ADVOCATING FOR ANALYTICS
An interview with Kira Alhorn of W. L. Gore & Associates
On how Gore derives business value from providing feedback and new feature ideas to JMP Development
Statistician, W. L. Gore
User Reference Manager, JMP
Kira Alhorn, PhD, works as a statistician at W. L. Gore & Associates GmbH in Germany. With expertise in optimal experimental designs for model averaging estimators, she supports domain experts across R&D and engineering, consulting on exploratory data analysis, design of experiments and statistical process control, among others.
JMP User Reference Manager Meg Hermes spoke with Kira about Gore’s analytics culture and how she and her colleagues have helped influence and shape new features in JMP.
Meg: I know JMP users at Gore have been really active in collaborating with JMP Development to make the software better with each new release – essentially to make sure that new features align with what users actually want.
How do you go about providing feedback? Does this kind of collaboration have an impact on the value you get from the software?
Kira: Having a direct connection to JMP’s developers is a great opportunity to share our wish list and suggestions for future JMP releases. We’ve been meeting developers at Discovery Summits, sharing our feedback in the JMP Community as well as communicating directly via email (or, before COVID, also in face-to-face meetings).
The developers are always open to our comments and – at least within my time at Gore – have solved most of the questions that we’ve had so far. There are quite a few platforms in JMP that have been influenced by statisticians at Gore, e.g., the MSA platform and Custom Designer (not me, though!). Overall, having the possibility to give feedback and seeing it applied in future releases increases the value we are getting from JMP.
Meg: That’s great to hear! Another one of the things I’m curious about is how you’ve utilized all the free learning and networking resources JMP offers – things like the online user Community, for example.
Kira: At Gore, we interact with the JMP organization in many ways. Attending Discovery Summits helps us to discover new trends and features in JMP and to learn about new opportunities to use statistical methods. The interaction with JMP staff and users broadens our horizons and makes us rethink our current approaches to data analysis, design of experiments and statistical process control.
Within the JMP Community, we can help each other and learn about problems other associates are facing. Finally, STIPS has helped us a lot during the pandemic when our statistics trainings have had to be done virtually. We’ve been using parts of the STIPS course as e-learnings for our classes.
Meg: It’s interesting you mention STIPS (our free statistical thinking course). I’ve heard from a lot of JMP users that STIPS has been a great resource for domain experts in particular to hone their statistical skills. In your experience, how has having JMP changed the way domain experts at Gore apply their knowledge and skills?
Kira: Statistics has a long tradition within Gore’s technical functions. Bill Gore, the founder of W.L. Gore & Associates, applied statistical experimentation and analysis himself (in fact, he also published a book titled Statistical Methods for Chemical Experimentation).
So we at Gore already have a strong belief in the application of statistical approaches to complement domain expertise and to enable better decision making. However, applying statistics can be very cumbersome when you don’t have the right software on hand.
Since JMP is intuitive and easy to use, it enables all of our associates to explore and analyze data easily, without needing excessive training to do so. Graph Builder, with all its powerful options, makes sharing results easy and interactive – and supports domain experts in making the right decisions based on both their data and domain expertise.
Meg: What advice would you give to someone looking to cultivate a more mature analytics culture in their organization?
Kira: Establishing a mature analytics culture in any organization is a long and sometimes rocky road. Before being able to do fancy analytics with your data, you first need to have the data available in an accessible and clean format. However, the way to clean and make data accessible might be tough, so keeping a vision and the end goal at the front of your mind will help. You should be able to answer the question "What will change by making data-driven decisions within the company?"
Additionally, know that at times, not everyone will be able to envision the possibilities and opportunities that analytics can bring. Be prepared to just showcase some examples of what can be done using analytics – even if they don’t think they will need it!
Meg: How about advice for someone who’s just starting out with JMP?
Kira: Don’t be afraid and just try it out! Basically, you can click, drag and drop everywhere – there’s not a lot that you can do "wrong." And don’t forget to search behind the red triangle if you can’t find what you are looking for!