One of the biggest concerns in data analytics is the bias when it comes to decision-making. Some groups might be at a disadvantage, while some may have a kick-start due to their nature, say in loan or job applications. In a developing world, however, this bias should be acknowledged and addressed to realise a more progressive environment.
This issue was discussed at the recent QlikWorld 2021 virtual conference, with speakers that included Dr Paul Barth, Head of Data Literacy, Qlik; Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Writer and Mechanical Engineer; and Dr Hannah Fry, Public Speaker, Author and Associate Professor.
The discussion began with one important question: “How can data and analytics help us uncover when we are being biased in our decision-making?”
For Yasmin, the first thing we need to acknowledge is that cognitive biases are something that impacts all of us. She added that various forms of bias exist either consciously or not and that humans need to recognise such biases for us to be aware of our decisions.
Hannah thought the same, saying that we should not have a conversation about removing bias but rather, it should be about acknowledging it. For her, a perfect bias-free system is impossible. “That bias is going to be there. Eradicating issues around fairness and eradicating bias completely are not going to be possible when we live in a biased world. And our technology is really a mirror of the existing inequalities that we have,” added Hannah.
However, there are various ways this bias can be mitigated or even prevented. For one, data literacy plays a big role in data analytics as more and more people know the importance of data early in their lives.
For Hannah, if we actually start to incorporate data early in school, like geography and history, it will demystify and stop making data feel like a magical potion that only certain people know how to use.
To improve data literacy in organisations, Yasmin advised introducing more data-centric projects, discuss data analytics in retrospect and work with data for anyone in the business.
When it comes to automated data analytics tools and humans operating them, Hannah believes that there is a really tricky balance between human and machine and that you cannot cut the human out altogether. For example, if an AI or machine-learning tool caused a catastrophic failure, there should be a human ready to step in.
Most important of all, the speakers highlighted the need for diversity across data analytics teams. For instance, Yasmin shared her experience about being in a diverse team herself, saying that it was actually hard work being in one. However, she believes that it is that hard work that actually gets us the best outcome, adding that diverse teams will get us more robust and better decisions.
“But I do want to let people know that it's okay if it feels awkward and if it feels like a lot of work because ultimately, that discomfort is where there is growth,” she ended.
Activating “Intelligence” to Get Real-Time, Up-to-Date Information
Earlier on during the keynote address, the CEO of Qlik, Mike Capone, kicked off the event by sharing Qlik’s strategic vision and roadmap and demonstrated how Qlik is helping customers activate their data for “impact”.
In a world where the move to the cloud and SaaS went into hyperspeed and the thirst for real-time data grew practically overnight, Mike asked a very important question, “How can we go faster and leverage more data?”
According to Mike, Qlik is a company with the right technology and vision to help customers make the crucial pivot from the old ways of BI to a more modern approach – an approach that allows customers to go from passive, dashboard-based consumption to operating at the speed of data.
This unique approach means more real-time data, more automation and more insights in the hands of decision-makers, where it can make a real difference in their business. He added that Qlik is the only technology platform that has all the pieces in place to deliver on this vision.
Mike then shared how Qlik has worked with many customers to help them become more data-driven, including:
Novartis: A multinational pharmaceutical company that is one of the largest and most successful biopharma companies in the world. Novartis has gone all-in on standardising with Qlik Sense. They are one of Qlik’s largest customers, having started with QlikView more than 10 years ago, replacing Excel, Tableau, Business Objects and Cognos along the way to standardise on Qlik. Every single day, every salesperson in Novartis goes into meetings armed with data from Qlik to help them drive more top-line revenue.
British Telecom: Their subsidiary, BT Consumer, has 30,000 employees and 20 million customers. BT Consumers had a non-existent self-service analytics capability and dabbled with less efficient technologies such as Oracle Business Intelligence for ‘reporting’ and Microsoft Excel for ‘analytics’. Qlik Sense has transformed BT’s business so that it can be completely data-driven. Today, the BT Consumer Head Office has more than one thousand Qlik Sense apps in production for one thousand plus employees.
Kendra Scott: They’re investing in Qlik as a key transformation agent across their entire business. They have a large Qlik Sense SaaS deployment rolling out now in support of enterprise sales service analytics and their corporate cloud strategy. They chose Qlik Sense SaaS for faster time-to-value with less IT overhead.
Also present at the conference was the company’s Chief Product Officer, James Fisher, who talked about Qlik’s vision in enabling ‘Active Intelligence’. He explained that Active Intelligence makes the most up-to-date information available at the most important moment. It also vastly accelerates the movement of data across the organisation by automating processes like data integration and transformation.
All in all, James said it is an approach that organisations can utilise in maximising their effort to trigger immediate actions of their data.