Rob Wavra, Senior Director of Predictive Analytics at Novetta, Derek Strauss, Chief Data Officer of TD Ameritrade, and other senior executives are meeting in Dallas, TX, November 10 to kick off the Beyond Big Data Analytics event series, for an off-the-record discussion of the possibilities and pitfalls of Big Data. Topics include:
- Driving ROI from your Big Data analytics investments
- Leveraging Hadoop and predictive analytics
- Identifying key resources for a successful Big Data analytics program.
In this Q&A, we’ll share more about Rob’s role and priorities, as well as his perspective on predictive analytics and leveraging Hadoop in enterprise Big Data initiatives to deliver ROI.
What are the key priorities for the Senior Director of Predictive Analytics at Novetta?
Doing good work for clients is always important. We’re in an amazingly competitive market for analytics talent, so attracting, growing, and retaining talent is a huge part of having a vibrant practice. Beyond this, I want to make sure we’re pushing the envelope, not just in applying new techniques, but making the right R&D investments to create new capabilities and keep our skilled analysts engaged in a variety of ways (internal R&D, client work, and community building).
How has your role been impacted by the growth and evolution of Big Data? For example, when you first began, you weren’t focused on certain things that you are now.
Big Data has become a household word, making the public more aware of the potential power of data analysis and attracting talented people to our space. Many uses of the term are more marketing than substance, but it’s undeniable that its popularity has driven customers to ask questions they’d never have asked before.
What’s the most commonly misunderstood concept with regard to Big Data analytics? What do you see as one of the most important factors in deriving ROI from Big Data analytics investments?
Too often, people think (hope?) that predictive analytics will find not only a potential answer, but also figure out the question and tell them what to do. Analysis is definitely a two-way street, helping with theory building as much as theory testing, but it isn’t magic. Our outputs are meant to be decision support, not decisions.
How can businesses leverage Hadoop and predictive analytics?
I think it’s better to frame this in terms of how to take advantage of inexpensive compute and storage to answer tough questions and get deeper insights into their business. The wrong answer is to simply toss all of your data into a pile and hope that use cases and insights emerge. Too many projects are focused on transitioning to Hadoop or using Spark without any real sense of why. And not why in the abstract–Hadoop has tons of benefits–why for your business. The best efforts in this area focus on building the right infrastructure in parallel while building credibility through addressing tangible, often narrower than we’d like, business problems. Two years of building a data lake doesn’t cut it.
Describe what you see as the top two or three Big Data analytics resources for businesses.
Aside from a good partner? I think businesses and agencies need to have leaders with a vision for using data to inform operations, they require enough internal technical talent to enable analytics, and the change management competencies to apply what they learn to their business. Even without these, projects can be successful, but they will require extra attention, time, and stronger outside advisors
Ummm…where are all the data scientists?
This is a question we get during initial meetings all the time. Novetta is stronger because our team is interdisciplinary – we’ve combined “traditional” data scientists, trained in CS and/or statistics, along with political scientists, sociologists, neuroscientists, operations researchers, and SMEs. One of our small teams tackling maritime trafficking, as an example, bring together a highly skilled data analyst, a PhD political scientist, and an intel analyst who served in the USCG. Other teams are heavier on data, engineering or the business topic at hand, depending on the problem set, but we’re always interdisciplinary. Analytical insights don’t just come from picking the right model. Analytical insights also require the right people with the right expertise.
Connect with Rob to continue this conversation on LinkedIn.
Interested in the Beyond Big Data Analytics event in Dallas on November 10? Contact Valerie Shaw (vshaw at novetta.com) to find out if space is still available.