How to Use Analytics to Solve Problems
The Analytics session held at Rutgers, Busch Campus — CoRE building
On September 14th, IIBA NJ held an interactive session at Rutgers with analytics expert Bhupinder. He passionately spoke about data analytics and how it exists in every field. Moreover, he gave us insights on how to look at things from a data perspective.
The IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) is a non-profit association. Its members consist of business analysts, data architects, product managers and anyone who identifies business needs and applies that knowledge to develop solutions— IIBA, New Jersey Chapter
The interactive discussion consisted of a panel of 3 members from IIBA.
- Ashish Rao — Product Designer, Green Closings
- Helen Hoefele — Operations Analyst, Agilon. Student, Rutgers
- Alexis Polanco Jr — User Experience Designer
Bhupinder kicks off the session by giving us a peek into his impressive work history of 18 years. He spoke about how he started as a programmer and then took on various roles over time. His current work is an amalgam of genomics, supply chain and predictive analytics.
He stresses that you must have the ability to wear different hats at different times.
But the real shocker kicked in when he made us realize how every field is interconnected. Science and Technology are so interwoven that we may not even realize it. The single thing that holds all this together is data.
Data Analytics is Interdisciplinary
“I enrolled in PhD in genomics. But what does an electrical engineer have to do with that? The glue was data, and the ability to see everything as being interconnected.”
He beautifully outlined the shared relationship across each of his different roles. While pursuing electrical engineering, he studied networks. Then, while pursuing genomics, he again studied networks. But it was the network of genes and their relationship. Now, in his PhD, he’s still dealing with networks. The supply chain network to be precise.
The single thread connecting all this for the past 18 years of his life has been data. The core of everything is data. Data is interconnected with everything making research today multidisciplinary. Data does not exist in silos.
In telecommunications, the subscribers are connected with each other. In genetics, it is the genes connected with each other. In electrical engineering, one electric system is connected to another.
You can keep jumping from one vertical to another. But the underlying theme has been same. It is the data that revolves around these networks and the work is making predictions based on that.
Combining Data Analytics and the Food Industry
Next, Bhupinder gives us a little peek at what he’s currently working on.
IBMVoice: Sequencing The Food Supply Chain: How A New Consortium Will Improve Food Safety
Is your food safe? Protecting the global food supply is a monumental public health challenge. In the U.S. alone, one in…www.forbes.com
Give it a quick glance and you might shrug it off as a biology-related article. But look again and you’ll realize something different. The article is actually about data! It talks about using data analytics to help the food supply chain. This further solidifies what Bhupinder was saying from the start. Data truly is interconnected.
To summarize the article in Bhupinder’s words —
“Food is transported across various environments. It may carry harmful bacteria (microbial footprint). If you can capture this footprint across its journey, you’ll have a better handle on predicting what kind of outbreaks might occur. Rather than reacting once it has happened.”
The importance of Data Visualization
Towards the last segment of the session, one member of the panel, Helen (Operations Analyst, Agilon), brought up an interesting topic.
She put forth an interesting question about how data should be visualized. How can data be presented in a way to avoid misinterpretation? How can data be visualized such that the exact meaning is conveyed?
Data Visualization is the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format. It enables decision makers to see analytics presented visually, so they can grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns — sas.com
Data Visualization of the deaths occurred in Iraq
She narrowed it down by presenting an interesting example. Both the graphs show the same data. But they visually differ, telling a different story. The difference is how the data is being communicated across.
Data visualization has two parts:
1. The artistic appeal/approach
2. The approach to depicting data as unbiased
How do you communicate your data results? How do you know your representation is unbiased and correct?
The importance of data visualization has been emphasized because of big data.
UX expert AJ Polanco suggests the approach to visualizing data depends on your target audience and the demographic.
“In western culture, blue tends to be more formal. Red can sometimes be seen as lucky in China. Outside of biases, it comes down to who your audience is and is beyond data”
— AJ Polanco
This brought another field into the mix — User Experience Design. Once again, it adds weight to what Bhupinder says when everything is interconnected by data.
Opening up to the audience
The session reached its climax by posing an open-ended question to the audience.
What kind of data-driven projects would people like to work on, assuming funding wasn’t a problem?
There was quite a show of hands with many students chiming in with amazing ideas. Some of them include:
- Using medical history of individuals to predict ailments they could suffer in the future and take preventive steps
- Collecting genetic data on people with mental health disorders and personalizing medication that works
- Using music therapy in healthcare
Bhupinder finally left us with something to think about. How do we manage privacy? Where do we draw the line for ethics? There are no easy answers.
We must come out of the notion that data belongs to just a single field. Data is more interconnected among different verticals. The best way to take advantage of that is to be truly interdisciplinary.
You can listen to the full discussion on IIBA’s website.
For updates on future events from the Design SIG at IIBA, check out their website.