While the coronavirus created urgency for a specific project, the challenge of securely accessing and working with big data had not changed, and The Information Lab was the perfect technology partner to help Castor realize their mission of driving data-led decision making in medical research through the introduction of the Alteryx platform.
Martijn Verstrepen, managing director at The Information Lab, Netherlands, describes the working solution in more detail: “The Castor platform offers a REST API to obtain data for further analysis. Alteryx Designer quickly builds workflows that authenticate against and connect to this API and retrieve all relevant study data. Data from different API calls is combined to enrich the dataset and the workflow is scheduled on Alteryx Server, where we benefit from access control, collaboration, and version management.” In plain business language, the Castor platform feeds data into Alteryx APA Platform, where it is transformed, analyzed, and then pushed back out to Tableau for visualisation.
Arts is quick to highlight that the project would not have been a success without the support of The Information Lab and their ability to adapt to an ever-changing global environment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In a highly-regulated industry, it is crucial to have a partner who appreciates the landscape but can move quickly when required, and The Information Lab, Netherlands exemplified the role of a discerning trusted advisor.
Eliminating data barriers to empower life-saving progress
For the functional teams within Castor, merging complex data from multiple sources and running analyses was a manual process taking at least 5 days. This was simply unacceptable as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen. “In a situation which was claiming more lives day by day it was essential to work with near real-time data and any manual processes which were hindering progress simply had to be eliminated,” Arts says. “Automation of those processes would get us to the insights quicker and that would help us save lives.”
Partnering with The Information Lab, Netherlands and implementing the Alteryx APA Platform in combination with Tableau automated processes allowing insight for action in minutes proving exponential value to the Castor business and the medical researchers that Castor works with.
For Arts, the sense of collaboration around a shared purpose at the height of the pandemic demonstrated the importance of the democratization of data. “The more people think about data, the more we appreciate its importance in our lives,” Arts says. “The coronavirus highlighted the importance of data to the masses and this is not something we should forget.” Returning to outdated processes and siloed thinking threatens to undo powerful examples that have been set amidst the global crisis, according to Arts. “Research data holds the answers to solving the world’s diseases — medical research data specifically but all data is valuable. We must consider how we capture information now which will help us in the future, just as we were able to quickly access any existing information which would help us progress research into the global pandemic.”
Arts believes the ability to quickly tell a cohesive story from data and then visualize that story is ground-breaking. “Charts and graphs alone do not tell the story,” Arts says. “You have to shape your story from what the data is telling you, and then visualize that for your audience. Strong correlations are often abused as people rush to draw conclusions. Helping people maximize the potential of their data is powerful as it will enrich their research and ultimately improve the outcomes. We strive for that at Castor.”