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Profound data analytics may be in the most mundane places

At Personifest earlier this week I got to hear Rick Smolan speak on the Human Face of Big Data. Among the many stories he related was one about taxis in the rain in Singapore. Like most big cities, when it rains in Singapore it’s difficult to get a cab. So what researchers did was to overlay weather data with taxi location data in hopes of determining how taxi service could be improved. In a nutshell, what the researchers learned is that when it rains in Singapore, the taxis would park their cars. That’s what the data showed.

After doing some human research (i.e., talking directly to taxi drivers), the researchers learned that taxi drivers were, in fact, parking their cars during rain storms. They did this to avoid accidents, because at the time in Singapore, if you were in an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault, you had to put up a $1,000 bond while the crash was investigated. Most cabbies didn’t want to do this, so voila, don’t drive in the rain. It was that simple. (As a result Singapore changed their laws related to this, so hopefully now it’s easier to get a cab in the rain!)

This story reminded me of something the Texas Medical Association did several years ago, which I wrote about here. They overlaid their membership data with data from their insurance provider, and found nearly a thousand non-members participating in a members-only program. TMA was able to convert almost all of those non-members to membership.

In both cases, the data analysis did not require thousands of hours of manipulation. It was simply comparing one set of data to another and making a profound discovery. Sometimes the biggest discoveries can be found in the simplest set of data.

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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