- March
Posted By : Speros Kokenes
How Hackathons Led to My Next Career Move

Six months ago, I left my position as the Visual Analytics Practice Lead at Axis Group to pursue a dream of mine. Axis Group was my home for eight years, a place where under the guidance of Al Hughes, Ranjan Sinha, and Scott Reedy, I was able to grow and learn about business, technology, and leadership. I was surrounded by intelligent and creative people that always find a way to add value to whatever solution they are working on. It was a tough decision to say goodbye and move on to the next thing.

So why did I move on? I left consulting to start a software company called Knarr Analytics. Last week, we officially launched Knarr, our data collaboration platform for ad-hoc data analysis and decision making.

During my Axis tenure, the Visual Analytics team that I ran participated annually in Qlik’s Hackathons, seven in total. The Hackathon was always thrilling; we’d have two weeks to put together a data analysis for a problem, like the 2014 Ebola crisis. We put experts from all over Axis Group to work: data modelers cleaned and organized the data; designers framed up the best way to present the data; data scientists analyzed the data. What struck me about this process each time we did it was just how hard it was for our team to get on the same page about the data. Sharing our insights and coming to a consensus on what the data was telling us proved difficult with our existing tools.

A visualization of violence in the DRC created for a UN Hackathon
A visualization of violence in the DRC created for a UN Hackathon

Upon reflection, this wasn’t a new problem. I spent my time as a consultant crafting dashboards that were deployed to thousands of people across organizations. More than once I uttered the phrase “if a user exports the data from our dashboard to CSV, we’ve failed”. I was totally off the mark. When we rely on dashboards to solve every problem, we overlook an important group: the sophisticated data jockeys.

These power users are the folks that can make Excel dance. They’re well versed in data analytics techniques and practices. Because of their data acumen, they are often tasked with doing the ad-hoc analysis that keeps a business going. Why did online sales crash over the weekend? Which programs should we be investing more in? Give them some time, space, and data, and they’ll get back to you shortly with an answer. Their work isn’t going to be published to hundreds of people for six months; it’s going to be presented at the end of the week in an executive meeting and then tossed once a decision is made. It’s no wonder this group is always reaching for the data export button; dashboards aren’t the right medium for the work that they are doing.

So what is the right tool for this group? The world seems to be moving away from them in both directions. You have dashboards on one side, bringing operational data to a growing audience thanks to innovations from vendors like Qlik and ThoughtSpot. On the other side, you have open-source data science tools like Jupyter Notebooks, which require advanced coding expertise. The clever data analyst who needs to rapidly explore data but isn’t an R or Python wizard is stuck in the middle.

Enter Knarr. Knarr is a tool for collaborative, ad-hoc data analysis and decision making. Our platform captures an analyst’s process at every step, making it easy to retrace how an insight was found. Analysts can see and build off of each other’s processes and data, fostering a mutual understanding that leads to informed, harmonious decisions. We’ve designed the experience with creative data analysts in mind, providing them quick and easy tools for complex operations so that they can find the insights hidden in their data faster than ever.

With Knarr, I truly believe that teams can make better decisions with stronger reasoning and in less time. Since it was built with collaboration from the ground up, it works exceptionally well for distributed teams and decision makers. The last couple of years of development on the product have been a wild ride, but I’m excited to see what comes next and what people are able to do with the tool.

If you’re a data person yourself, go ahead and give the tool a whirl by signing up for free at https://knarr.io. And please feel free to reach out to me if you want to learn more about how Knarr might be a fit for your company. 

Speros is the CTO and Co-founder of Knarr Analytics with a background as a data visualization developer. During his decade of experience in the analytics space he has helped numerous clients gain better insights from their data. Speros has received multiple awards for his work and has been recognized for several years in a row as a Qlik Luminary.

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