Insights from data at The Review Group

The Review Group needs reliable data for the evaluation of strategic plans for clients such as Springer Media. However, the client data is often contaminated. With the data preparation tool Alteryx big data sets are cleaned in order to obtain a clear and sharp view.

By Danielle Gruijs, April 2017
Michael Dam and Raffaele Fiorini

The Review Group helps organizations to critically evaluate their business plans. In addition, it provides support for the implementation of the resulting plans. Springer Media, for example, required a strategic assessment of its current commercial process and an improved Go-To-Market approach.

“The first step in our review process is requesting the data,” Michael Dam, one of the founders of The Review Group, tells us. “Data analysis provides answers to questions such as ‘what do your clients need?’ ‘who are your biggest clients?’ and ‘what do these big clients do?’. Take the example of specialized literature for nurses. The data will show the specific content turnaround for nurses per organization and the number of nurses the organization employs. The information thus obtained shows that the average turnaround per nurse is higher for some clients than for others. Knowing how much a nurse can spend on average on specialized literature enables you to determine a target and deploy specific sales and marketing actions.”

“We need the sharpest view possible; white spots, threats and trends.”

A clear picture

For the processing of the data analyses The Review Group cooperates closely with Finext. “We need the sharpest view possible of the situation; white spots, threats, trends,” says Raffaele Fiorini, one of the other founders of The Review Group. “Finext has a better camera for taking this picture and they know how to hold the camera.”

At Springer media the focus was on the bigger clients. However, the results showed that the ‘long tail’ turnover was hidden in the specialized literature for dentists and physical therapists. Raffaele: “Previously, this wasn’t visible in the organization, even though it represents additional revenue opportunities. When the picture is sufficiently clear, you can distinguish elements the client has not yet thought of.”

It should be noted that such analyses are based on the financial data, and not the sales data. Raffaele: “Financial data is hard data, while sales data often also provide contract data.” This sometimes provides astonishing findings. “A sales manager might expect his product group to grow, but the financial data reveal that the client is shifting from one product group to another.”

Jonathan Aardema and Edwin van Buuren

Clean data

In order to run such analyses, it is essential the data is clean. “Springer Media provided a set of 100.000 lines, that still needed to be cleaned,” says Jonathan Aardema of Finext. To quickly and accurately clean this data, Alteryx has been deployed.

“Alteryx is a workflow tool for data analysts,” says Edwin van Buuren of Finext. “It is a strong data cleansing tool; it links databases and looks for connections.” “On top of that, it is user-friendly,” says Jonathan. “If you’re good at working with Excel, you can easily start using this tool. Alteryx is in line with the trend of Self Service BI (SSBI), that allows users to employ the data from a system themselves.”

Michael: “Previously, we performed the data analyses in Excel. That required four times as much time. On top of that, with the right tooling, Edwin and Jonathan can get much more information from the data. This provides us with more insight in the value drivers of the organization.”

Identifiable units

The importance of high quality data cannot be overestimated. “The essence is, the more you know about your client as an organization, the more you can customize your approach,” says Raffaele. “With an overview of all expenses of a hospital, you can tell how big the client is, even if doctors order publications from their home address. Jonathan and Edwin managed to reduce the set to identifiable units.”

“Some client names had been entered in 15 different ways,” Jonathan explains. “We reduced this by applying clever algorithms, so that hundreds of lines could be removed.” Edwin: “The beauty of this tool is the fact that you can prepare a workflow as a kind of script. Because it is very visual, you can see with great detail which steps are being taken; this makes it very easy to tackle things and to make adaptations.”

“Instead of a mysterious black box, the analysis becomes a process that can easily be understood.”

The visual workflow has an additional advantage, Michael says: “It is very convenient to actually show the workflow during presentations, for example at Springer Media.” Jonathan: “It enables you to visualize the steps, which is useful for people who are not well versed in analyzing data. So, instead of a mysterious black box, the analysis becomes a process that can easily be understood.”

Figures in support of assessment

“Before an organization such as Springer Media decides to expand the sales team or to chose a different go-to-market approach, the necessity has to be clear. The data analyses enable us to easily explain this,” Raffaele concludes. Michael confirms this. “It is not only about expanding, but also about the set-up of the sales team. How do you deploy extra capacity? Only relevant data can help answer this, because this is the basis on which you obtain your insights.”

Photography: Ron Jenner

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