Data Science Is a Team Sport

Let's take a closer look at how data engineers and data scientists can help organizations achieve success.

Data science is often thought of as a black box—in goes data, out comes actionable information. Inside that black box lives a complex mix of programming, mathematics, statistics, hardware and software, each requiring significant expertise. Because of the diverse nature of components that go into data science, it takes a team of individuals to turn data into insight.

The key players on the team are the data engineer, data analyst, and data scientist. Here, we highlight the roles of data engineer and data scientist.

Enter the Data Engineer

Architects of the data science world, data engineers create the framework that allows data scientists to perform their activities in the most efficient manner possible. With so many production environments available—both cloud and local—there is always something new to learn and a plentiful amount of questions and concerns to take into consideration when designing a solution.


Such considerations are highly based on the customer’s needs. These needs vary greatly but include budgetary concerns, privacy considerations (for example, HIPAA), ease of use, and more. Generally, each project only has a handful of considerations to account for, but the simple fact that so many needs exist is a perfect example of why data engineers require constant learning and research in order to truly be effective and successful at their job. In such a rapidly changing atmosphere, one can quickly become ineffective without a passion to produce a quality outcome, as new technologies are coming to life every day.

Data engineers are responsible for the framework and architecture that will support the data scientist in their work. This includes, but is not limited to, working with databases (both relational—such as SQL—and non-relational—such as NoSQL), working with data in many commonly used forms (Excel/CSV, JSON), cleaning and eliminating unusable data, and figuring out what software and hardware best suits the customer’s needs. Understanding both the customer environment, future customer environment, data quality (or access) issues, and other road bumps requires extensive research and modification. This process makes certain that the solution created by the engineer and the scientist is usable, understandable (for maintenance, regular users, or both), and scalable for the customer’s data volume.

Enter the Data Scientist

A unique feature of the data scientist role is the use of the Scientific Method. A data scientist takes a business question, frames it analytically, uses a mix of programming, mathematics, and statistics to address the question, and then reports findings in a useful way. More specifically, step one is to formalize the question and determine the underlying assumptions. Then, he or she explores if this question is answerable given the existing data and infrastructure (made accessible by the data engineer) and if so, determines a best analytical approach. Analysis often involves machine learning or a family of techniques in which a subset of data is used to “train” the computer to detect patterns in the data set which are then used to make predictions or classifications on the remaining and any future data. This whole process is often iterative as different hypotheses are tested and approaches are found to be incorrect or un-implementable due to data limitations. It is also up to the data scientist to treat all results with a healthy dose of skepticism:  Is a result truly a result or is it (more likely) a statistical fluke or result of underlying bias or pattern in the data?

Once the inner critic has been satisfied, it is time to prototype the analysis, which involves building out a functional version of the model. The final production is passed off to the data engineer who can build it out at scale and on the appropriate computing infrastructure. However, the data scientist is not yet done. In what is arguably the most important part of the role, he or she must then deliver the results in a way that both captures all of the assumptions and nuances of the analyses and understandable to the end user, typically a business-minded person. This communication often takes the form of an interactive dashboard using business intelligence tools such as Tableau or Power BI.

As they say, there is no “I” in team, which holds true for data science. At Pandata, each member of our team is a key component in the data science process, working together to derive value from data for our clients.  To learn more, contact us at hello@pandata.co.

Hannah Arnson is a Data Scientist & Joseph Homrocky is a Data Engineer, both at Pandata. 

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  • Next up: Deal Reached on Federal Tax Reform

    Deal Reached on Federal Tax Reform

    Congressional leaders have struck an agreement in principle on a $1.5 trillion tax bill that if passed, this week, could be signed by the President before Christmas.

    Members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) believe a thoughtful, balanced, and competitive tax environment is critical to the success of our economy and that any reforms made must be all-inclusive and benefit all sectors of the business community.  GCP leadership and staff worked closely with U.S. Senator Rob Portman, who served on the conference committee resolving difference between the House and Senate proposals. Sen. Portman was critical to preserving key economic development tools, like the New Market Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit, which are crucial to advance economic development in Greater Cleveland.

    Click here for a recent piece submitted and posted to Cleveland.com by Joe Roman, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.   
      
    View a recent correspondence from the Great Lakes Metro Chamber Coalition, which GCP co-founded.
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  • Next up: Defining the Digital Marketing Ecosystem

    Defining the Digital Marketing Ecosystem

    Digital marketing is one of the most cost-efficient and—considering all the targeting a company can do—also one of the most effective ways for a business to market itself. But the marketing ecosystem is constantly evolving, which is why it’s important for business owners to understand each marketing channel’s unique characteristics.

    • RELATED: Register for “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand.

    During last month’s “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 1: Understanding the Digital Marketing Landscape & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand,” Adcom’s Marisa Pisani explained to a packed house what the attendees need to know about leveraging:

    • paid search;
    • search engine optimization;
    • display ads;
    • social media;
    • email;
    • text messaging;
    • billboards;
    • radio;
    • TV; and
    • print.

    Following is a brief description of each channel and how business owners can use these methods to grow their business.

    Paid search
    Paid search places your content at the top of search engine pages. The upshot of this is it allows you to quickly capture search traffic. Another benefit: You can control what people are seeing when they input a search term relevant to your page.

    Cost of this method varies, as it’s based on a pay-per-click model; that is, a business is only charged when a user clicks on the paid search listing.

    Search engine optimization
    Search engines, such as Google, seek out pages they believe will provide the most value to users. While algorithms are constantly changing, in general search engines want pages that engage their audience. This is the most authentic way to build your page’s audience and it’s also a long-term play. Pisani suggested beginning with a paid search campaign to build an audience first and then transitioning to more of a SEO approach.

    Display ads
    Display ads are the image-based ads that appear on web pages and are related to a user’s browser history. This is a good method to use to build awareness of a product or service and to capture contact information if it’s linked to a simply designed, easy-to-understand landing page lead-generation form. It’s also a long-term strategy and it’s important for the business owner to understand what the path was that led a customer to their site. Did they see the ad several times, and then come search for the product or service? A good way to tell whether your display ad is effective is through testing. Turn it on for a couple weeks, then turn it off. Was there an increase in traffic to your site?

    Pisani was asked whether a display ad should be linked to gated content. Her answer: not if it’s linked to a product guide or brochure. But if you can gate something valuable, such as an industry report that adds value, users will be more willing to disclose their contact information.

    Social media
    There are a lot of different social channels marketers can take advantage of and be active on and Pisani gave a brief overview of each:

    Twitter: Good for quick hit industry news.

    Facebook: A great platform when it comes to paid social and targeting your business to a very specific audience.

    Instagram: A hub of visual content, including photos and created media.

    Pinterest: Useful to target DIYers. Also, the audience here skews female.

    YouTube: The second largest search engine in the world, YouTube is a valuable place for your business to have real estate. Bonus if you can get footage of people actually using your product.

    LinkedIn: This is a good place to show that you are a thought leader and share valuable content to other professionals who could become customers.

    Snapchat: Pisani said this is a platform that businesses should avoid at all costs, unless your customers are tweens. People are not using Snapchat to interact with businesses.

    Email
    Pisani said email marketing has the highest ROI of any digital marketing channel, so it’s one that should be on your radar. Why? It’s cost-effective, you’re not chasing prospects and, while it’s not a prospecting tool, you can easily build loyalty among your customers.

    This is also a good channel to test different approaches, as it relates to both the buying window and frequency of contact. If you’re sending too much, your audience will unsubscribe. If you’re sending too far out, your customers will forget your message and not buy.

    Text messaging
    SMS, or text messaging, has the highest read rate of all the channels, but it can be very expensive and cost upwards of $20,000. This means, while it’s effective, you’ll need to have a great case for using it (e.g., appointment reminders.) There are also a lot of rules governing text advertising, so consult with an expert before going this route.

    Other advertising methods
    Pisani also spent some time going over the “other” category of marketing: billboards, radio, TV and print.

    Billboards: This is a good way to build awareness, without a lot of commitment as digital billboards can be changed quickly.• Radio: There’s been a shift here, as more users are switching to Pandora, Spotify and other streaming services. These platforms also allow for greater targeting. Traditional radio remains useful, however, especially when paired with advertising on the radio’s website.

    TV: TV has also undergone a streaming shift of late. This allows businesses to see a clearer picture of who the audience is and what the demographic is and what comprises the demographic.

    Print: Print is not dead. And it can be useful in reaching niche audiences that read niche publications.

    Direct mail: This should be a smaller piece of your overall budget. This doesn’t have the ROI of email, but is still valuable way to reach repeat customers.

    At the end of the day, Pisani recommended that businesses test each of these channels and have a presence on several in order to spread their message as affectively as possible.

    This Boot Camp was just the beginning. Secure your place today by registering for “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand.

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  • Next up: Defy the Hand You’re Dealt: Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2015

    Defy the Hand You’re Dealt: Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2015

    Six years ago when Go Media Partner Jeff Finley had the idea to combine three of his passions – art, design and music – into a cool, creative endeavor, he never dreamt where it would lead. Today, what started as a grassroots event to inspire and motivate local creative talent has snowballed into one of the most recognized creative conferences in the design industry. And it is right in our own backyard. The sixth annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, to be held at the Allen Theatre August 6-9, is produced by Cleveland graphic and web development firm Go Media and runs on the energy and fortitude of the small staff who take inspiration from the strong community behind it.

    Six years ago when Go Media Partner Jeff Finley had the idea to combine three of his passions – art, design and music – into a cool, creative endeavor, he never dreamt where it would lead. Today, what started as a grassroots event to inspire and motivate local creative talent has snowballed into one of the most recognized creative conferences in the design industry. And it is right in our own backyard. The sixth annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, to be held at the Allen Theatre August 6-9, is produced by Cleveland graphic and web development firm Go Media and runs on the energy and fortitude of the small staff who take inspiration from the strong community behind it.

    Members of the Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC) community help to lead decisions about where the fest will organically go. Those discussions lead this year’s content curators, Go Media’s own Heather Sakai and Bryan Garvin, to stray from the fest’s roots in music and pull the focus to the heart of the matter: networking and education. 

    One of the first to hop on the 2015 Fest lineup was design legend Michael Bierut, partner in New York City’s multidisciplinary design firm Pentagram, founder of the Design Observer blog, and a senior critic in graphic design at Yale School of Art. Bierut, originally from Parma, is donating his time due to his passion for Cleveland and WMC. According to Bierut, there was nothing resembling WMC or graphic design in the suburbs of Cleveland in the ‘60s when he was growing up. Bierut will explain his journey in a talk titled: “How to Use Graphic Design to Get from the Corner of Granger Road and West 132nd Street in Garfield Heights to the Corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in New York City in Only 50 Years.”

    The Fest, whose motto is “Defy the Hand You’re Dealt,” is expected to bring more than 1,000 attendees to Cleveland for three days of learning, self-discovery and knowledge.  

    This article originally appeared in the July 20, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.



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  • Next up: Did You Get the Sales Results You Expected in 2018?

    Did You Get the Sales Results You Expected in 2018?

    Well, did you? To improve results in 2019 start with evaluating what went right and where you fell short this year. Here are some questions to help guide that review.

    As you enter the final weeks of 2018, it is a great opportunity to conduct a positive and honest evaluation of your sales successes and failures. It can be educational and fun to relive the victories and successes from the last 12 months.

    And there is some valuable gold to be mined when evaluating where you came up short.

    Conduct a general review

    An annual sales and business review is an opportunity to study how you achieved the revenue growth you desire. A balanced and realistic review is most effective when you are willing to acknowledge the opportunities to improve as you celebrate the victories. The review should focus on the decisions you and your team made and the decisions you need to make in 2019. It is not about looking to place blame; it is about looking to get better as a business.

    There are many areas to evaluate when it comes to assessing your success. Consider asking the following questions of your business.

    Question No. 1: What went well? What were your wins in 2018? Did your results in 2018 keep the business on the desired growth trajectory? What challenges and obstacles did you overcome? Are there enough opportunities in the sales pipeline for 2019? Are these opportunities enough for you to achieve both your growth and profit goals in 2019?

    Question No. 2: What did not go well? What were the losses in 2018? Where did you struggle with customers? Did you have product or service issues? Did any new competitors enter the market? Do you have enough growth opportunities in the pipeline?

    Take a closer look at sales and marketing tactics

    A sales team does not function as individuals or in isolation. A sales team is the beginning of a broader business system.

    Each individual sales person can positively, or negatively, impact the broader business system. The business review can help improve performance in a chaotic and uncertain future by prioritizing opportunities, repositioning resources, learning new skills and making better and faster decisions.

    Consider asking the following questions of your sales and marketing processes.

    Question No. 3: Does your sales process support your growth and profit goals? A sales process is a series of repeatable tasks, steps, activities and metrics covering targeting and contacting prospects continuing to the conversion, close and retention.

    Process- and systems-based thinking help build repeatable and consistent systems that lead to a scalable and more valuable company. People-based systems can have numerous weaknesses and failure points that increases the cost of managing.

    An effective sales process should:

    • Align with the customer’s buying process;
    • help your business operate effectively (when operations are smooth, there is solid teamwork across departments and goals are being met, there is likely a high level of accountability for results); and
    • Be automated, which facilitates continuous improvement.

    Question No. 4: Does your marketing and lead generation help you attract, create and retain enough of the target customers you need? Is your sales team complaining about working on too many qualified leads?

    Question No. 5: Are you effectively communicating and differentiating your value for customers? Professional relationship building based on skills, knowledge and solutions are compelling and valued by the customers.

    Question No. 6: Do you know the value of your customers? Are you targeting, attracting and retaining the best customers for your business? Do you know your customer acquisition cost? Are they looking for ways to lower cost of acquisition? Do you measure Customer Lifetime Value and are you working to make them more valuable?

    Question No. 7: Who on your sales team needs help and where?

    Success in sales is based on individuals holding themselves accountable for delivering results in the assigned roles. Each role has a set of expectations and accountability for results. Are you satisfied with the results of each member of your team?

    A deeper dive into assessing performance

    Here are some areas and questions to consider when it comes to taking a closer look into the status of your sales team, and what is needed to improve it.

    • Are your performance and results aligned with company goals and values? Are you aligned, top to bottom, on the activities and processes that produce the growth and profit results? Everyone needs to be rowing in the right direction.
    • When it comes to capacity, quality, quantity and productivity of sales activities, are you delivering the best possible results for the resources assigned? Are you using assigned resources productively to achieve financial goals? Can your individual output be measured and how can it be improved?
    • How effective are you? Are you focusing on what you know works? How is time invested in prospecting, selling/conversion, closing and non-sales activities/junk activities? Are your sales resources going to the right growth and profit opportunities?
    • How efficient are you? How accurately are activities in the sales and operations process getting done? How fast are opportunities progressing through the stages of your sales process?  

    And, as you continue to assess performance, consider some of the several reasons why members of sales team may not be performing at the desired level. Here are some examples of things that can inhibit performance.

    • Employees are not clear on what to do when it comes to their job description, sales process, technology, training, etc.
    • Employees are novices or do not know how to do the sales job. They do not have the sales or business skills, product/industry knowledge and tools to be successful.
    • Employees are not motivated and have a lack of drive, ambition, passion and desire to succeed and win.
    • Employees consistently run out of time—whether it’s because they waste time or there just isn’t enough time to get the job done.
    • Employees have a high level of fear in several areas keeping them from engaging.

    So, what have you learned with your 2018 review? Are you on a good growth trajectory? Are you hitting your profit goals? What needs to be improved? Who needs help?

    By working backward from the results, you get a chance to look at your process, the key activities and the key players implementing the activities.

    After completing your review, you should have a solid list of areas to improve upon and an action plan for the next quarter.  

    “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

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  • Next up: Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Jason Therrien of thunder::tech lists the top three takeaways from his recent COSE Business Growth Boot Camp.


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