The High ROI of Predictive Analytics for Innovative Organizations: Interview with John F. Elder, Ph.D. CEO and Founder, Elder Research, Inc.

Dr. John F. Elder heads a data mining consulting team with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia and Washington DC. Founded in 1995, Elder Research, Inc. focuses on scientific and commercial applications of pattern discovery and optimization, including stock selection, image recognition, text mining, biometrics, drug efficacy, credit scoring, cross-selling, investment timing, and fraud detection.

Dr. Elder has authored innovative data mining tools, is active on Statistics, Engineering, and Finance conferences and boards, is a frequent keynote conference speaker, and is General Chair of the 2009 Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining conference in Paris. John’s courses on data analysis techniques – taught at dozens of universities, companies, and government labs – are noted for their clarity and effectiveness. Dr. Elder was honored to serve for 5 years on a panel appointed by the President to guide technology for National Security.

Check out the three minute interview on the Predictive Analyticswebsite.


Bill Cullifer: I am on the phone with Dr. John Elder, CEO and Founder of Elder Research out of Virginia. Good afternoon. Thanks for agreeing to this interview.

John Elder: Thanks for having me.

Bill Cullifer: You bet. You recently provided a presentation at the conference entitled the High ROI of Data Mining for Innovative Organizations. Can you summarize that session for the subscribers of this podcast?

John Elder: Sure Bill. I just gave a talk about nine of the kind of more interesting success stories we have had at Elder Research over the last decade or so and we will get them at a higher level. So, it handled the way data mining really helps and I have broken it into three parts, approving and emphasizing good, detecting and eliminating bad, streamlining and automating are… I gave examples of how each of those had worked [Voice Cross Over]

Bill Cullifer: Can you cite an example?

John Elder: Sure. One kind of interesting one was Anheuser-Busch[Phonetic] pictures of beer on the shelf, they like to correlate how the positioning of their product related to [Inaudible], they also want to know if they are missing any stock [Inaudible] so, that’s a relatively laborious process, to take a picture and turn it into some [Inaudible] interpretation of what exact product and what exact orientation is there. So, of course… so we did a pilot process, automated identification of what[Phonetic] product was there. Recognition is a very hard [Inaudible] is one that’s well lived, well under[Phonetic] good condition. Products are trying to make themselves be recognized a whole lot easier than say identifying somebody who just canceled on a [Inaudible] might be for instance but we were able to get 90% accuracy which was our goal instantaneously essentially meaning that they would spend one tenth as much time editing it as they would doing it by previous metric.

Bill Cullifer: Time is money. Right?

John Elder: Exactly. So, that would save them millions of dollars there. So, that was an example of automating and speeding up. There were a couple of examples of return by eliminating, but that there… the examples [Inaudible]. We had projects we did for the IRS and projects that we did for a large [Inaudible] electronics firm that saved tens of millions of dollars, actually the numbers were astoundingly large compared to the [Inaudible].

Bill Cullifer: So, if I… and the subsribers of this podcast were considering entering into the predictive analytics realm, any high level recommendations on first step?

John Elder: Yeah, the… one of the extreme[Phonetic] things that came out as I was putting this talk together were you know what were some characteristics that were common to some of these successful projects and all of them were technically successful, but not all of them were completed and that was interesting to see what were the differences there. For instance, on the Anheuser-Busch[Phonetic] one, they never put it in production because the day that we were to sign the development contract was 09/11; that was definitely a whole lot of a hell of a tragic event and there were some other times when a project didn’t see the way to appreciate it[Phonetic], but most of the nine examples I gave complete business successes saw their way into implementation and one of the key characteristics that we needed was a champion who would take the business risk inside the organization to see it all the way through and what you really want[Phonetic] there is nothing harder than starting something brand new because all those who talk about the old way of doing it will hold it and those who talk about the new way only lukewarmly support it and can still do [Inaudible]. So, we found that the innovative organization part of the title was really [Inaudible] organization that allowed it’s… that rewarded success for its people, not just punished because that is the environment in which a project will thrive and the return can be [Voice Cross Over]

Bill Cullifer: Sounds like excellent advice and we certainly appreciate your time.

John Elder: Thanks for having me.