next five years are huge for companies to reorient themselves from a leadership and team perspective,” warns Rickards.

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Data Scientist In a Can?

Companies will want hundreds of thousands more data scientists than exist, creating a much discussed skills gap. In the past, businesses have figured out how to automate in-demand skills, and some companies say they can automate what data scientists do. What does it mean for companies when they do the equivalent of putting their data scientists into a can?

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Sports Analytics: The NFL Connects with Fans

In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL's senior vice president and first-ever CIO, discusses the organization’s customer-focused approach to big data and analytics. She explains how the NFL works to make its employees comfortable with their own data sets.

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Is Your Organization Ready for the Impending Flood of Data?

Hal Varian, chief economist at Google and emeritus professor at UC Berkeley, has been with Google for more than a decade and has unique insight into the past and future of data analytics. In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review guest editor Sam Ransbotham, Varian says that companies need to beef up their systems to function within an overwhelming data flow — including new voice-command system data and other computer-mediated transactions.

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Analytics Meets Mother Goose

Businesses are running into the issue of having analytics professionals who can’t communicate what they mean. Companies need to train their data scientists to explain how their work helps the business. A little communications 101 is in order, says Meta Brown, whose business has shifted from helping companies analyze data to helping them understand what their analysts are doing.

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Catching Up with Scantily Clad Analytics Emperors

If you’re lying awake at night fretting that your competition has mastered analytics when you haven’t, take a breath — many of the stories we hear about analytics success are likely skewed. The transition to analytics-focused business is still far, far from universal, and that, says information systems expert Sam Ransbotham, means you have a chance to catch up.

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Short on Analytics Talent? Seven Tips to Help Your Company Thrive

Companies are having a tough time finding the data scientists they need — they just aren’t being trained fast enough to meet market demand. While it may be challenging to keep ambitious analytics projects in development without employees with the necessary skill sets, that doesn’t mean those projects need to halt altogether. Sam Ransbotham offers seven tips for making progress when you don’t have enough analytics talent on board.

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At Amadeus, Finding Data Science Talent Is Just the Beginning

Everyone wants to hire skilled data scientists — especially Spain’s Amadeus, a travel sector technology company. Amadeus has brought more than forty new hires into this post since 2013. But locating talent is just the beginning. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Amadeus’s Denis Arnaud describes the steps he takes to not only identify data science talent, but to make sure they integrate well into the company, too.

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Coming Soon: Doctors As Data Analysts

At the Big Data Innovation Summit, Kaiser’s John Mattison detailed his expectations for the future of health care. He envisions a data-driven system that relies on genetic data in combination with personal data from the patient regarding exposures and lifestyle to help physicians predict health risks. But he also warned that companies have a great deal of work to do to meet the challenges of health care’s digital transformation.

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When an IT Project "Goes Red"

Declaring that a project everyone is excited about is in trouble can be demoralizing. But it’s exactly what can turn things around. That’s what health care insurer WellPoint found when it ran into trouble changing its provider payment system and put the project into “Status Red.” Sending the warning message up the organization ended up having a positive effect, even if team morale initially took a hit. Four steps in particular helped set a better course.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tristan Martin (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mukumbura/4043364183)
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Why the Non-Superstar Might Be the Most Important Team Member

Hot shots get all the attention, but other team members can be the ones who make a group really tick. “Plus/minus” analysis, which is used by some professional sports teams, lets organizations understand, through data, not just individual performance but performance in context. Research by Thomas H. Davenport details how the goal is to understand how a team performs when one person is part of the mix, and when they’re not.

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Analytical Value From Data That Cries Wolf

It’s a common assumption: errors and biases in a data set mean the data is useless. Not so fast, says Data & Analytics expert Sam Ransbotham — even data with less-than-great accuracy has its uses, if you understand how to parse it. His blog post explains how to make sense of uncertainty, and how tradeoffs between accuracy and breadth in a data set can better inform your decision-making process.

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