A Framework for Analytical Consulting in Business Contexts (March 25, 2021)

Sam Woolford (Bentley University) reviews the overall context for analytical consulting in business.Sam Woolford (Bentley University) provides a live demo of the application that was developed for determining the frequency and response times of leaks for a gas utility company.

If analytical consulting is an area where you would like to improve your skills or simply become more familiar with the nuances involved in performing analytical consulting in a business setting then Sam Woolford (Bentley University) should be very high on your list of individuals to talk to.  Sam has had a broad range of experience in a variety of business contexts.  Add to this his experience as Professor of Statistics at Bentley University where he served as the founding Director of the Center for Analytics and Data Science Consulting.  It was from this wealth of experience that he shared an extensive review of the framework that he applies to analytical business consulting.  

The Topics

In the first segment of this tutorial, Sam provided a foundation for analytical business consulting.  He described the various aspects of complex, often poorly defined business problems that are important to understand and take into account in order to solve. These problems typically do not have a single perfect solution and any solution typically requires the linkage of multiple analytic methodologies and the integration of data from a range of sources.  Examples that Sam discussed included customer profitability, software replacement, customer segmentation, cost allocation and the development a new job evaluation system.

Through personal examples of doing this type of work, Sam made it clear that other consulting skills, beyond analytic skills, are required to reach an implementable solution to these business problems.  These consulting skills, particularly skills related to communication, stakeholder analysis, project management, teamwork and financial analysis, support the translation of the analytics into business problem solutions and into management decisions that lead to sustainable organizational change. 

A solution is not a solution if it is not understood and implemented.
Sam Woolford (Bentley University)

Sam shared an analytical framework that he applies in business consulting contexts.  Pictured below, it outlines the different phases of the analytic consulting process.


Besides the descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytic phases, the process highlights an initial translation phase to transform these complex, often ill-defined business problems into quantitative frameworks which yield to analytic methodologies (e.g. data science, statistics, computer science, operations research etc.) Finally, the process includes an application phase to integrate the analytic results into feasible decision options to solve the original business problem. Sam proceeded to walk through each of these phases in detail, providing a case study from a gas utility that explored the nuances of implementation. Using the case study Sam was able to establish the importance of the application of the non-technical skills he referenced, many not taught in technical academic programs!  Moreover, Sam also made it clear that these skills are often critical for analytical consultants in business if they want to be able to provide actionable solutions to real business problems. While there are many technical components involved in the case study, Sam’s examples focused on the critical nature of the non-technical tools that help the analytical consultant make appropriate decisions throughout the problem solution.

You don’t need to be able to do it all, but you do need to be able to talk to it all.
Sam Woolford (Bentley University)

Sam concluded by reviewing a comprehensive list of non-technical capabilities that are commonly utilized.  These include business/organizational knowledge, along with a wide range of consulting skills which facilitate the application of analytics in the solution of complex business problems. 

Access to Materials

The Essential Data Science for Business tutorials provide so many details! Models, methods, software, examples!  If you were not able to attend this live session you can still access a recording of the session.  Use the Registration Option "Post Session Access" on the event webpage, pay the $35 fee, and NISS will provide you with access to all the materials for this session. Or register for the full series of ten tutorials, and NISS will provide all the links to all of sessions in the Data Science series.

What’s Up Next?

There is only the final tutorial of the Essential Data Science for Business tutorial series!  Don’t miss this last session!

  • May 12, 2021: Instructors Victor Lo & Dessislava Pachamanova, "Prescriptive Analytics and Optimization" (see event page!)
Thursday, March 25, 2021 by Glenn Johnson