15 September 2015 13:57:05 IST

An ‘I-know-my-business’ attitude can be value depleting


Speakers at a seminar at SSN’s SACE highlight importance of analytics and data visualisation

In today’s age of predictive data analysis, a major hurdle an analytics company faces from its potential customers is the ‘I know my business better’ attitude. Those who make a pitch for a data analytics job often need to overcome this, said Dr Sheela Siddappa, Head, Global Delivery for Analytics programme, Bosch India.

The way to cross this hurdle, Dr Siddappa told students of SSN School of Advanced Career Education in Chennai, is to first acknowledge that the client knows their business best, and then say “we could perhaps help”.

Dr Siddappa was speaking in early September at Analytica 2015, a programme meant to expose students to data analytics.


“Analytics is the science of picking up hidden trends in the huge mass of data. Data analytics can throw up surprises, which could help businesses fine-tune their strategies,” Dr Siddappa, who has a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, US, said. Incidentally, her doctoral thesis was on ‘Airline Revenue Management’. She gave an example of a project that Bosch India recently undertook for a client — a car dealer.

The car dealership, which calculated that it spent ₹20,000 on customer acquisition, wanted help in finding out which enquiries to follow, when and from what level. The question was: what is the probability of an enquiry being converted into an order, and whom to follow up with?

Taking the students through the details of the project, Dr Siddappa said the data relating to customer enquiries showed that the more details the enquirer gave about themselves in the forms, the more likely they were to make a purchase. Similarly, if the follow-up of the enquiry did not result in an order in the first week of the enquiry, the chances of it translating into business were slim.

At the end of the analysis, which looked into data on 3,464 enquiries, Bosch was able to predict conversions into orders with 100 per cent, and non-conversions with 98 per accuracy.

Huge shortage of talent

In the panel discussion that followed Dr Siddappa’s address, experts spoke about the emerging demand for talent in data analytics, globally.

Rajesh Jakhotia, Director, Positive Integers, said that India could be a big supplier of talent. He observed that there were four skill-sets relevant to data analytics — domain knowledge, flair for numbers, tools and techniques, and the ability to visualise and convey information. He said that if students had any two of the four abilities, they could get into data analytics. “We will develop the business skills for you,” he said.

Venugopal Jarugumalli and Prashant Singh, both from CISCO, made a joint presentation on “360-degree view of customer – big picture through big data” and explained that text mining tools could analyse structured as well as unstructured data, and added that a person could ‘analyse the past, describe the present and predict the future’ with these tools. “Four quadrants form the 360 degree view of the customer — know your customer, listen to customer interactions, health check of customer and prescribe value-add,” they said.

Data visualisation

Speaking about trends, Raghavshyam Ramamurthy, data visualisation consultant at Wilson Consulting, observed that, companies took to computing only in the 1990s, and in the following decade began to understand the importance of managing by numbers.

“In the current decade, the accent has shifted to making sense of all the data,” he said, adding, “A powerful tool to generate insights into data is ‘data visualisation’.”

“No amount of computing power can replace what we see and understand with our eyes,” Ramamurthy said. However, he warned that data visualisation cannot be an ad-hoc approach that uses jazzy but meaningless graphics. If data is not presented in a proper visual form, key insights could get lost, he said.