Ascension Analytics: “Business Decisions. Simplified.”
Lynchburg Business Magazine / June 2013
Drew Griffith can predict the future. Well, given the right quality and quantity of data, he can come pretty darn close.
Griffith, data scientist, and former college roommate Joshua Redmond, are the two-man team behind Ascension Analytics, a Lynchburg-based analytics firm specializing in predictive analytics, quantitative modeling, data management, decision management and business forecasting. “Ascension delivers data driven solutions that enable companies to make more informed decisions. Our solutions help improve performance, identify risk, pinpoint opportunities, and increase effectiveness.”
In layman’s terms, Ascension Analytics helps small to mid-size companies and institutes of higher education to better understand and utilize the information they collect about the populations they serve.
“We go into an organization…go through [the data] and try to see what we can glean from it. What kind of correlation can we find? Is there a certain demographic spending more money? We go through and we break it down layer by layer and we take each layer and see what kind of correlation there is,” said Redmond, Director of Sales and Marketing.
For many businesses, the service Ascension provides is an invaluable and critical one.
“We are at the forefront of a data revolution. At no point in history have we come anywhere close to where we are today in terms of the amount of data that is processed, which makes it even more necessary than ever to leverage that data and turn it into useful, actionable results,” Griffith said.
“Organizations are trying to figure out more about their clientele, trying to get into their minds, see how they work, see how they think to better reach out to them,” Redmond explained.
Many institutions and companies know enough to collect and store important customer data, but this does not necessarily mean that they know how to best act upon the information they possess, or that they comprehend the data’s true value.
“People like having a lot of data, but a lot of the time there’s so much of it—if they’re an organization that’s been storing it for a while—that they’ve always just done it a certain way, gleaning the basics, and they don’t understand how deep they can go with that data,” Redmond said.
Although Ascension’s advanced statistical and mathematical formulas may be indecipherable to the average person, there are more familiar ways in which predictive analytics manifests itself in everyday life. Airlines and hotels both employ predictive analytics to set their fares and room rates. A FICO score is a further commonplace example.
Another is the college acceptance or rejection letter—a decision sometimes made by incorporating predictive analytics to determine a student’s chance of success, how long he or she will remain at the school, and whether or not he or she will graduate. In fact, it was in the world of higher education data analytics that Redmond and Griffith first got their start and conceived of Ascension.
Employed at the same university in 2010, Griffith noticed a glaring need for better quality analytics. While managers and executives were often accustomed to applying simple mathematic and statistical methods to analyze their data, Griffith found that these straightforward systems were sometimes inadequate and did not predict behaviors and outcomes with necessary accuracy.
Ascension Analytics was born, and the two friends haven’t looked back since. Griffith handles the analytics side of the business, while Redmond spearheads marketing, sales, and public relations. Many companies that provide data analytics are enormous and impersonal, but Ascension is intentionally intimate and, for the time being, caters to only local clientele.
Both Redmond and Griffith enjoy the personalized aspect Ascension Analytics offers— that rare opportunity to work with people face to face and one on one. While there is no doubt that they provide an invaluable, niche service, it is equally clear that they love doing it.
“Business is way too serious, especially on the analytics side of things. I’m serious about work, but I also enjoy conversation with people and trying to figure out where they might need help. I think that sets us apart. We can be serious but we can have a good time doing it, too,” Redmond said.
Griffith offered his own motivations:
“I have always been fascinated with trying to predict future results no matter whether it is referring to customer retention, corporate sales, or for my own personal satisfaction – working in sabermetrics (aka Money Ball), or trying to predict what the stock market might do next. The most enjoyable part of my work at Ascension is that every dataset that I work with is different and offers a new challenge each time. I enjoy a good challenge, and being able to produce accurate, actionable results is what I love.”
When asked what Ascension Analytics does best, Redmond did not hesitate.
“Predicting the future. We don’t have a Magic 8-Ball to tell what’s going to happen, and it’s not always 100 percent. As a matter of fact, it’s never 100 percent…The goal is to get as close to 100 percent, and that’s what we strive for. We can back-test [data] based on Drew’s formulas to see how accurately it would have predicted the past, and that’s how he gets his accuracy when he goes before clients. I can tell you with a 90 percent accuracy that this is what’s going to happen, and this is where it’s going to happen.”