Why Data Science Part 2
The Power of BI
Seeing the way that Power BI took what had spent years doing, one command at a time, and executed it at the click of a button, was a leap forward like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Data manipulation is intuitive and forgiving like never before. The analysis process has been broken into phase specific Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to guide users through the most sensible order of operations. I immediately turned this tool to a skills assessment survey that we had delivered to a client the week previous.
Initially we had delivered a spreadsheet over 100 columns long, laying out the skill ratings for over twenty of their team members. The client had asked for a breakout by team and by Individual, which we generated by using a macro to separate out each individual and team into a unique excel file, but the lengths made it unusable. The client asked us to give them the results in a format that was more user friendly, so our team spent several days manually transforming it into a marginally better product, copying and pasting hundreds of rows into their own tabs and manually saving off documents. This product was met with a tepid response from the client.
I took what I had learned about Power BI and conducted an ETL on the results. In the course of one weekend, we transformed this difficult, un-intuitive survey result into an easy to use dashboard that displayed results by category, team, and for the business unit as a whole. We also calculated and displayed areas where there was misalignment in understanding between the managers and the individual contributors. I presented this to my leadership to send back to the client as a free value add, as a way of demonstrating our continually evolving capabilities and commitment to their success. It was rejected and never used – the stated reason being that clients wouldn’t be able to understand it.
A New Level of Understanding
Data visualization allows us to define the world around in infinitely more ways than we can with our basic senses. You can see the world in ways that you never would have dreamt of before, revealing new insights about an area where you’ve lived for twenty years. For years humans have dreamt of omniscience – the ability to see and know all things that was once confined to the domain of the divine. The developing relationship between man and machine being driven by companies like Google and Facebook is driven by these new capabilities. This is the field of innovation that will enable us to understand our universe with machine learning, our species with big data, and ourselves with bioinformatics. This is the most interesting thing happening right now.
There is, in my opinion, no similar frontier in other fields. Our ability to intake, process, and understand data at scale opens the doors for knowledge and power of action in a way that would have been science fiction only a few years ago. We can hardly call ourselves data scientists just yet – but that’s where we’re heading as we develop our portfolio, our clients, and our business. The future will be built with data.