Expert insight: Rob Woods, Analytics Solution Architect/Data Scientist, Watson FSS

Rob Woods has worked in the analytics industry for over 20 years. He’s currently an Analytics Solutions Architect working on IBM’s Watson FSS suite of products. All views here are his own and not IBM’s. Describe your own background and how you came to be working with statistics / data / analytics I started as a university lecturer and research assistant in the early 1990s working with econometrics and GIS software. When I look back on it now, we were focussing on areas which are now widely accepted as important work but at the time were seen as pure research […]

Choosing a predictive analytics project

At Smart Vision we’re in a pretty strong position to talk authoritatively about the reality of predictive analytics. That’s because we’re comprised of a team of veteran practitioners with decades of experience where we’ve all witnessed plenty of success stories but also one or two ‘data science’ train wrecks. Moreover, like anyone else, we’re exposed to the seemingly constant torrent of stories about the latest developments in machine learning, data science or AI. But we’re often struck by the fact that there seems to be such a focus on emphasising the power of analytics or on explaining how machine learning […]

Statistics in court: the story of a dataset

Like a lot of consultants working in the analytics industry, I’ve built up an extensive portfolio of materials to illustrate different kinds of applications and approaches. Some of these consist of files and slide decks used to explain quite esoteric procedures such as TURF analysis or Partial Least Squares. However, there are certain materials that can be used to demonstrate such a wide number of statistical and predictive analytics techniques, that I’ve found myself immediately reaching for them again and again over the years. One of these is the SPSS Statistics sample dataset ‘Employee data.sav’. Most statistical software programs come […]

What’s new in IBM SPSS Statistics v26?

In April of this year, IBM released the latest version of SPSS Statistics. Version 26 introduces a number of additional analysis procedures as well as new command enhancements. If you’re an existing SPSS user and you’d like to upgrade to v26 there’s more information about how to do that here. If you’re interested in trying SPSS Statistics for the first time then do please get in touch – we’ll be happy to help.  New analytical procedures Quantile Regression In standard ‘least squares’ regression the model predictions are based on a single regression line. This line can be used to estimate the […]

Expert insight: Clifford Budge, Head of Ecommerce Data Science, major toy manufacturer

Lorna: Please could you start just by talking a little bit about your own background and how you’ve come to be working in data? Cliff: I went to university to do a mapping science degree, during which time I had a year out in industry. I worked as a surveyor for a company that was laying the cables for the first optical fibre telecommunications network in the UK. Within about six weeks of starting the job, I got access to the marketing data and thought I could use my mapping skills to create a visual representation of the sales and […]

I work for an analytics company, but I don’t want to talk about analytics

Here is an interesting confession. I work for an analytics company but I would really rather not think about or talk about analytics. Let me explain. I once worked with an operations director. He had a great team of analysts. He valued their work and was interested in the information they gave him but the mention of algorithms or spreadsheets made his eyes glaze over. When I met him for the first time he happened to be in the room where we were meeting his team. The technically-minded contingent quickly got caught up in fast-paced conversation. There was a feeling […]

Regular Expressions for IBM SPSS Modeler: performance comparison

The Regular Expressions for IBM SPSS Modeler node pack provides 4 nodes that integrate the power and flexibility of regular expression pattern matching into SPSS Modeler. However, some of these capabilities can be supported using the extension nodes built into SPSS Modeler and that begs the question – why buy the Regular Expression nodes? One obvious answer is ease of use. The extension nodes built into SPSS Modeler require expertise in either R or Python programming languages since they are general “code” nodes. Although many data scientists may already have that expertise, most people use SPSS Modeler because of its […]

Don’t overlook the value of quick wins in your analytics project

I was talking to a potential client recently who was frustrated by the lack of ‘real analysis’ happening in his organisation. He had a team of analysts working for him, most of whom were using Excel when he really wanted them to be using Python. Although we don’t generally recommend Excel for advanced analytics – see my earlier blog on this topic – it’s still a useful tool that can generate real insight and is heavily in use in many organisations. Quick wins are important This idea that ‘real analytics’ only happens if you’re using what are, for many people, […]

A first look at SPSS Modeler v18.2

In this video Jarlath Quinn takes a first look at SPSS Modeler v18.2 and demonstrates some of the new functionality that’s included within this release. IBM® SPSS® Modeler adds the following features in this release. New look and feel. A new modern interface theme is available via Tools > User Options > Display. For instructions on switching to the new theme. New data views. You can now right-click a data node and select View Data to examine and refine your data in new ways with advanced data visualizations. IBM Data Warehouse. Database modeling with IBM Netezza Analytics now supports IBM Data Warehouse. Gaussian Mixture node. A new Gaussian Mixture node is available on […]

Expert insights: Major Lester, founder of SPSS UK talks about fifty years of SPSS

This year SPSS is 50 years old. Development started in 1965 by a team of political scientists, frustrated at how much time they had to spent on manual data cleaning before they could start their analysis. The first release was in 1968 and by the end of the 1960s SPSS was in use in over 60 universities. SPSS expanded into the UK in 1985 and Major Lester was its first employee. We spoke to him about the history of SPSS, why it’s been so successful and how he sees its future. Lorna: Could you start off just by talking to […]

Three questions to ask when reading articles about artificial intelligence

You may have noticed by now that there seem to be a couple of recurring themes in the plethora of articles and news programmes about artificial intelligence (AI). These themes can be summed up as a) “The dangers of AI” and b) “The limitations of AI”. Articles addressing the dangers of AI tend to focus on issues such as the threat of widespread job losses to AI, the possibility of inherent bias (such as racism and sexism), the lack of transparency in decisions made by AI systems and, as a result, the inability to plead your case with AI (“Computer […]

Thinking of using spreadsheets for advanced analytics? Think again.

When we’re talking to potential clients about advanced analytics we often ask them what tools they’re currently using. More often than not they say they’re using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are one of the most widely used tools for statistical analysis and of course, most businesses couldn’t run without them. However, when it comes to advanced analytics spreadsheets have some very significant limitations. Use them beyond their capabilities and the potential cost can be significant. As with anything, it’s important to use the right tool for the job. So, what are the things you need to consider when it comes to using […]

Expert insight – Paul Jackson, Head of Advanced Analytics, Bonamy Finch

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be where you are career-wise? I started my career in 2001 at Research International’s Marketing Science Centre, following a degree in Sociology and Social Policy. Back then I was working mainly on analysis of market research surveys. Over time I built up my expertise in branding and segmentation and then joined Bonamy Finch, providers of advanced analytics services to global clients around the world, in 2007. Back then we were mainly serving clients and agencies with statistical analysis and support on surveys, mostly Segmentation, but […]

Expert insight – John Gill, Head of Insight and Analytics, Betfred

Can you start off by telling us a bit about your background, and how you came to be working in the analytics field? I came to analytics via a somewhat circuitous route. My first degree was in psychology, then I did a postgraduate qualification in newspaper journalism. Obviously psychology is all about the science of behaviour which is very relevant to the field I’m now in – analytics and gaming. Newspaper journalism has also been very useful as it’s given me an ability to communicate facts in a way that’s compelling, and that people can understand. Professionally, I started out […]

Expert insight – Nick Di Paulo, Lead Customer Researcher, Hyde Housing Group

Can you start off just by talking a little bit about your background and how you came to be working in analytics in the first place?  Yes, I did research methods at university and was experienced at using spreadsheets and things like that, and that’s where I picked up SPSS, and then I got into survey design and have been working with it for seven or eight years now. In terms of job roles, I’ve moved around quite a bit but in similar kinds of areas with a focus on not for profit, and I’m now in a Customer Insight […]

5 key trends affecting technical training provision in predictive analytics

I have been in the business of delivering software applications and solutions that have advanced and predictive analytics at their core, in one form or another, for last 25 years. In a recent conversation with colleagues we were discussing how the wider market has changed and, more specifically, how this has affected the way that people who analyse data, create predictive models and help their organisations use them go about developing their skills and keeping them up to date. It feels to us that the dramatic developments in the availability and use of technology have had an equivalent impact on […]

Expert insight – Karsten Shaw, Director of Analytics, Populus

Could you start off just by telling us a bit about your background and how you came to be working in the area that you’re working in with analytics? I studied statistics with economics undergraduate level, then I went on to do a Masters in statistics at the LSE part-time whilst I was working at GFK. I worked on a joint project between the LSE and GFK looking at using statistical models to forecast demand for consumer goods. I’ve stayed in the industry since then. I’ve worked across a number of large organisations, and I’m now at Populus. What’s your […]

Expert insight – Matt Harrop, Head of Yield Management and Analytics, Ladbrokes Coral Ltd

What’s your background? How did you come to be working in analytics? I came from an accounting background and then moved into retail where I worked across a variety of teams in finance, marketing analytics and strategy for various different retailers. I then left that to join a consultancy working with loyalty card data. I really got into analytics in that role, and from there I moved across into the gambling industry which of course is very rich in terms of customer data and analytics. I’m now Head of Yield Management and Analytics, leading a team of eight people doing […]

Expert insight – Emma Brooker, Customer Insight Manager, L&Q

What’s your background? How did you come to be working in analytics? I suppose accidentally really. I studied politics at university, then I happened upon a short-term contract for a market research company doing data entry and progressed from there. I found the work interesting and enjoyed the projects I worked on. I moved to L&Q six years ago and have progressed up to where I am now, running the customer insight team. Did you study statistics at university? I had done bits and pieces of analysis as part of my degree but it’s mostly been a case of learning […]

7 things you need to know about key driver analysis (KDA)

In most businesses it’s not enough to simply be measuring outcomes like customer satisfaction, sales, customer churn rates, subscription renewals, customer loyalty, cancellation rates and so on. To gain competitive advantage you also need to know what’s driving those outcomes. Which aspects of the service you provide most influence how likely someone is to renew their subscription at the end of the year? Which factors most drive recommendations? Key driver analysis (KDA) can help you to answer these kinds of questions. KDA enables you to look for relationships between aspects of customers’ attitudes, needs and behaviours that you’re interested in, […]

The benefits of survey research and how online platforms can make the research process more efficient and effective

Surveys remain one of the most popular forms of market research, and consequently we regularly work with customers on large survey-based market research projects. Most commonly this is customer satisfaction surveys, and these can be one of the most valuable forms of data that a company has. We also have clients who conduct broader market research, going beyond their own customer base in order to learn more about a particular market or segment in which they are interested. Of course surveys are not the only way you can find out what your customers think. Sometimes they’ll tell you what they […]

Analytics predictions for 2018

As it is the end of the year I’ve decided to devote this blog post to some thoughts on where we see the analytics market going in 2018. Unlocking the analytics potential of unstructured data Enterprises are collecting ever greater quantities of unstructured data. A recent survey by Forbes showed that the number of organisations with over 100 terabytes of unstructured data has doubled in the last two years. However the same survey showed that only 32% of organisations have successfully analysed unstructured data. We see this changing in 2018 as the power and sophistication of text analytics platforms develops […]

How to ensure advanced analytics gives you a concrete competitive advantage

Most companies these days are aware of the potential value that advanced analytics could offer them. Lots of people are talking the talk of advanced analytics, hiring data scientists and investing in sophisticated analytics technologies. But these things on their own aren’t going to give you the competitive advantage that you’re hoping for. It’s not possible to bolt advanced analytics as an adjunct to your marketing or strategy function and hope that the magic will happen just like that. We regularly talk to people who’ve invested a lot of money in advanced analytics software and are wondering why they’re not […]

How will the GDPR affect big data analytics?

With less than a year to go until it comes into effect, organisations are really starting to get to grips with what GDPR will mean in practice. We’ve talked to lots of customers who are concerned about the implications that GDPR might have for the way in which they collect and analyse customer data. Much of what constitutes ‘big data’ is personal data and the use of this kind of data definitely does have implications for data protection, privacy and individuals’ associated rights. And these rights are going to be strengthened by GDPR. So does this spell trouble for big […]

Thinking of hiring a data analyst? What skills should they have?

Many of our clients regularly hire new analysts and we’re often involved in discussions about what the core skills are that they should be looking for. Similarly, I often talk to people looking to build a career in analytics who want to know what skills they need to develop. The most skilled analysts are in high demand because they blend together a range of skills that are rarely found in a single person. Here are the things that I think are really key. Domain knowledge about your industry It’s not enough just to have the technical skills. As we have […]

Do I need SPSS Statistics or Modeler? How to choose the right product for your needs

We often talk to people who are unsure whether they need SPSS Statistics or whether SPSS Modeler might be more suited to their needs. In fact, it’s not always a clear cut choice as to which tool is more appropriate as it depends on the context in which the technology might be used. With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to develop a little infographic to lay out the sorts of things that you should be thinking about when choosing between SPSS Modeler and SPSS Statistics. We can think of the choice as a sort of continuum, […]

Fear and loathing in machine learning

Over the past two years I’ve noticed a steady stream of articles in the mainstream press and business journals centred on the themes of a) the dangers of machine learning 1 2 or b) the limitations of machine learning 3 4. Many of these articles refer to incidents where machine learning initiatives have echoed and exasperated our own biases, prejudices and (frankly racist) behaviours 5. Others have focused on their limitations with providing the sorts of ‘informed, idiosyncratic’ recommendations that humans find effortless. However, for those of us that work in the field of predictive analytics where many of the […]

What do we mean when we talk about data modelling? An overview of different types of models

The real world, whether it be the physical world, for example machines, or the natural world, for example human and animal behaviour, is very complex with many factors, some unknown, determining their behaviour and responses to interventions. Even if every contributory factor to a phenomenon is known, it is unrealistic to expect that the unique contribution of each factor to the phenomenon can be isolated and quantified. Thus, mathematical models are simplified representations of reality, but to be useful they must give realistic results and reveal meaningful insights. In his 1976 paper ‘Science and Statistics’ in the Journal of the […]

Which data science tools should you learn?

I’ve blogged several times now about different aspects of data science. A conversation I’ve been having more and more frequently now is about what tools people should learn if they’re hoping to develop a career in data science. Obviously there are many different factors to be taken into account here. You’ll want to think about whether there’s a tool that’s the standard in your particular industry. You’ll also want to consider whether you want to specialize in a particular area of data science and build a reputation as an expert in a range of related tools, or whether you’d prefer […]

How alternative interfaces can help you get more out of R

Contemporary analytical platforms like SPSS and SAS represent the some of the earliest and yet longest-lived examples of proprietary software in the industry. When we think of the tectonic shifts the technology landscape has witnessed in last four decades, through the mainframe era, the rise of the PC, browser wars, the dotcom bubble, the smartphone revolution to the age of the cloud and big data not to mention the number of once seemingly ubiquitous software tools that no longer dominate the marketplace, it’s incredible to think that the first versions of SPSS and SAS were developed as far back as […]