The Challenges of Real World Analytics: A Case Study of a Municipal Water Authority Data Analysis
Franklin Publishing Company
Franklin Business and Law Journal
In the consulting world, companies hire statistical consultants to help them understand very large data sets. From the consultant’s point of view, these data sets will often, if not always, have many inconsistencies in the data. Without careful review and preparation of the data submitted by a company for some review, it can take a significant amount of time to simply get the data into the correct format for analysis. It is often true that the management of the company not only has the data in very poor format, but they find it hard to clearly state what exact goal they have or question they would like answered. This is a twofold problem. Not only is cleaning the data imperative, but the consultant must begin to make some overall sense of the data and formulate possible questions that can be answered with the current data. This seems straightforward, but it is quite time-consuming. This paper reviews a consulting project with a municipal water authority. The water authority wanted analytical help understanding data that they collected, and they had vague notions as to what information could truly be gleaned from the data. It took well over a year to clean the data to an understandable format and to clarify any actual and meaningful questions that could be addressed. This is a problem that consultants wrestle with on a regular basis. In the final analysis for this project, the consultants could only suggest to the water authority that it was necessary to secure more information so that more in depth analysis could be completed.