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Data+ Editor's Choice Awards 2013

These 12 honorees were selected for their ability to make better business decisions using big data. First up: Catalist, which helped build rich voter profiles to aid campaign workers

By Computerworld editors
August 26, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - What's the value of a single piece of customer, patient or research data? How about several billion pieces of that data? These 12 organizations, winners of the first-ever Data+ Editor's Choice Awards, were well aware that they sat on a goldmine of information. And each in its own way turned those massive data stores into solid business results. A top-tier healthcare organization added $62 million in new revenue to the bottom line. A world-renowned research organization gave its scientists a big step forward in helping to power the next generation of solar cells.

Chosen by a panel of Computerworld editors, these organizations are making better business decisions and, in some cases, generating new revenue streams and tapping into new markets. Read on for the other 10 successes as well as the new technologies that are driving the pace in the BI field.

Catalist delivers critical voter data to campaign workers

Seeking a competitive edge in 50 hotly contested congressional races in 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee turned to Catalist, a Washington-based political consultancy that uses dynamic modeling of voter information to develop campaign strategies.

Catalist built the DCCC dynamic models that uploaded daily survey results and field information and combined it with existing data on 190 million registered voters and 90 million unregistered voters. It had 700 data elements on each person. Every night, highly tuned models for each race used that data to create action plans for the next day.

"It told them whose door to knock on," says Catalist COO Gayatri Bhalla. "We were able to figure out who is newly registered and where they fell on their partisanship score or their ideology score" -- metrics that are based on the history of donations people make to causes or candidates, petitions they have signed or online surveys they may have taken. By building rich profiles with that data, "we're able to predict with a high degree of accuracy which way a voter will lean," she says.

Catalist gets most of its 2 petabytes of data from the offices of secretaries of state around the country. It's allowed to access that information because "we do not serve a commercial enterprise, and we don't operate for profit," says Bhalla, explaining that many states prohibit the use of such data for commercial purposes.

Among other things, Catalist's analytical tools can "match" multiple names to a specific person. "We can figure out that Bobby Jones is the same as Robert Jones and Robert L. Jones, but different from Robert S. Jones," Bhalla explains.

In data analytics, it's important to remember that "not all data is created equal," says Bhalla. "You can have the best tools, but it's garbage in, garbage out."

ROI

Catalist's data analysis proved to be a powerful resource for the DCCC in 2012. Of the 50 races targeted by the DCCC, Democrats won 30, including eight of 10 races decided by 2 percentage points or less.

Next: Constant Contact culls trends from billions of emails

Stacy Collett is a Computerworld contributing writer. You can contact her at stcollett@comcast.net.

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