Stop Wasting Your Time and Consult a Subject Matter Expert. When working on data science projects, it may help pull in a subject matter expert to review your work.
As you begin working on data science projects for your company, you may identify a problem to look at, ingest data, clean it, calculate some statistics, and build a model. But how do you know if you are providing valuable insight into the company if you do not fully understand the data you are using? Helping understand the data and verify your analyses is where a subject matter expert (SME) comes into play.
According to the article What is a Subject Matter Expert? by F. John Reh, a subject matter expert is someone who has a deep understanding of a “particular job, process, department, function, technology, machine, material or type of equipment.” These people have spent years developing themselves within their discipline and have developed an expertise in their field. SME’s maintain current and complete knowledge of their specific area having several years of work experience behind them. These are the individuals you can call on when general knowledge is insufficient to solve the problem.
As you begin to work on a data science project, it may be helpful to draw on an SME to better understand the data you are analyzing and how to best look at a problem. As mentioned in the previous section, if general knowledge is insufficient to conclude your analysis with your dataset, then stop. To provide value to the company and next steps with action items, you need to step back and consider, is this a project in which I need to call on an SME for help?
For example, if you are looking at data related to a specific area of the company, such as human resources (HR), but you do not have past HR experience, it may be helpful for you to talk with an HR professional who is an SME with this data. This person will be able to explain better the information you are looking at, understand what areas you may want to consider when trying to create a model, and be able to read through and verify if your results make sense.
The last area of that statement is what I find to be most important. An SME can read through your analysis and model results and verify if your results make sense. Having someone look over your analysis will aid you in your next steps. An SME can give you a go/no-go determination of if you are on the right track with your work or if your analysis makes no sense based on their understanding of the data.
Consider collecting data for a computer and then analyzing that data. If your model showed you that the reason your computer screen wasn’t turning on was that your L key is broke on the keyboard, would that output make sense to you? Probably not. But what happens if you look at the data, and it seems reasonable, but you are unsure since you have no knowledge of the system as a whole? Understanding if your conclusions are making sense is why an SME can be helpful. They can look over the output and tell you, no, that does not make sense as your keyboard not being able to type the letter L should not affect why your monitor is not turning on.
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