A Master of Science in Business Analytics student, Soumya Nambi Ganesh tested her data science skills working with the Agile Decision Dashboard team as part of her Karsun Innovation Center internship. In taking on this project, which reports key metrics to executive and management-level decision-makers, she tackled everything from requirements gathering to data pipelines to transforming the data and constructing visualizations. Discover how Soumya worked with the Innovation Center Research and Development (RnD) team to build this dashboard and find her next.
First please tell us about yourself. Where are you going to school? What are you studying? What do you like to do in your free time?
Hi, I’m Soumya Nambi Ganesh. I’m pursuing a Master of Science degree in Business Analytics at the University of Southern California in LA. In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, playing badminton and watching all genres of movies.
Could you share a little bit about the project you worked on as part of this internship? What challenge does it solve? What technologies and tools are you using?
As part of my internship at Karsun, I worked on building an Agile Decision Dashboard. This dashboard includes interactive visualizations built on company – data in terms of Objectives, Key Results, Costs, Management, Quality and Schedule. I was given the opportunity to be a part of the project right from the beginning – where I met with the executives of the company for personal interviews on their requirements for the dashboard. I worked on the entire data pipeline, which involved identifying various data sources, building scripts to extract data and transforming the data into desirable formats. I then worked on computing new metrics and eventually constructing visualizations that are to be used for intuitive decision-making by the executives.
What is your favorite part about working with the Karsun Innovation Center? Is there a weekly meeting or ritual you enjoy? The opportunity to learn more or get a new certification?
My favorite part of working at KIC is the opportunity to meet with colleagues with different skills and expertise, in a close-net team and learn of their various perspectives. I love a good challenge and working with the KIC team offered me new tasks, with changing requirements in a sort of RnD environment. This pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, quickly learn new tools and methods and implement the same.
I also was able to enhance my data science skills by undertaking a course on Udemy, through Karsun, which was a bonus to my learning here!
What is your biggest takeaway from your experience as an intern at Karsun?
My main takeaway would be bridging the gap requirements and data. This involves understanding executive-level and management-level requirements and then finding a way to clean messy data, transform them into meaningful metrics and display them as visualizations to answer specific business questions. I was also able to improve on this process through the continuous feedback I received from various members of the team, for which I am grateful.
Promote Transparency is one of the three Ethical Governance Principles in the Federal Data Strategy. This 10-year vision statement drives agencies across the government to build better tools to bring valuable insights to decision makers and citizens. Nowhere is this clearer than in government dashboards and data visualizations which must clearly communicate complex information in a meaningful manner for their users.
Modernizing Legacy Dashboards
Leveraging its business intelligence and visualization expertise, Karsun recently engaged in such a dashboard modernization project with one of its government customers. This customer was charged with delivering a dashboard that provides insights to both internal stakeholders and key decision-makers outside the organization. The goal was to allow users to access the dashboard for data-driven decision-making while enhancing transparency and adhering to the Conscious Design principles outlined in the Federal Data Strategy.
An on-premise legacy application added complexity to the modernization project. Moreover, the previous dashboard was built by different vendors with a mix of features and functionality. As a result, Karsun’s customer needed to provide a new, user-friendly dashboard. It also strove to limit human error with the data submission and ingestion process while seeing a decrease in operations and maintenance costs. Using a modularized approach, the customer wanted one, coherent dashboard. The customer envisioned a streamlined data submission process while reducing the time required for making new data sets available and improving speed-to-insight.
Combining Design and Data Expertise
The Karsun Data Practice uses DataOps to bring together data platform and engineering with business intelligence and visualization expertise. In doing so, it worked with its customer to deliver a solution that not only used DataOps principles but also incorporated best practices for usability, accessibility, and visualization within the dashboard.
Working with the on-premise application and within the requirements set by another project partner, Karsun built the data objects. Backend microservices utilizing RESTful API fetched data from an API service call and prepared the visualization using the Python Plotly visualization library. Those visualizations are then delivered as a JSON object.
An additional component to dashboard modernization is user experience. The President’s Executive Order on Customer Experience compels the government to design and deliver services “with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.” As practitioners, this order draws the spotlight to a range of design methodologies intended to enhance accessibility, transparency, and equity for all users.
This project used human centered design (HCD), putting user needs, desires, and abilities at the center of the process. This also uses iterative feedback from each step to inform the analysis. Seeking clarity at each step, it transitions the dashboard away from a mixed experience that’s difficult for users to navigate and hard for the customer to maintain.
It uses a three step process. The first step is Demand Side Analysis. This engages users at the earliest opportunity through interviews and surveys. The team also conducts a Prior Usage Analysis. Next, they design a User Centered Service Delivery Model. This incorporates Design Thinking, Service Design, and Detailed Design. Finally, they again Engage Product Users by introducing Mock-Ups, Prototypes, and Wireframes. After iterating through these three steps, the team identified and built an application layer on a PHP/Drupal framework allowing for easy content manipulation without requiring technical knowledge.
User Friendly, Data Driven Insights at Lower Cost
This modernization project sunsetted legacy infrastructure and reduced high-cost maintenance. The new dashboard application further streamlined data collection, introduced omnichannel distribution of IT data, and improved the overall user experience. Moreover, by improving the process through human centered design, the customer improved the user’s ability to make evidence based decisions.
This project not only enhanced user experience it also supported requests for better data-driven decision making in government. While modernization projects frequently address high maintenance costs, human centered design adds an additional element. Improved user experience not only saves money, it enhances both accessibility and transparency, delivering better government to all.
About Karsun Solutions
Karsun Solutions modernizes enterprise systems enabling agencies to make the next technological advancement their next opportunity to elevate mission capability. IT solutions from Karsun are tailored to meet agencies’ unique needs and optimize operations. These solutions adapt and stay relevant with current trends while using secure, digital architecture built to last. It is a proven modernization partner whose expertise elevates agency capabilities and ensures every next opportunity is within reach.