Article | April 20, 2020
Achieving organizational success and making data-driven decisions in 2020 requires embracing tech tools like Data Analytics and collecting, storing and analysing data isn’t.The real data-driven, measurable growth, and development come with the establishment of data-driven company culture.In this type of culture company actively uses data resources as a primary asset to make smart decisions and ensure future growth.
Despite the rapid growth of analytic solutions, a recent Gartner survey revealed that almost 75% of organizations thought their analytics maturity had not reached a level that optimized business outcomes. Just like with any endeavor, your organization must have a planned strategy to achieve its analytical goals. Let’s explore ways for overcoming common blockers, and elements used in successful analytics adoption strategies.
Table of Contents:
- AMM: Analytic Maturity Model
- What are the blockers to achieving a strategy-driven analytics?
- What are the adoption strategies to achieve an analytics success?
AMM: Analytic Maturity Model
The Analytic Maturity Model (AMM) evaluates the analytic maturity of an organization.The model identifies the five stages an organization travels through to reach optimization. Organizations must implement the right tools, engage their team in proper training, and provide the management support necessary to generate predictable outcomes with their analytics. Based on the maturity of these processes, the AMM divides
organizations into five maturity levels:
- Organizations that can build reports.
- Organizations that can build and deploy models.
- Organizations that have repeatable processes for building and deploying analytics.
- Organizations that have consistent enterprise-wide processes for analytics.
- Enterprises whose analytics is strategy driven.
READ MORE:EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO DEMOCRATIZE DATA SCIENCE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
What are the blockers to achieving a strategy-driven analytics?
- Missing an Analytics Strategy
- Analytics is not for everyone
- Data quality presents unique challenges
- Siloed Data
- Changing the culture
What are the adoption strategies to achieve analytic success?
• Have you got a plan to achieve analytic success?
The strategy begins with business intelligence and moves toward advanced analytics. The approach differs based on the AMM level. The plan may address the strategy for a single year, or it may span 3 or more years. It ideally has milestones for what the team will do. When forming an analytics strategy, it can be expensive and time consuming at the outset. While organizations are encouraged to seek projects that can generate quick wins, the truth is that it may be months before any actionable results are available. During this period, the management team is frantically diverting resources from other high-profile projects. If funds are tight, this situation alone may cause friction. It may not be apparent to everyone how the changes are expected to help. Here are the elements of a successful analytics strategy:
• Keep the focus tied to tangible business outcomes
The strategy must support business goals first. With as few words as possible, your plan should outline what you intend to achieve, how to complete it, and a target date for completion of the plan. Companies may fail at this step because they mistake implementing a tool for having a strategy. To keep it relevant, tie it to customer-focused goals. The strategy must dig below the surface with the questions that it asks. Instead of asking surface questions such as “How can we save money?”, instead ask, “How can we improve the quality of the outcomes for our customers?” or “What would improve the productivity of each worker?” These questions are more specific and will get the results the business wants. You may need to use actual business cases from your organization to think through the questions.
• Select modern, multi-purpose tools
The organization should be looking for an enterprise tool that supports integrating data from various databases, spreadsheets, or even external web based sources. Typically, organizations may have their data stored across multiple databases such as Salesforce, Oracle, and even Microsoft Access. The organization can move ahead quicker when access to the relevant data is in a single repository. With the data combined, the analysts have a specific location to find reports and dashboards. The interface needs to be robust enough to show the data from multiple points of view. It should also allow future enhancements, such as when the organization makes the jump into data science.
Incorta’s Data Analytics platform simplifies and processes data to provide meaningful information at speed that helps make informed decisions.
Incorta is special in that it allows business users to ask the same complex and meaningful questions of their data that typically require many IT people and data scientist to get the answers they need to improve their line of business. At the digital pace of business today, that can mean millions of dollars for business leaders in finance, supply chain or even marketing. Speed is a key differentiator for Incorta in that rarely has anyone been able to query billions of rows of data in seconds for a line of business owner.
- Tara Ryan, CMO, Incorta
Technology implementations take time. That should not stop you from starting in small areas of the company to look for quick wins. Typically, the customer-facing processes have areas where it is easier to collect data and show opportunities for improvement.
• Ensure staff readiness
If your current organization is not data literate, then you will need resources who understand how to analyze and use data for process improvement. It is possible that you can make data available and the workers still not realize what they can do with it. The senior leadership may also need training about how to use data and what data analytics makes possible.
• Start Small to Control Costs and Show Potential
If the leadership team questions the expense, consider doing a proof of concept that focuses on the tools and data being integrated quickly and efficiently to show measurable success. The business may favor specific projects or initiatives to move the company forward over long-term enterprise transformations (Bean & Davenport, 2019). Keeping the project goals precise and directed helps control costs and improve the business. As said earlier, the strategy needs to answer deeper business questions. Consider other ways to introduce analytics into the business. Use initiatives that target smaller areas of the company to build competencies. Provide an analytics sandbox with access to tools and training to encourage other non-analytics workers (or citizen data scientists) to play with the data. One company formed a SWAT team, including individuals from across the organization. The smaller team with various domain experience was better able to drive results. There are also other approaches to use – the key is to show immediate and desirable results that align with organizational goals.
• Treating the poor data quality
What can you do about poor data quality at your company? Several solutions that can help to improve productivity and reduce the financial impact of poor data quality in your organization include:
• Create a team to set the proper objectives
Create a team who owns the data quality process. This is important to prove to yourself and to anyone with whom you are conversing about data that you are serious about data quality. The size of the team is not as important as the membership from the parts of the organization that have the right impact and knowledge in the process. When the team is set, make sure that they create a set of goals and objectives for data quality. To gauge performance, you need a set of metrics to measure the performance. After you create the proper team to govern your data quality, ensure that the team focuses on the data you need first. Everyone knows the rules of "good data in, good data out" and "bad data in, bad data out." To put this to work, make sure that your team knows the relevant business questions that are in progress across various data projects to make sure that they focus on the data that supports those business questions.
• Focus on the data you need now as the highest priority
Once you do that, you can look at the potential data quality issues associated with each of the relevant downstream business questions and put the proper processes and data quality routines in place to ensure that poor data quality has a low probability of Successful Analytics Adoption Strategies, continuing to affect that data. As you decide which data to focus on, remember that the key for innovators across industries is that the size of the data isn’t the most critical factor — having the right data is (Wessel, 2016).
• Automate the process of data quality when data volumes grow too large
When data volumes become unwieldy and difficult to manage the quality, automate the process. Many data quality tools in the market do a good job of removing the manual effort from the process. Open source options include Talend and DataCleaner. Commercial products include offerings from DataFlux, Informatica, Alteryx and Software AG. As you search for the right tool for you and your team, beware that although the tools help with the organization and automation, the right processes and knowledge of your company's data are paramount to success.
• Make the process of data quality repeatable
It needs regular care and feeding. Remember that the process is not a one-time activity. It needs regular care and feeding. While good data quality can save you a lot of time, energy, and money downstream, it does take time, investment, and practice to do well. As you improve the quality of your data and the processes around that quality, you will want to look for other opportunities to avoid data quality mishaps.
• Beware of data that lives in separate databases
When data is stored in different databases, there can be issues with different terms being used for the same subject. The good news is that if you have followed the former solutions, you should have more time to invest in looking for the best cases. As always, look for the opportunities with the biggest bang for the buck first. You don't want to be answering questions from the steering committee about why you are looking for differences between "HR" and "Hr" if you haven't solved bigger issues like knowing the difference between "Human Resources" and "Resources," for example.
• De-Siloing Data
The solution to removing data silos typically isn’t some neatly packaged, off-the-shelf product. Attempts to quickly create a data lake by simply pouring all the siloed data together can result in an unusable mess, turning more into a data swamp. This is a process that must be done carefully to avoid confusion, liability, and error.
Try to identify high-value opportunities and find the various data stores required to execute those projects. Working with various business groups to find business problems that are well-suited to data science solutions and then gathering the necessary data from the various data stores can lead to high-visibility successes.
As value is proved from joining disparate data sources together to create new insights, it will be easier to get buy-in from upper levels to invest time and money into consolidating key data stores. In the first efforts, getting data from different areas may be akin to pulling teeth, but as with most things in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Once the wheels get moving on a few of these integration projects, make wide-scale integration the new focus. Many organizations at this stage appoint a Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) who helps increase collaboration between the IT and business units ensuring their priorities are aligned. As you work to integrate the data, make sure that you don’t inadvertently create a new “analytics silo.” The final aim here is an integrated platform for your enterprise data.
• Education is essential
When nearly 45% of workers generally prefer status quo over innovation, how do you encourage an organization to move forward? If the workers are not engaged or see the program as merely just the latest management trend, it may be tricky to convince them. Larger organizations may have a culture that is slow to change due to their size or outside forces.
There’s also a culture shift required - moving from experience and knee-jerk reactions to immersion and exploration of rich insights and situational awareness.
- Walter Storm, the Chief Data Scientist, Lockheed Martin
Companies spend a year talking about an approved analytics tool before moving forward. The employees had time to consider the change and to understand the new skill sets needed. Once the entire team embraced the change, the organization moved forward swiftly to convert existing data and reports into the new tool. In the end, the corporation is more successful, and the employees are still in alignment with the corporate strategy.
If using data to support decisions is a foreign concept to the organization, it’s a smart idea to ensure the managers and workers have similar training. This training may involve everything from basic data literacy to selecting the right data for management presentations. However, it cannot stop at the training; the leaders must then ask for the data to move forward with requests that will support conclusions that will be used to make critical decisions across the business.
These methods make it easier to sell the idea and keep the organization’s analytic strategy moving forward. Once senior leadership uses data to make decisions, everyone else will follow their lead. It is that simple.
The analytics maturity model serves as a useful framework for understanding where your organization currently stands regarding strategy, progress, and skill sets.
Advancing along the various levels of the model will become increasingly imperative as early adopters of advanced analytics gain a competitive edge in their respective industries. Delay or failure to design and incorporate a clearly defined analytics strategy into an organization’s existing plan will likely result in a significant missed opportunity.
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Article | April 20, 2020
Machine Learning (ML) has taken strides over the past few years, establishing its place in data analytics. In particular, ML has become a cornerstone in data science, alongside data wrangling, and data visualization, among other facets of the field. Yet, we observe many organizations still hesitant when allocating a budget for it in their data pipelines. The data engineer role seems to attract lots of attention, but few companies leverage the machine learning expert/engineer. Could it be that ML can add value to other enterprises too? Let's find out by clarifying certain concepts.
What Machine Learning is
So that we are all on the same page, let's look at a down-to-earth definition of ML that you can include in a company meeting, a report, or even within an email to a colleague who isn't in this field. Investopedia defines ML as "the concept that a computer program can learn and adapt to new data without human intervention." In other words, if your machine (be it a computer, a smartphone, or even a smart device) can learn on its own, using some specialized software, then it's under the ML umbrella. It's important to note that ML is also a stand-alone field of research, predating most AI systems, even if the two are linked, as we'll see later on.
How Machine Learning is different from Statistics
It's also important to note that ML is different from Statistics, even if some people like to view the former as an extension of the latter. However, there is a fundamental difference that most people aren't aware of yet. Namely, ML is data-driven while Statistics is, for the most part, model-driven. This statement means that most Stats-based inferences are made by assuming a particular distribution in the data, or the interactions of different variables, and making predictions based on our mathematical models of these distributions. ML may employ distributions in some niche cases, but for the most part, it looks at data as-is, without making any assumptions about it.
Machine Learning’s role in data science work
Let’s now get to the crux of the matter and explore how ML can be a significant value-add to a data science pipeline. First of all, ML can potentially offer better predictions than most Stats models in terms of accuracy, F1 score, etc. Also, ML can work alongside existing models to form model ensembles that can tackle the problems more effectively. Additionally, if transparency is important to the project stakeholders, there are ML-based options for offering some insight as to what variables are important in the data at hand, for making predictions based on it. Moreover, ML is more parametrized, meaning that you can tweak an ML model more, adapting it to the data you have and ensuring more robustness (i.e., reliability). Finally, you can learn ML without needing a Math degree or any other formal training. The latter, however, may prove useful, if you wish to delve deeper into the topic and develop your own models. This innovation potential is a significant aspect of ML since it's not as easy to develop new models in Stats (unless you are an experienced Statistics researcher) or even in AI. Besides, there are a bunch of various "heuristics" that are part of the ML group of algorithms, facilitating your data science work, regardless of what predictive model you end up using.
Machine Learning and AI
Many people conflate ML with AI these days. This confusion is partly because many ML models involve artificial neural networks (ANNs) which are the most modern manifestation of AI. Also, many AI systems are employed in ML tasks, so they are referred to as ML systems since AI can be a bit generic as a term. However, not all ML algorithms are AI-related, nor are all AI algorithms under the ML umbrella. This distinction is of import because certain limitations of AI systems (e.g., the need for lots and lots of data) don't apply to most ML models, while AI systems tend to be more time-consuming and resource-heavy than the average ML one. There are several ML algorithms you can use without breaking the bank and derive value from your data through them. Then, if you find that you need something better, in terms of accuracy, you can explore AI-based ones. Keep in mind, however, that some ML models (e.g., Decision Trees, Random Forests, etc.) offer some transparency, while the vast majority of AI ones are black boxes.
Learning more about the topic
Naturally, it's hard to do this topic justice in a single article. It is so vast that someone can write a book on it! That's what I've done earlier this year, through the Technics Publications publishing house. You can learn more about this topic via this book, which is titled Julia for Machine Learning(Julia is a modern programming language used in data science, among other fields, and it's popular among various technical professionals). Feel free to check it out and explore how you can use ML in your work. Cheers!
Article | April 20, 2020
The increasing use of advanced technologies and the internet have created an attack surface for malicious attackers. With these progressions, businesses’ IT systems are now more vulnerable which has led them to leverage innovative cybersecurity strategies that can thwart and make their networks more resilient to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals can use a variety of attacks against individuals or businesses like accessing, changing or deleting sensitive data; extracting payment; interfering with business processes and more.These kinds of attacks present an evolving danger to organizations, employees and consumers, and can cost them reputation, finances and personal lives to some extent. So, in order to protect IT networks from cyberattacks, it is significant to be aware of the various aspects of cybersecurity.
THEORY AND STRATEGIES
Article | April 20, 2020
Since the internet became popular, the way we purchase things has evolved from a simple process to a more complicated process. Unlike traditional shopping, it is not possible to experience the products first-hand when purchasing online. Not only this, but there are more options or variants in a single product than ever before, which makes it more challenging to decide.
To not make a bad investment, the consumer has to rely heavily on the customer reviews posted by people who are using the product. However, sorting through relevant reviews at multiple eCommerce platforms of different products and then comparing them to choose can work too much. To provide a solution to this problem, Amazon has come up with sentiment analysis using product review data. Amazon performs sentiment analysis on product review data with Artificial Intelligence technology to develop the best suitable products for the customer. This technology enables Amazon to create products that are most likely to be ideal for the customer.
A consumer wants to search for only relevant and useful reviews when deciding on a product. A rating system is an excellent way to determine the quality and efficiency of a product. However, it still cannot provide complete information about the product as ratings can be biased. Textual detailed reviews are necessary to improve the consumer experience and in helping them make informed choices. Consumer experience is a vital tool to understand the customer's behavior and increase sales.
Amazon has come up with a unique way to make things easier for their customers. They do not promote products that look similar to the other customer's search history. Instead, they recommend products that are similar to the product a user is searching for. This way, they guide the customer using the correlation between the products.
To understand this concept better, we must understand how Amazon's recommendation algorithm has upgraded with time.
The history of Amazon's recommendation algorithm
Before Amazon started a sentiment analysis of customer product reviews using machine learning, they used the same collaborative filtering to make recommendations. Collaborative filtering is the most used way to recommend products online. Earlier, people used user-based collaborative filtering, which was not suitable as there were many uncounted factors.
Researchers at Amazon came up with a better way to recommend products that depend on the correlation between products instead of similarities between customers. In user-based collaborative filtering, a customer would be shown recommendations based on people's purchase history with similar search history. In item-to-item collaborative filtering, people are shown recommendations of similar products to their recent purchase history. For example, if a person bought a mobile phone, he will be shown hints of that phone's accessories.
Amazon's Personalization team found that using purchase history at a product level can provide better recommendations. This way of filtering also offered a better computational advantage. User-based collaborative filtering requires analyzing several users that have similar shopping history. This process is time-consuming as there are several demographic factors to consider, such as location, gender, age, etc. Also, a customer's shopping history can change in a day. To keep the data relevant, you would have to update the index storing the shopping history daily.
However, item-to-item collaborative filtering is easy to maintain as only a tiny subset of the website's customers purchase a specific product. Computing a list of individuals who bought a particular item is much easier than analyzing all the site's customers for similar shopping history. However, there is a proper science between calculating the relatedness of a product. You cannot merely count the number of times a person bought two items together, as that would not make accurate recommendations.
Amazon research uses a relatedness metric to come up with recommendations. If a person purchased an item X, then the item Y will only be related to the person if purchasers of item X are more likely to buy item Y. If users who purchased the item X are more likely to purchase the item Y, then only it is considered to be an accurate recommendation.
In order to provide a good recommendation to a customer, you must show products that have a higher chance of being relevant. There are countless products on Amazon's marketplace, and the customer will not go through several of them to figure out the best one. Eventually, the customer will become frustrated with thousands of options and choose to try a different platform. So Amazon has to develop a unique and efficient way to recommend the products that work better than its competition.
User-based collaborative filtering was working fine until the competition increased. As the product listing has increased in the marketplace, you cannot merely rely on previous working algorithms. There are more filters and factors to consider than there were before. Item-to-item collaborative filtering is much more efficient as it automatically filters out products that are likely to be purchased. This limits the factors that require analysis to provide useful recommendations.
Amazon has grown into the biggest marketplace in the industry as customers trust and rely on its service. They frequently make changes to fit the recent trends and provide the best customer experience possible.