Ask the expert: John Ulakovich on data analytics | St. Clair College
Data analytics helps individuals and organizations make sense of data, solves problems, and improves processes, systems and outcomes.
John Ulakovich is photographed in a data analytics class last year.

COVID-19 has brought attention to the need for quick access to data and data analytics. What exactly is Data Analytics?

Data analytics helps individuals and organizations make sense of data, solves problems, and improves processes, systems and outcomes. For these reasons, data analytics can be interesting, exciting, challenging and rewarding!

There are different types of data analysis including descriptive, diagnostic, prescriptive and predictive analytics. Each type is used for specific purposes depending on the question a data analyst is trying to answer. For example, a data analyst would use diagnostic analytics to figure out why something happened.

Data analysists try to make information manageable and accessible to a wide audience, analyzing the raw data to present it in a visual way that tells a story of what the data means. When looking at a table or list of numbers, people don’t always know what the data means. We use a variety of tools and techniques to manage and visualize the data to make it more interesting and understandable. What we learn from the data can help make future predictions that inform decisions.

Data analytics can be applied to many different fields including marketing, healthcare, business, industry, government and more. 

A local example is the “Radiation Therapy Wait Time Optimization Project” we’re working on with the radiation department in Windsor Regional Hospital’s Cancer Program. Some patients were experiencing long wait times when arriving for their appointments. We analyzed the data from the previous 12 months including duration of treatments, average wait times for different treatments, and which days and times of the year were busier.  The insights we provided will help with more efficient scheduling. And we’ve also incorporated an application that allows staff to input daily information about delays, which then notifies the patients. We’re excited about this project because it not only will optimize the machine use, it will reduce stress on the staff and create a more patient-centred experience.

Another effective use of data analytics is creating maps which are great visual storytellers. The City of Windsor was receiving thousands of calls for service requests.  We mapped the data which showed the highest volume of service types requested per Ward area which helps the City best allocate their budget and resources.

And when COVID-19 hit we saw an opportunity to help the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in forecasting positive case rates and provide students with an opportunity to be part of the solution.  With the help of our WE-SPARK Igniting Discovery Grant, my student team created a visual dashboard that is assisting healthcare providers and decision makers to better understand the past, current and future COVID-19 epidemiological trends and the resources needed. You can read about the COVID-19 dashboard project here: https://www.stclaircollege.ca/news/2020/research-project-shows-promising-results-fight-against-covid-19.

About the Author:

John Ulakovich is a Professor and Coordinator of the Data for Business Analytics program at St. Clair College and Faculty Advisor for the Data Analytics Club and the Women in Stem Program. His volunteer work includes National Technical Committee Member with Skills Canada, and Technology Chair for Skills Ontario. In addition to receiving a teaching award from Cisco Network Academy with over 15 years of experience, he's also the recipient of their Instructor Excellence award for Advanced Level which recognizes the top 25 percent of instructors globally. He also manages the local Academy at St. Clair College. John is a Cisco Certified Systems Instructor (CCSI), and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Windsor.