Knowledge Center


Spotlight Series – October 2021


Successful Data Extraction with John Kershaw:

John Kershaw headshot

Data extraction can feel overwhelming and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be either.  Whether your extractions are for regulatory requirements, financial analysis, clinical analysis, or third-party requirements, having the right strategies and mindset can make all the difference.  Our in-house data extraction specialist, John Kershaw, shares insights he has gained from nearly a decade successfully helping clients define and create the extracts they need.

Q:  As a data extraction specialist, managing large volumes of data requires diligence and use of best practices for optimal efficiency.  For an organization that may not have specific strategies in place for managing their extracts, is there any advice you can provide on where to start?

A:  Extracts need to be treated like any other software implementation. Using a proper System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) helps ensure it’s developed, maintained, and sunsetted properly. Appropriate planning at the beginning will ensure extracts will work as expected for years to come.

With individual extracts, the first step is to define the need.  With open communication, I can be upfront with the customers as to what we can do.  Reviewing a sample extract showing what is already in place can help the customer determine the direction of the extract build.

In completing the extract, documentation is key to helping the organization manage the newly built extracts.  As the need for additional extracts grows, the documentation will help the organization in support and maintenance.

Q:  What would you say is the most frequent type of problem you see in working with customers on their data extracts? 

A:  The most frequent type of problem is incomplete specifications or qualifications for creating a successful extract.  Before any code design can begin, I must collaborate with the customers to determine I have the details I need to get started.  The customers sometimes know what they want but, being clinical by trade, may have a hard time communicating exactly what they are needing from a technical standpoint.  My first job is to ask questions to get a full understanding of what they are trying to accomplish with their requested extract.  With more information, I’m able to offer suggestions that can help enhance the extract and fully satisfy their request.

Q:  Is there something people see as being unnecessary or cumbersome they may not do as well as they should because it makes management of data extracts so much easier?

A:  Absolutely!  The data extract is only as good as the data being entered.  A little insight as to what they are looking for and what they are entering can go a long way.  Explaining just how valuable the data entry is can help alleviate the users’ feelings that these steps are unnecessary or too cumbersome.

Sometimes an existing extract can be used with tweaks to get the desired results.  By starting with an existing extract, the customer can see what’s already in place and desired filters or additional fields can be added to satisfy the result.  I pride myself on trying to do it right the first time.  The documentation I maintain helps me keep track if what’s been built and what can be used for new requests.

Q:  What do you like most about the type of work you do?

A:  Requests are different at times but can be similar as well with a twist.   I look at each request as a puzzle – finding the right fit or build to the customer’s request is a fun thing for me.  I like the challenge and am readily satisfied with the end results – when the customers’ needs are met and I have exceeded expectations.

Q:  Is there a particular message you would give to people thinking about bringing in outside consultants to help with data extraction work?

A:  Consider the whole process from the beginning. Approach every extract like a project with its own lifecycle of development!

If you have a data extraction need, HSi can help you complete the project. We have multiple experts boasting a wealth of knowledge and experience, willing and able to satisfy your data extraction requirements.  You can connect with John and discuss your extraction project at

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