We did an analytics exercise for a US client recently in education domain that had all the flavors of roadblocks one can encounter on venturing into analytics territory. I intend to summarize those here along with solutions we found in collaboration with all stakeholders
- This one is most worrisome and showstopper pretty much everywhere. Data Quality and Data Integrity!!! Many of the fields had inconsistent data, nearly 50%. Ones that had data were ambushed by missing values. At the same time data integrity was questioned. Different departments came out with different numbers for same metrics.That’s terrifying indeed! We reconciled data across different systems. Though we never had exact match however we narrowed down differences to less than 10 %. All agreed to a 10% tolerance level. Good to go!
- Same metrics, different understanding! How do we define a conversion etc? This wasn’t anticipated to be honest but became clear after couple of stakeholder meetings. Good part we had every stakeholder from finance, sales, marketing and operations team on board. We were able to identify and close understanding gaps quickly.
- Excitement and Expectations! Kicking of analytics initiatives generated quite an excitement for all. Everyone wanted a pie of magic (isn’t that expect out of analytics these days) at the end. At this stage it was critical to set priorities right. Even though we started with defined set of activities, things changed in weeks time when client presented alternative priorities. Client’s executive team played an important role here in clearly defining what their priorities were what they really wanted and how they will act upon the insights we deliver. I would say clear understanding and desire on client’s part won the battle here.
- Define your data quality tolerance limits. You never will have 100% correct data. However this shouldn’t stop you from acting.
- Having all stakeholders who are linked to the project on board. This may be executive team, sales, marketing or operations team. This is where you can identify inconsistent understanding and close gaps.
- Be clear and precise about what you want and how you plan to act upon insights.
This was just a month’s exercise. Surely we will hit many such scenarios ahead.
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Vikas is co-founder & CEO of Data Analytics firm, Valiance Solutions. He spear heads business development efforts at Valiance. With Valiance he has consulted with Life Insurers, Retailers on various business problems with application of advanced analytics. Prior to Valiance, Vikas has worked as IT consultant with Investment banks like Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Jefferies. He is an IIT Delhi Graduate and CFA level 2 qualified.