A Tale of Two Data Analytics Success Stories

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Harnessing the Power of Big Data with Geospatial Mapping

The Dollar Shave Club had a bottleneck problem, and his name was Juan. It’s not so much that Juan was the problem, but somehow, any web performance report — no matter how unusual, no matter how frequent — waited on Juan, according to a recent Cite World article. So if Juan was busy, the business user waited…and so did new site features.

Almost every company has a Juan. Often, Juan may be the most efficient, effective developer on staff, but it doesn’t matter. Inevitably, as businesses become more data-driven, there are two many tasks and not enough Juans.

The lesson here: If one developer is holding up your reports, maybe it’s time you looked at a simpler analytics solution. That’s what Todd Lehr, senior vice president of engineering at Dollar Shave Club, learned.

The company’s situation is nearly textbook for small businesses. It was growing, and so needed more reporting than Juan could handle. At the same time, Lehr found that many analytics tools would require more advanced resources than the company could afford. For instance, most analytics products required complex integration processes using ETL (extract, transform, load), and the company simply didn’t have the staff, the article explains.

Lehr solved the problem by investing in a simple, user-friendly appliance solution called Looker.

Now, as the article explains, 25 percent of the company’s workers use the tool every day or every week. Locker also sends daily email alerts to about 40 percent of the 70-person staff. The article also explains how the company uses the tool to improve sales and reduce waste.

The Dollar Shave’s story is a neat and tidy example of how data analytics is refining business processes for the better. For a read that shows how data analytics play out in a more complex situation, check out this recent Government Technology article detailing how data analytics helped New Orleans cut its murder rates.

In this situation, data analytics is paying off in saved lives, with the city reporting 20 percent fewer deaths in 2013 than 2012, when the number reached 193 fatalities.

Accomplishing this incredible reduction required much more effort, obviously, including a $4.2 million grant for studying crime and implementing related social programs. To gain new insights, the team integrated and crunched citywide crime data going back to 1960, and then some:

The work put long-term crime trends for 70 neighborhoods onto a digital dashboard along with 30-, 10- and five-year homicide averages, with more granular data for the last three years broken down by police districts. Layered on top of this analysis was mapped statistics of educational attainment, unemployment rates and recidivism — add-ons intended to provide a holistic view.

Data Analytics

The data analytics even helped identify potential crime waves and other problems, which gave authorities a chance to try other interventions:

Based on criminal records, analytics now routinely uncovers the city’s 800 individuals most likely to commit violent crimes every three months. Of the lot, members of the city’s most notorious gangs are requested to arrive at court as part of the call-in. They’re greeted by Landrieu, law enforcement and social service representatives.

This project also had to confront the politics around the data. For instance, when analytics revealed that African-American males, ages 16 to 24, who live in four specific neighborhoods, are the most likely to be both the victims and the perpetrators of crime, Mayor Mitch Landrieu “took issue with the findings,” according to the article.

Both pieces are helpful reads that show that data analytics can change the world — or at least New Orleans and one shaving company.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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