Live-Blog from Digital Analytics Association’s Seattle Symposium 2015

November 12, 2015

I’m at the 2015 Digital Analytics Association’s Seattle Chapter Symposium with many from the team here at Analytics Pros.  The event is hosted by Microsoft at their Conference Center in Redmond (great hosts, great venue – thanks Microsoft!).  The day is packed with a great agenda and speakers, so stay tuned for insights into the digital analytics industry!

Quick Links




Third Session: How Anyone Can Tell Stories with Data

Alexandra Samuel, Author of Work Smarter with Social Media, Writer for Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal

  • Example of Jawbone story using data to analyze global sleep patterns
  • Usually talks to people who love to tell stories and are scared of data, not the other way around!
  • Example: story of “from Pinterest to Purchase
  • The key: use dat to move from numbers to a story
  • What do you need to know to take your warehouse of data and turn it into a story?
    • Principle #1: Use Your Factory Seconds
    • Principle #2: Create linkable assets
      • Example: Home Advisor took data on frauds and scams and turned it into an infographic and got huge returns
    • Principle #3: Turn by-products into content
    • Principle #4: Find a timely hook
    • Principle #5: Find the media angle
      • Think about your data in a way that the media would like it and want to write about it
      • Example: NY Times story about search data and “two americas”
      • Think about on-site search analytics – what does your data tell about the people behind the data, people in general not just your customers
    • Principle #6: Release recurring or longitudinal data
    • Principle #7: Get over your sample size obsession
      • Think “data informed” vs. precise data
  • Q&A:
    • What tools do you use for infographics?
      • (My addition:


Second Session: Putting Analytics in the Hands of the Business

Kyle Wierenga, Costco, Manager of Advanced Analytics

  • Costco runs a huge business with extremely thin margins (about 2.3%)
  • Data is essential to successfully running a business at such scale and margins
  • The vision: make data available and usable for Costco
  • With the data vision in place, the strategy is next and should include:
    • Focus on increasing revenue, reducing cost or both
    • Gain both enterprise architecture and executive support
    • Identify key areas like churn analysis

churn analysis

  • Analytics wins help grow the analytics practice at Costco
    • Explain your work to gain support
  • Building the team – hiring in a team approach
    • Evaluate skills needed on the team
    • Build a skills matrix
      analytics skills matrix
    • Interview scorecard
    • Technical interview
    • Manager interview
    • Make hire
    • Onboard
    • Assign internal mentor
    • Track skills against skills matrix over time
  • Another view of necessary analytics skills
    another view of analytics skills
  • Interview Scorecard
    • Fill out during interview for manager and practitioner perspective
    • Drill into areas where candidates self-rated really high
      interview scorecard
  • Team Structure: 3 key areas of emphasis
    • Project Management
    • Data Visualization
    • Data Science/Data Mining
      areas of emphasis for training
  • Team Training
    • 80/20 Pareto principle
    • Encourage to use 20% of company time towards learning new or expanding on current skills
    • Provide opportunities to learn
    • Attend internal meet-ups
      • Python
      • Tableau
      • Leadership
    • Support conference requests
    • Provide internal self-paced education
      • Kyle has a person focused on internal education – awesome!
      • Exercises are designed to use internal Costco data so learnings are more relevant to the business
  • Where Costco is today
    • Implementing a roadmap to expand advanced analytics across the enterprise
      • Old reporting:
        old reporting method
      • New reporting (Tableau based):
        new reporting method using tableau
    • Current areas supported are:
      • Ecommerce – improving search capabilities and addinity analysis
      • Marketing – churcn improvement, livetime value of members, market penetration, executive upgrades
      • Social analytics – apply patterns learned to increase customer satisfaction.
      • Other insights, like weather and local events (if a hurricane is coming, what will people buy?  If a big concert is happening, what will people shop for?)
  • A look at the competition
    • Macy’s – dynamic pricing for over 73 million items
    • Walmart – semantic data processing from search keyword text analysis, increasing results 10-15%
    • Kroger – using physical shopping cart sensors to decrease checkout delays
    • Home Depot – used analytics to optimize supply chain and decrease out of stock by 37%
  • Kyle will be speaking next year:
    • New York in January
    • San Diego in February
    • London in March


First Session: DAA Introduction

Steve Petitpas, Microsoft and DAA Board Member

Steve gave a great intro and recap on the role of the DAA and our industry.  The big takeaway is the DAA’s skill competency framework and professional self-assessment (exclusively for members).  These are great resources to help Digital Analytics professionals gauge their skill level and assess where they can focus to enhance their expertise and career.  Check it out!