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Game of Throne Meets Data Science

on July 26
Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

Recently, Contemporary Analysis (CAN) was presented with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award. It means a lot to be recognized for the hard work the team has done over the last year improving how companies start and scale data science internally.

The Problem

On the consulting side, CAN has spent most of its 9+ years implementing Data Science in the traditional format: bidding via proposals and statements of work. While we still make bids and builds via proposal, we realized a lot of companies that need data science have a difficult time formulating their need into a written document. They don’t know where to start, what they need, or how to scope time and materials. Not having a statement of work presents a problem for traditional consulting. Even when they did understand how to build a needs document, an outside vendor wasn’t what companies wanted. Their desire was to own their own analytics team. We couldn’t agree more.

Once they had decided to make data science an internal strategy, companies hired a senior-level data scientist. This was due to the fact that the person needed to be all things for the department for a long time until it showed an ROI and would be granted abudget to hire a team. This required the first data scientist to be a programmer, database manager, mathematician, data visualist, data science strategist, and implementation manager. This came with a whole new set of problems. A person experienced enough to do all things is expensive ($150k+ salary), hard to find (time to hire is 6+ months), implementation requires a philosophical change in problem-solving (reactive to proactive), and scale requires a new management process (Agile is ineffective). It is simply too much for one person to be successful.

We realized we had to change how companies implemented data science. They needed a fully functional team inside their company from day one and for a time requiring an outside vendor, but needed to manage the process inside their company for company buy-in and scalability moving forward. A new way of implementation had to be invented.

The Solution

We came up with something different, a method with immediate results and little risk. Instead of hiring senior-level talent out of the gate, use a full team of consultants to help you stand up your group. Then find, hire, and train someone to run the team once it’s already up. This means you get multiple people (with no recruiting and no time to hire) and expertise (understanding how to implement and manage all aspects of the team) immediately on day one – all at a price similar to hiring one senior-level data scientist.

Additionally, there is a benefit of when it’s time to find, hire, and train someone to run the team. Because some of the heavy lifting is being done by the vendor, a person skilled in data science implementation (a data science strategist) can now be hired to run and scale the department. This person is usually much less expensive than a senior data scientist.

We pioneered this thought process at a local bank in Treynor, IA. TS Bank is one of the fastest-growing banks in our area. They reached out to CAN in late 2015 asking how they could be better at predicting what is likely to happen not only in their portfolio but also in marketing, sales, operations, M&A – almost every function of their business. They already had business intelligence but didn’t know how to make the transition from reactive to proactive. That’s when CAN stepped in.

CAN became their data science team for 18 months, deploying 4 data scientists skilled in NoSql, data visualization, coding, and computational modeling. We served as their team until they were able to stand by themselves. Now, just 2 years later, they have their own team of two data scientists, a data strategist, a business intelligence analyst, and a database engineer. TS Bank now has a better data science team than banks five times their size, and they have plans to hire more. With their team, augmented by ours only when needed, TS Bank can make decisions faster and less expensive than their peers. They know when to buy. They know when to sell. They have better risk analysis. Their business intelligence team, now coupled with their predictive analytics team, is the poster child for how to start, grow, and scale data science in an organization. This pilot allowed CAN to better understand how to implement the “Us then You” strategy.

Today CAN offers three approaches to improving outcomes with data science:

  • Data Science as a Service (to get you started)
  • Training (to make it yours), and
  • Staff Augmentation (to keep your need fulfilled, even if that need is temporary).

Data Science as a Service (DSaaS)

CAN begins the process of serving its clients by initially and temporarily serving as their data science team.  Day one, we show up and provide our client with an established data science team that knows exactly what they’re doing, knows how to dig into their data, and knows how to cut through the red tape.

Different than most consultants is the fact that from our first second on the job, there is a timer running. We establish an agreed-upon milestone and, once that milestone is reached, CAN will give you everything you need to have your own data science capabilities: all the data, all the knowledge, no black box, and nothing secret.

Training

About midway through DSaaS, CAN will identify, hire, train, and place a person to run everything CAN is building. While this person can be and often is from outside the organization, sometimes it is an internal person who just needs a few additional skills. When this happens, there is an additional savings of time and money as this person required no hiring process, no internal training of tools, is already a culture fit, and requires no spin-up time figuring out internal politics.

To formalize this training process, CAN built a training curriculum designed to help individuals already in the workforce gain necessary and valuable skills in the four key parts of data science: coding, database, statistics and computational modeling, and data visualization. We call it the Omaha Data Science Academy. While initially only for individuals hired to manage the data science portfolio after CAN has reached the milestone, CAN has opened enrollment to the community so they too can have data scientists for job openings at companies with established data science teams. The Omaha Data Science Academy’s new goal is to train a data scientist for every company in Omaha.

Staff Augmentation

Once established, teams like those at TS Bank aren’t finished building. It took TS Bank 24 months before they felt they had enough talent to cut CAN loose. And even then, CAN still helps out from time to time, providing talent for project work so the company can continue its lean data science team while retaining the talent and expertise to do the high-level or high-speed need projects. Because CAN offers staff augmentation in addition to DSaaS, companies can hire the senior-level talent much further down the road and not fear not have the senior-level thinking to tackle the hard projects as they arise. CAN also offers entry-level data scientists allowing extra staff for those projects that require hours of work, not level of expertise. In this way, CAN closes the loop of need making sure at all points, a company can run a data science team of any size and make noticeable gains from the insights gathered by having a team.

CAN’s new way of data science team implementation lets a company gain access to the decision making of their ability without the fear or risk of single person dependence. It creates better data science much faster with higher ROI than traditional implementation with the helping hand of a company who has done data science for years.

 

Us then You will revolutionize Data Science.

 

Are you ready? Reach out to see how we can help.

 

CAN provides insight to all teams as they grow and develop. We have completed over 150 projects across 100+ companies, and have been the data science teams for 3 companies in the proof of concept stage, 2 in implementation in past years, and 5 more planned for 2018. We have the experience and wisdom necessary to help companies navigate the new kind of management necessary in data science.


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

on December 12

A Celebration of CAN’s Best Ideas

on February 11

Did you know CAN’s blog is full of sound data science related advice dating back to the beginning of CAN? In case you didn’t, we make it a habit to regularly re-post our favorites. What follows are reasons why you should consider becoming a data scientist. If it grabs you – check out the Omaha Data Science Academy. It might be the first step in your data science career.

Why Become a Data Scientist?

Too few of today’s college students realize they want to be data scientists when they graduate. We believe that data scientists are the future, and that we are on edge of a data science revolution. Therefore, we decided to explain why to become a Data Scientist.

1. As a data scientist, you have incredible access across the business.

Your job of modeling specific business strategies and forecasts requires you to have broad access across your company. People look to you to bridge the gap between business theory and relevant data.

This is a tough role because it requires you to develop and implement a strategy to create consensus in order to implement the results of your work. Since the days of the English Luddites (the anti-technology loom weavers) there have been people who are against technological progress and the efficiency it brings to the economy. The best data scientists will be able to manage the political and social change that comes from their work. Data Science success isn’t only about making work more productive, it is also about helping other people adjust and succeed.

2. Being a Data Scientist is a specialized field.

The requirements to be a data scientist are long, because the decisions they make impact thousands of people. Data scientists usually have a 3.5 GPA or higher. They must have the ability to learn and share several different forms of knowledge, including principles of computer science, high business acumen, and complex math. Learn more about how to become a data scientist.

3. You have the opportunity to work with top level management extremely early in your career.

While this sounds great, it is also challenging. You need to be comfortable giving board room presentations to people who don’t understand what you’re talking about. A specific aspect of your position is to clearly articulate why your results are useful and valid — and do it without math speak. Learn more about presenting business intelligence.  

4. The best data scientists never settle, and question everything.

Whereas a statistician starts with a data set and a problem, a data scientist has a more difficult task. A really great data scientist will constantly ask, “are we solving the right problem?” Often the perceived problem won’t match your data, requiring you to look at everything from a new perspective.

A data scientist spends his energy asking machines questions and then trying to validate the answers, instead of spending energy trying to address the question directly. This requires a different work process, one that requires humility and understanding. Data scientist know while they are the ‘go to’ person in the organization, they don’t have all the answers. However, at the end of the day they are still responsible for finding the answers, which is why they get paid the big bucks. Data Science is a complex science as opposed to a simple science. 

5. You use artificial intelligence to automate the most routine, frustrating jobs known to mankind.

Instead of doing routine tasks, you can be responsible for automating the most tedious aspects of business, while saving your customers money and making enterprise more efficient.

If you are interested in learning more about Data Science and Predictive Analytics, download our free eBook — Predictive Analytics: The Future of Business Intelligence.


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

on December 12

From the archives “Why Become a Data Scientist?”

on July 11

Contemporary Analysis 2017 ebook coming soon!

In celebration of CAN’s forthcoming 10th birthday, we’ve decided to bring out the best ideas from our blog and combine them into an educational ebook. The posts were originally written by some of CAN’s most notable alumni, many of whom have gone on to start their own businesses in data science.

At CAN, we are all about education. We believe in educating our employees through hands on experience and through courses offered at the Data Science Academy. We also believe in educating our clients about who we are and what we do. We want our clients to understand the systems we put in place. We’re proud of our work. What follows is a six step model on how to implement data, taken from our new ebook to be released soon. We hope you enjoy it, and learn something too.

 

CAN’s Best Practices for Implementing Data Science

  1. Define a company’s mission, vision, and values. We want to know how they do business; what values they have that are unique and permanent even when the strategy changes. This understanding set the priorities and filters that guide future discussions.
  2. Define a company’s goals. Goals have clear beginnings and ends and typically are accomplished in less than a year. Goals should be in alignment with the company’s vision for the future, and should be accomplished in a way that adheres to the company’s values.
  3. Define the business question to be answered. The business question is about business process improvement, and should not involve technology or research questions. When answered a business questions should have a noticeable impact on at least one of the three parts of a business; sales, operations and administrative support.
  4. Determine what resources are available. This includes political approval, availability of necessary data, and determining research methodology.
  5. Determine how the models will be implemented. Formal Reports help our clients understand the nuances and details of our research. Marketing Summaries provide our clients with colorful and easy to understand summaries of our research.Visual Dashboards help our clients quickly get the up to date information that need to run their operations. Workflow Integration provides our clients with the ability to use our research to impact the activities and operations of large number of people through the systems they are currently using.
  6. Evaluate the model. Does the model answer the intended business question? Does the model produce results that reflect reality? Does the model produce the expected results?

 

Keep your eyes out for our new ebook. For more information and great ideas, contact Nate Watson (nate@canworksmart.com) or Bridget Lillethorup (bridget@canworksmart.com). 


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

on December 12

From the archives “Why Become a Data Scientist?”

on July 11

Any person you hire for your team is an investment. You take careful steps to ensure their fit in the company. You go the extra mile to ensure their skills translate as perfectly as possible to the position you seek to be filled.

Most companies, unfortunately, do not understand the complications of hiring a data scientist. No two data scientists have the same skill set. And there’s not a specific “attitude” associated with data scientists. Personalities range quite drastically. Therefore, you can’t simply choose a “data scientist” and trust that he or she will fit with your company. It’s different than hiring a salesperson or HR representative.

 

So, before you invest in hiring a full time data scientist for your medium to large sized business, there are more than a few things you need to consider.

 

Contemporary Analysis (CAN) offers another option to fill your data analytics needs. We offer a full analysis of your company to determine the projects that will improve your areas of need. We lend you one of our data scientists to use hourly until the projects are over. Less strings attached, less money, higher ROI.

 

Let’s first explore the scenario of hiring a data scientist blindly, and see where it takes this hypothetical company.

 

Scenario 1: Hiring a data scientist full time

 

Perhaps you are the manager of a local bank. You’ve grown significantly in the past 10 years, and you know you have enough data to start analyzing trends with your clients. You’ve noticed that at least three customers drop their services every month, and you wonder if a data scientist could provide an answer to stop this trend.

 

The first step, you believe, is to hire a full time data analyst as part of your team. You write up a short job description and send it out to the hiring sites.

 

Someone with a Master’s degree in data science doesn’t accept a position for less than $100,000/year. Along with $25,000 in benefits, this is quite the price tag. You may understand this and accept it begrudgingly as the only option.

 

What you may not realize, however, is that it takes you about 6 months to find someone with a Master’s in data science and relevant work experience. Then it takes your bank about 3 months to train him in. And finally, 3 months after he is trained in, he builds a software useful to your company.

 

That’s a year from the time you posted the job before you see any kind of ROI, and by then you’ve spent half of a year’s salary on this person.

 

The expenses for hiring and training a data scientist are immense, but there are more than just monetary issues with hiring a data scientist full time. Here is the short list of things you need to consider before you hire full time:

 

  • Not all data scientists will like your company.  Just because someone is qualified on paper doesn’t mean they fit well with your company’s community. At $125,000/year and with 6 months needed before ROI, do you want to take that risk? Personality clash is a real threat.
  • No two data scientists have the same sets of skills. That’s right. “Data science” is a loose term meaning an interdisciplinary field about scientific processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms.” Interdisciplinary is the key word here. Some data scientists may be trained in specific softwares, others may have not even heard of it. When you lock yourself into one person, you may be losing out on knowledges beyond his education.
  • How do you know you need a data scientist? Without experts to examine your needs, are you sure the hire is worth the investment? Perhaps figuring out why your bank is dropping clients every month will only take about a month, but you’ve hired someone indefinitely. What other work will you find for him?

 

There are other options. Consider hiring an hourly data scientist through CAN.  Let’s explore the benefits below.

 

Scenario 2: Work with Contemporary Analysis

 

A Case Study from CAN

CAN has worked with several Fortune 500 companies. In one instance, one of these companies needed assistance creating a software that could predict the failure of telecommunication huts. Loss of several huts slows service to customers, which ends up a nightmare for the finance team.

 

The scope of the project was large: 2,500 telecommunication huts over the Western United States. Over 500 of these locations were in fairly remote areas, making them hard to reach. The scope of this project may have been enough to convince the company that they needed to hire a full-time data scientist, but instead, they saw the benefits of working with CAN.

 

The result? CAN set up a weekly survey process for employees at each station, covering 12 potential problem areas.  

 

The data collected from these services was used to create a “survival model” for each roof. CAN set up a system for predictive analytics with this Fortune 500 company over an established period of time, then made sure the system was self sufficient and did not rely on CAN’s constant attention.

 

With work complete, the company paid CAN and CAN moved on to new projects. Always available for advice, CAN remains a tool for that company, but not at a cost of $125,000/year.

The benefits of using Contemporary Analysis to hire an hourly data scientist

 

To save time and money, and increase productivity, consider these benefits of using CAN for your data science needs.

 

  • With CAN, you can hire a data scientist that fits the skill level needed to attain your goals. If you need someone trained in Tableau, then you get someone with that training. With CAN, there is no risk of a learning curve with your hire.
  • Hiring a part time data scientist means you’re not locked into one set of skills. In a similar vein, when your needs change, instead of paying to train your full time hire, CAN simply assigns a new person to the job. This gives you a bigger skill set advantage.
  • No 6 month hiring process. No training. No wallet-bursting budget. No issues with HR. CAN can write up a proposal for your needs in as little as two weeks, and work starts immediately upon signing the contract. Work starts on Monday, not 6 months from Monday.
  • You will see an ROI in 30 days or less. We at CAN works fast and effectively. It’s our job. Once our systems are in place, you see immediate results. Before you would have a job description for a full time position on your site, CAN will have created analytic software.
  • You don’t need to worry about keeping your full time data scientist busy. Once the project is over, it’s over. You don’t need to worry about filling someone’s time or wasting money on little work.
  • You data scientist won’t quit! A part-time data scientist will do his work and fulfill his duties. You won’t have any surprise 2 week notices in your office.

 

Perhaps you believe your data science needs are great, and you still believe full time is the way to go. Before you plummet down this expensive road, give us a call. If anything, we can give you an analysis of how great your needs are, and you can make a decision from there.

 

For more success stories, see CAN’s website for more case studies at http://canworksmart.com/case-study/.


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

on December 12

From the archives “Why Become a Data Scientist?”

on July 11

The theory of insurance states that the healthier a population of people, the less they should pay in insurance premiums. Right? We built this dashboard to investigate: do healthier states pay less in insurance premiums? What we found is that average weighted monthly premiums depends less on how healthy a state is, and probably more on average cost of living, geography and political affiliation. What do you think?  Read more…


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

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Creativity and innovation are the key for companies and countries to remain competitive. Technology has flattened access to resources and geography. Access to capital, equipment, and raw materials are no longer a competitive advantage. Geography offers few protections. The only true competitive advantage is in people—their connections and creativity.

The future of Nebraska’s economy is dependent on the future of Nebraska’s workforce. Given the importance, Contemporary Analysis decided to create an analytical dashboard of Nebraska’s workforce. Learn more: download our Dashboard eBook. The dashboard allows you to explore Nebraska’s Workforce from 1999 to 2012 by race, education and job types. It shows the distribution and trends for education and job types, and the correlation between job type and education.

 


Read more…


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

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Data Driven Decision Making & Camping

I was recently reminded of the importance of data driven decision making. I spent 6 days kayaking and backpacking in the wilderness on the US and Canada border. After living as a hyper connected technologist, disappearing into the backcountry was amazing and it lead to an unexpected realization. Read more…


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Contemporary Analysis Awarded Small Business of the Month

on December 12

From the archives “Why Become a Data Scientist?”

on July 11

Once again it’s that time of the year when kids and parents prepare to hit the streets of Omaha in their ghoulish best looking for the most candy they can find.

For a kid, Halloween is one of the most (if not the most) exciting times of the year. They get to dress up, act like their favorite characters, and eat lots of candy. What could be better?

For a parent, Halloween can be a stressful event. Having to travel up and down several blocks to find enough candy while managing hyped up kids, and on top of that cold weather, can make for an awful mix on Halloween night. But what if you had a way to scout out the best neighborhoods around you to find candy before hand?

This year for Halloween, the data scientists at CAN took on this challenge to help parents and kids find neighborhoods with the most and best candy.

Using Block demographic and spatial data from the 2010 Census and Halloween spending data from the 2012 National Retail Federation, CAN’s data scientists developed a predictive analytics dashboard that allows parents to get a high level view of the expected spend on candy in their neighborhood as well as surrounding neighborhoods. Alongside spending, an index of household density is also included to show which neighborhoods may hand out the most candy on Halloween night.

 

“Last year we realized we could use the data we were gathering on household demographics and combine it with estimated spending data on Halloween candy for each neighborhood,” Tadd, COO and head of data scientist says. “I worked with another data scientist, Matt Dickinson, who built the concept of the dashboard last year for the Greater Omaha Tableau Users Group, to publish this fun dashboard and give parents the upper hand when planning their Halloween night.”

The tool is interactive and lets the user choose which part of town they are in or which neighborhoods they want to compare. “This is very similar to some of the visualizations we develop for companies to understand their customers and help guide strategies for developing better marketing campaigns,” continues Tadd. “I am happy we get to use our expertise to showcase some fun analytics as well.”

So if you want to take a proactive approach to getting your little ghouls’ bags filled with candy, use this predictive analytics dashboard to make your Halloween night boo-untiful!


CAN helped a regional healthcare system prepare for the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic. From April 2009 to April 2010 the demand for healthcare spiked putting pressure on nursing staff.

Using predictive analytics CAN developed a staffing plan for a large regional healthcare system with 10 hospitals. Hospitals across the country were hiring as many nurses as they could. A shortage of nurses was quickly developing. Our manager needed to know how many nurses to hirer. He need to optimize his budget to meet the demand without purchasing and holding excess capacity.

Learn how CAN used data from previous flu seasons, nurse schedules, hourly requirements per nurse, training and orientation requirements, and number of active nurse recruiters to forecast demand.

Read more…


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The Predictive Analytics Revolution – Are you sitting on the sidelines?

on October 10, 2012

The Future is Now

on August 19, 2013

At CAN we explore new frontiers with data science. Most of us think of our world as having already been explored. After all, the days of Magellan and Columbus are literally history, and today we can pull up Google Maps to view satellite and street-level images of every square mile of our planet within seconds. The generations before us sailed new seas, crossed continents and mapped lands that were completely foreign to them. Future generations will be exploring the cosmos and travelling to distant planets. And so it seems as if there aren’t any bold new frontiers for the explorers of our time, but that’s not true.

We live in the digital age, discovering new frontiers using computers, data and the Internet. This world is growing in complexity and we are venturing out to map it and settle it. According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, we now create as much new data in 2 days, as we did from the dawn of civilization up to 2003. We produce 5 exabytes of data every 2 days. (1 exabyte = 1000 petabytes = 1,000,000 terabytes)

This new landscape of data science can be as foreign and complex to many of us as the Great Plains were to the early settlers. Where do we begin? Where are we going and how do we get there? What resources do we have to gain from this bold, new world? Read more…



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