Attending the Utah Data & Analytics Summit

I honestly believe that Utah should set up a flag and claim they’re the analytics capital of the United States.

We live in an amazing age of information. At any given moment I can learn the newest name change for Ron Artest (was Metta World Peace, now The Pandas Friend), watch Mike Tyson and Bobby Brown sing the “Monster Mash” (terrifyingly hilarious), or discover the state that spends the longest average time surfing porn sites (Mississippi, pat yourself on the back). What a world!

From a business data standpoint, the problem comes from trying to take this enormous amount of information and turn it into something valuable, a question addressed time and again at the Utah Data and Analytics Summit.

“How do you correlate it (data)? How do you mash everything together? It’s a real challenge,” said Domo President Chris Harrington.

So how does a company go about refining and perfecting the way they process data? After attending UDAS, I realized something; like Lost, the data and analytic worlds provide certain answers while at the same time raising even more questions.

In the past, the term data carried with it certain negative connotations — nerdy, overwhelming, useless. Nowadays, you don’t have to be a bowlegged stat geek to realize there is legitimate value in the data industry. More and more Utah companies are investing in the process of quickly and efficiently analyzing enormous amounts of data, with many of them — MX, Domo, Insidesales — taking full advantage of the benefits.

“What is the big data that is most valuable, how do you acquire that data and then how do you properly leverage that data to increase efficiency and make the world a fundamentally better place?” asked MX CEO Ryan Caldwell.

Caldwell spoke on his company’s strategy of handling data, comparing the data industry to oil fields. Certain fields are currently being tapped (search engines, social media), while others (financial data) remain largely untouched. In order to deep-dive into each separate data field, he gave a simple three-part strategy: engage, analyze, and target. Basically, you need to create incentive for your users to share data with you, take that gathered data and decide what your strategy is, and then determine what specific areas you want to attack. When a company is able to effectively do that, making a personalized experience becomes that much easier.

Keith Warnick, a Data Scientist at HireVue, expounded on the value of analyzing data. With HireVue, customers are granted access to the “world’s first candidate and interviewer recommendation engine” — prospective employers can browse through an online database of people being asked the same questions, eliminating the variables that exist in the normal face-to-face interviewing process. Because they have so much data at their disposal, HireVue is able to use different strategies — specific validation exercises tailored to profession, facial recognition software, even assessing verbal tics — to best match employer and employee.

“The sky is the limit with what you can do with the cutting edge of data,” Warnick said.

As the Utah tech and startup scene continues to explode, advanced data and analytics are becoming more prominently involved in many businesses. Events like the Utah Data and Analytics Summit show not only the rise in interest, but the staying power and opportunity presented by both fields. Mark Gorenberg, Managing Director of Zetta Ventures and UDAS panel participant, summed it up best.

“I honestly believe that Utah should set up a flag and claim they’re the analytics capital of the United States.”

Published 1/23/2015

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