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Competing in a Data-Driven World

Abt Associates is a global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation; driving innovation and measurable impact for more than 50 years. Their focus is on using evidence and cutting-edge methods to improve the lives and economic well-being of people worldwide.

The Challenge

As is the case for most firms, the challenge facing Abt related to data science was not abstract or hypothetical. Abt was awash in text data and survey statistics, and managers across the organization reported needing “more staff who can carry out machine learning tasks,” as well as the ability to “provide clients with a better understanding of their survey data.” Too many Abt employees processed data manually by Excel, which limited processing speed, precluded exploratory analysis, and restricted their work to “mostly tackling smaller datasets.”

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There’s more to it. If you interested in discovering our complete process and seeing Abt’s performance metrics, you can download the complete case study here

“It’s not enough to worry about speed and cost—to solve problems with data, you need to know how to collect, compute and share it in ways that provide genuine insight and move people to action.” 

Michael W. Link, Ph.D.

Division VP at Abt Associates

An Objective of Build New Skills and Bid on New Business

Abt missed opportunities within an exploding subset of private and public-sector projects: data-heavy analysis and data-driven strategy. Abt could not engage as many of its staff as it wanted to on the types of interesting projects that made them feel fulfilled in their jobs, dampening their employee retention and hamstringing their talent development. Both of these factors had the potential to suppress Abt’s profits and growth in the years to come.

Given the upside-down labor market for data science talent, Abt faced a difficult problem shared by many firms today: hiring data scientists on the job market is expensive and new hires are typically unequipped with the domain knowledge and company experience that would make them efficient employees. But by training up internal staff, Abt Associates can empower their staff with new data skills built on their existing expertise. Designing and delivering an internal data science training program is outside of Abt’s core competency, not to mention that it is difficult for any internal team to carve out the time and talent to take on such a project.

Our Approach: To Create a Cascading Effect

Data Society worked with Abt to identify key areas to focus on for the Data Science Fellowship program and prerequisites for success. Abt identified individuals among their staff who were best-suited to upskill in data science to participate in the program and build out capstone projects that consisted of practical applications of data analytics to current challenges at Abt.

The Abt Data Science Fellowship program created a groundswell of interest among employees who wanted to build their skills and do so for the benefit of their current teams at Abt. Not only did the Fellows build out their skills, but they also built out their organizational network and returned to their team with insghts about the challenge that they were working on during the program. Abt staff members – including those both with and without technical backgrounds – were eager to make the most of the data science learning opportunity and apply the skills to drive bottom-line growth for the firm.

Ready to Shift to a Data-Driven Organization?

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