For more key insights from Data Innovation Day, click here to get a FREE copy of DMA’s book on “data-driven consumers.” 

Big data is not just a buzzword anymore, but a new tool for business life — one that requires having strategies in place for managing large volumes of both organized and unstructured data. With the reality of big data comes the challenge of analyzing it in a way that brings real business value – and a rise in consumer expectation for a “Netflix experience” in all their interactions.  During Data Innovation Day on Jan. 22, data scientists, technologists, civic leaders, and other experts discussed how data-driven innovation is helping to grow the economy and create a better world.

The Center for Data Innovation brought together Stefan Heeke (Executive Director,, Alan Inouye (Director of the Office for IT Policy, American Library Association), Max Richman (Chapter Leader, DataKind DC and Chief Data Scientist, GeoPoll), Jesse St. Charles (Director of Data Science, Knewton) and Andrew Zaleski (Freelance Journalist) to discuss Data for Public Good: Healthcare, Education, Public Safety and the Environment.

Data is about personalization and determining your consumers’ wants and needs. Overall, the panel agreed that data must be gathered, organized, made interpretable, and then analyzed and acted on to provide meaningful value. In order to do so, you have to be able to make decisions quickly, organize it, and interpret it in real time. In order to achieve this, you need to set aside time and gather a supportive community.

Data is not only continuously being innovated, it’s also bettering communities and organizations alike.

For example, Heeke shared’s use of data in order to curate information about homelessness within the area. Through smart data collection, they were able to predict the degree of homelessness in an area four months before it would occur. Data is empowering them to clean the streets for communities and help needy individuals better themselves.

Being able to understand the concept of data usage in your organization can also be a challenge, said St. Charles, but “it just takes time and being exposed to it” in order to build the trust in data. “The shift in perception is coming,” he said.  It’s just taking the time to try out the different ways of implementing data into your organization and understanding that in the long run, it will be beneficial.

How will this benefit the government as well as organizations?

“Expectations are being raised by commercial web technologies that are out there. People want the ‘Netflix experience’ for their businesses, start-ups, social sector organizations, etc.,” Richman said. Customers want this experience not only with organizations they’re part of, but also with the government. Customers want to hear “try this and try that” from their leaders because they trust that they’ll have insight into what is really going on within their industry and what customers want to hear about.

Zaleski described the “government as a data curator” because the different municipalities will come together to create one local collection of data with all of their information to benefit the community. Coming together with their data will allow the governments to be able to find ways to run their offices better and more efficiently. “Data paired with a policy shift can drive public good,” Zaleski said. For example, an officer patrolling the neighborhood may notice more crime occurring during a specific time of the day.  That data would then be inputted, along with data from other officers in the area, giving the department better insight into when and where to enforce more patrols.

Building community is crucial.  Richman stated becoming a part of the data-driven environment can be time-consuming and costly, and it can be difficult to dedicate time out of your busy day to go to local events, hack-a-thons, and see what’s out there to benefit you and your organization. To solve that problem, tap into your local communities of geeks and volunteers to see if you can recruit help; “you’ll be illuminated” with the success you can pull together. 

Be part of the data-driven community and explore more data-driven issues at the Email Evolution Conference 2015, February 2-4, the Marketing Analytics Conference, (MAC), March 9, and Mobile Marketing Day, March 12.