How to Implement Data Science for Your Business Part 1: The Data Science Workflow

If you work for a small or medium-sized business or startup, implementing Data Science and predictive analytics could have a huge impact on your organization. Unlocking the insights hidden in your data will undoubtedly lead to better decision making and potentially give you a leg up in your industry.

Unfortunately, figuring out how to do that seems really complicated. Most of what you read online will present Data Science as an overly convoluted field that is completely inaccessible to the average businessperson. It almost feels like you need a Master's in Computer Science just to get in the door!

This is a real shame, however, because Data Science really has to be accessible to the average businessperson in order for it to be effective. When used properly, data answers questions and guides key decision making across an organization. Most key decision makers, it turns out, aren't PhD's in Computer Science with a strong stats background. So the idea that Data Science is only accessible to the experts doesn't make a lot of sense when you really think about it.

The reality is that many small businesses without a big technical staff are still getting a lot out of Data Science and analytics by setting up simple but powerful Data Science workflows that bring insight to the right people.

These workflows typically look different, but they have a few things in common.
  • They begin by gathering data and storing it an logical way
  • They apply some type of statistical analysis to that data
  • They present the findings of that statistical analysis in a manner that key decision makers can understand
A really simple example might look like this:
  1. Key sales data is entered into a spreadsheet and maintained by a single employee
  2. In that same spreadsheet, a pivot table is used to calculate a few simple metrics for each sales rep such as total sales volume and average deal size
  3. An email is sent out every month to the sales staff with those metrics as well as a few key findings/takeaways
This example is pretty basic, but it still contains all of the 3 keys to a Data Science workflow. The data is gathered and stored in an excel spreadsheet, simple statistical analysis is done in the pivot table, and the findings are reported to key stakeholders via the monthly email report.

OK, it might be a little generous to call that "Data Science," so here's a slightly more complicated example:
  1. Stock price data is scraped on a regular basis and stored in an SQL database
  2. A DBSCAN clustering algorithm identifies clusters of stocks whose daily prices tend to move in tandem
  3. A Tableau dashboard is built that compares an individual stock's price performance to it's cluster's price performance, potentially identifying stocks whose price might correct in the short-term to fall back in line with the larger group performance
Compared to maintaining a spreadsheet, this example seems much more complicated. Data is scraped into an SQL database instead of being entered manually, the statistical analysis is much more complicated than calculating simple sums and averages, and the reporting is done using an interactive dashboard instead of manually typing up an email. But if you look a little deeper, the two examples have the same fundamental pattern.

More importantly, however, both examples are extremely accessible to any small business, possibly with just a little bit of outside help. A person at your company with the right idea, and a consultant with the right know-how could easily make the second example into a reality in less than a week of working together. If you are reading a blog post on an analytics website then you probably have some bright ideas of how your organization could use Data Science. And that same analytics website just so happens to be for a Data Science consulting company that has the right know-how...

Perhaps the only thing left to do is to reach out to see just how close you really are to making that idea a reality that could have a major positive impact on your business!