Q&A Mar 31, 2023

Inside Jacobs’ Digital Factory: Meet the Team Behind ViewPoint, a Data Insights Tool

A Q&A with Neha Sharma and Bethany Miller

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When consulting on projects for clients in fields such as infrastructure or transportation, huge amounts of data can be generated during the survey and consultation phases. To accelerate the ability to draw insights out of all that data, Jacobs’ Digital Factory team has developed a tool called ViewPoint which uses natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to assign themes and greatly truncate the timeframe to actionable intelligence.

To learn more about ViewPoint, we asked two of its key proponents, Principal Data Scientist Neha Sharma and Data Scientist Bethany Miller, to share with us their own insights on the benefits and use cases of the ViewPoint tool, as well as their thoughts on the role that the Digital Factory is playing within Jacobs’ newly formed Divergent Solutions operating unit. 

Neha and Bethany, can you tell us about the work you’re doing on Jacobs’ Viewpoint project?

Consultation surveys across various domains (infrastructure, transportation etc.) contain lot of written responses from survey respondents, which can take days for a team to sift through manually and assign a theme to each response. ViewPoint is a digital tool built for the stakeholder engagement (SE) team. It takes consultation responses and matches them to their associated theme, e.g. “I don’t like travelling by bus, it’s too expensive” could be matched to the theme “Cost of Public Transport.”

Our work on ViewPoint helps streamline projects for the SE team, an internal client, and a variety of external clients who have run public surveys/consultations that require analysis working with the SE team. The SE team is tasked with gaining insight from public consultations that often have a requirement for open-ended questions that return large amounts of free text responses within the survey data. The team turned to us as the process of quantifying the topics was an extremely time-consuming effort and they wondered if we could address it using NLP techniques.

Can you describe the challenge that was ViewPoint was designed to solve for?

Traditionally, it would require member(s) of the SE team to go through surveys on a response-by-response basis to match them manually. That is incredibly time consuming and could be more susceptible to human error on larger schemes where large volumes of responses must be assessed in often short timeframes. With ViewPoint, those challenges are significantly and successfully addressed.

What was the impact for your clients? What are they saying about the results achieved by ViewPoint?

Namely, we are hearing about increases in employee satisfaction and retention. ViewPoint gives back time to incredibly busy SE teams under pressure from highly stressful tasks with tight deadlines. It removes the burden of tasks that are often cited as not rewarding and as a reason for staff leaving the business.

What excites you about working as part of Jacobs’ Divergent Solutions team?

Neha: Working as a part of Divergent Solutions is an exciting opportunity for me. The prospect of being involved in something innovative and ground-breaking, and contributing to the development of Big Data and data science use cases is highly motivating. The ability to work with a diverse range of professionals, all with unique skills and experiences, brings a new level of energy and enthusiasm to the workplace. I am excited to be a part of a journey that has the potential to change the way we think about the world and the solutions we create to address its challenges.

Bethany: I am excited about the interesting variety of data solutions that we will see as part of the Divergent Solutions team and the opportunity to work in a growing global team of technologists.

ViewPoint by the Numbers

  • 62 %

    reduction in hours: A-96 Consultation stakeholder team estimates it would have spent about 2065 hours on identifying response themes, analysis and report writing. With ViewPoint, these hours have been reduced to 762 hours

  • 40 %

    reduction in hours: A Poynton Scheme Consultation stakeholder team estimates it would have spent about 400 hours on identifying response themes, analysis and report writing. With ViewPoint, these hours have been reduced to 237 hours

About the interviewees

Neha Sharma

As a principal data scientist with 13 years of experience across diverse domains, Neha Sharma’s area of focus revolves around utilizing data-driven insights to drive business growth and innovation. She is currently working on a data engineering product where her responsibilities include designing and implementing scalable and efficient data pipelines that process, analyze and store large volumes of data. Her core expertise lies in leveraging a wide range of statistical and machine learning techniques to uncover patterns and insights in large and complex data sets. She has a proven track record of designing and implementing end-to-end data science solutions that involve data acquisition, processing, analysis and visualization across market research, digital advertising and telecommunications.

Bethany Miller

Bethany (Beth) Miller joined Jacobs 2.5 years ago after graduating from studying math and data science at university. In her time at Jacobs, she has focused on several data science projects within the Digital Factory. She is a part of the Aqua DNA data team that is responsible for handling the large amounts of data and time series analysis coming from a network of IoT sensors in the wastewater industry. She also developed the initial NLP algorithm that has become the ViewPoint tool being used on several Jacobs’ consultations today.