Four Tips for Making the Most of Your Data

New and emerging technology is giving the world exciting ways to obtain insight and knowledge from acquired data, providing access to information used to help with process optimization, risk prevention, health and safety risk reduction, and more successful strategic growth planning. Here are some quick tips to help make the most of your data on your next project. 

Domain expertise is equally important as technical expertise. Involve business stakeholders at multiple levels in the organization. 

1. Always be thinking about analytics. Data preparation is the first step, and it feeds the whole process. Think about organization, structure and accessibility of data. Make sure your data is in a consumable format, so it can be analyzed easier. If you want to analyze the life cycle of anything, you have to be able to track it all the way through its life and tie it to meaningful events that happen and attributes that are gained or lost along the way.

2. Secure your model. Acting on a faulty model is worse than having no model at all. This does not mean that your model has to accurately predict the target outcome 100 percent of the time—it means that the model should not be dependent on faulty assumptions. Running a model with a faulty assumption creates inaccurate, unusable data. 

3. Do not limit yourself to structured data. Use powerful applications that can help you harness unstructured data. Think outside the box and harness data from text in a PDF, a website, email or comment log. 

4. Strengthen your data with domain expertise. Domain expertise is equally important as technical expertise. Involve business stakeholders at multiple levels in the organization. Ask questions about data that may not be in the data set, but that can be accessed in another data set. Understand timing changes, and be aware of business reorganizations and system use changes that may have an impact on the data.

With the insight that analyzed data can provide, entire project teams are able to be more efficient and productive, and can expect higher quality output on future projects.   

Katie Maxfield is an analytics architect in CDM Smith’s Business Technology group. She has an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of Denver, and experience in business and data analytics across various industries including engineering and construction, financial services, commercial banking, technology consulting and telecom.