Elon Business Analytics Conference hosts industry experts, reveals latest industry trends

Data scientists shared their insights and experiences utilizing big data, and how it will continue to impact the business sector.

By Caroline Perry ’18

The 2018 Elon Business Analytics Conference hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics and the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business offered insights by analytics experts on topics such as the future of analytics.

More than 90 professionals, faculty and students participated in the April 5 event held at the SAS Institute Inc. campus in Cary, N.C.  Themed “Analytics in Action: Trends You Need to Know,” the conference covered trends in the analytics field through seven sessions. 

In his welcome, Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, stressed the importance of analytics in business and in the university curriculum.

John Elder, CEO and founder of Elder’s Research, kicked-off the event with his presentation, “The Data Science Revolution in Industry.”  He covered many examples of how big data has been a powerful force in many industries and his experience working with clients.

“The client must trust you to trust your technology,” Elder said. 

The next session, “Charting Collections of Connections in Social Media: Creating Maps and Measures with NodeXL,” was presented by Marc Smith, founder of NodeXL.  He discussed the capabilities of NodeXL, an add-in that supports social network and content analysis. 

“The goal is not to make a network map,” Smith said.  “It’s to make a million network maps.”

The free Microsoft Excel add-in lets users explore network graphs of social media.  

Gayle Bieler, director of the Center for Data Science at RTI International, presented “From Statistics to Data Science Startup: Transformation Within a Large Research Organization.” She shared some of RTI International’s many successes, including its work redesigning the arrest-related deaths program for the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

Currently, there is no federally-sponsored data collection program that adequately measures the number of arrest-related deaths in the U.S., but RTI’s methodology aims to eliminate that gap. 

“RTI’s mission is to improve the human condition,” Bieler said. 

Next, Tom Capotosto, director of Advanced Analytics at General Motors, presented “Analytics at GM.”

“Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years,” Capotosto said.  He described how GM is processing and analyzing this huge data influx. 

“Sales forecasting happens at multiple levels – industry, segment and vehicle – and along multiple horizons – the next month, the next two years, even the next 10 plus years,” said Capotosto. 

“Big Data and Big Analytics – Opportunities for Inter-disciplinary Innovation” was hosted by Radhika Kulkarni, vice president of Advanced Analytics R&D at SAS, and Udo Sglavo, senior director of R&D at SAS. 

The duo explained the power of analytics, from driving business decisions to finding hidden talent in soccer teams. 

“The ability to mix and match multiple analytical domains is absolutely necessary,” Kulkarni said.

They were followed up by Jeff Holoman, director of sales for the southeast at DataRobot. He presented “Automating Machine Learning: A practical guide to AI adoption.”

DataRobot is an automated machine learning platform that allows data scientists to build and deploy accurate predictive models. Holoman said that the platform helps users find the best algorithm for the data. To prove his point, Holoman did a tutorial of the platform. 

“Advanced tools make business people more technical and technical people more business focused,” Holoman said.

Scott Langfeldt, founder and CEO of APEX Data Science, closed the conference with “Transforming Your Business with AI.”

“AI is smart, not intelligent,” Langfeldt said.  He focused on how AI is impacting the world, and how businesses and people can incorporate it into their organizations.