IBM today announced the newest version of IBM SPSS Statistics software,its integrated family of products that addresses the entire analytical process, from planning to data collection to analysis, reporting and deployment.
The new enhancements in IBM SPSS Statistics v21ensure that the most advanced analytics techniques are available to a broader group of business users, statisticians, analysts and researchers.Making it easier to access and manage big data, set up and perform analyses, and share results across the organization, IBM SPSS Statistics now includes:
�Simulation Modeling� Using Monte Carlo simulation techniques, users can now build better models and assess risk when inputs are uncertain.
�Advanced Techniques for Big Data�Quickly understand large and complex datasets using advanced statistical procedures to provide high accuracy and drive quality decision making.
�Improved Integration�Deploy analytics faster with seamlessaccess to common data types and external programming languages, including Java and IBM Cognos business intelligence.
Monte Carlo Simulation
The new simulation modeling feature is designed to account for uncertainty in data inputs, such as determining how weather conditions affect energy consumption, how costs of materials (e.g., steel prices) affect profitability of a construction project, or to better understand risks around investment planning.
By using Monte Carlo simulation, theunknown inputs and historical distributions are used to create confidence intervalsand visualizations(see graphic) to help make the best decision.
For example, energy and utilities organizations run simulations on potential weather temperatures, compared against historical weather temperatures, to then determine how much energy it would likely need to generate for an 85 degree day on August 31. This process can be repeated many times (typically thousands or tens of thousands of times), resulting in a distribution of outcomes so users can make the best decision.
Unlike other software packages, IBM SPSS Statistics doesn�tforce users to start from scratch, but allows them to leverage existing predictive models and existing data as the starting points for simulation.
IBM SPSS Statistics now makes working with big data easier, more scalable and ensures optimal performance when working with multiple predictors. By introducing a data file comparison tool, users now have the ability to compare datasets or data files to identify any discrepancies and ensure that the data values and records are compatible.
Users can now compare files for better quality control. For example, users can now find discrepancies between data sets that contain responses by the same respondents to a survey, but entered by two different people.
Also, IBM SPSS Statistics now allows operations like sorts and aggregations to be pushed back to the database, where they can be performed faster. Temporary files created by analytical procedures can be distributed across multiple disks, and large files can be compressed to save disk space when sorting, improving performance and speeding up analysis.
For example, users can run multiple analytical jobs at the same time while continuing to work on their desktops at other tasks. Users can also continue to run server jobs while disconnected from the server without sacrificing the quality of their analysis or output, then reconnect to access their completed jobs.
With IBM SPSS Statistics, users can now use a Java� plug-in to call IBM SPSS Statistics functionality from a Java application and have IBM SPSS Statistics output appear in the Java application.
Finally, IBM SPSS Statistics now provides the ability to easily import IBM Cognos business intelligence data for analysis. Users can now read custom data with or without filters, and import predefined reports from IBM Cognos directly into IBM SPSS Statistics.
Guest post from Jing Shyr, Chief Statistician & Distinguished Engineer, IBM Business Analytics
It's the age-old question: why did the chicken cross the road?
With one chicken, the answer is easy to compute.
But, what if there were millions of chickens crossing the road? And each chicken had a mobile device and was tweeting out its opinions, desires, likes/dislikes, photos, and detailed descriptions of what it had for breakfast that morning. Oh, and what if that road was being monitored by millions of sensors?
With current statistical techniques, it's no longer easy to quickly understand why each chicken decided to cross that road and, more importantly, predict when they might cross again.
The business analytics and statistics industry faces tough data analysis challenges in the coming years, including lack of skills, easily consuming analytics, mobility and big data.
Having been around the analytics industry for many years, it is refreshing to see that businesses are taking statistics and data mining results and injecting them directly into the business (and directly into the business process itself). The Catch-22 is that while more and more organizations are realizing the benefits of analytics, finding those professionals with an understanding of how to not only capture and analyze the tsunami of data created daily still requires training and a unique skill set.
A recent McKinsey Global Institute report indicates that over the next seven years the need for highly skilled business intelligence workers in the U.S. alone will dramatically exceed the available workforce � by as much as 60 percent.
I often imagine a business analyst presenting results to an executive the same way I present to my students. When teaching a lesson on modeling, I often ask, "Do you see what I see?" Everyone stares with blank looks on their faces and says, "No! What do you see?"
Herein lies part of the problem. To help counteract the skills shortage, we have to make the software easier to use and force the software to be consumable versus strictly scientific. Communicating results is just as important as the results themselves. I strongly believe that statistical software needs to go through a revolution of its own and become as intuitive as a smartphone.
And speaking of smartphones...
Most statistical software produces an incredible amount of very large tables and charts, making it extremely difficult to comprehend in a mobile environment. I torture my eyes every time I try to read a report on my Blackberry.
Consumability means anywhere, anytime and through any device. It's time we hold statistical s
oftware to a higher standard.
Let me get back to the chickens for a moment.
The volume, velocity and variety of data today is seemingly overwhelming traditional statistical software. Not to be clich�, but Big Data is giving the statistics industry big problems.
Previously, if we wanted to analyze any data, we would follow the same logical flow: decide what we want to predict or classify and build a model by bringing in all the predictors (independent variables). The size of predictors are often well below 100.
Today, however, we are dealing with thousands of different variables making traditional statistical analysis a serious hurdle. The machine capacity is no longer capable and many algorithms have been outpaced by data capacity.
The challenge calls for a new process of data reduction before modeling and new computation algorithms are required to handle millions of records and fields quickly in a distributed environment without passing the data back and forth multiple times.
Most importantly, we don't need to be chicken when it comes to Big Data.
Creating new statistical techniques for Big Data will get us all to the other side of the road, and you'll never have to ask why.
Have you ever had that awkward conversation with a significant other where they tell you they just want to be friends?
Sometimes the news is hard to swallow. It forces you to ask yourself, �What could I have done better?�
This same tough conversation needs to happen with certain software applications too. People just stay in relationships with software for too long. That said, it�s time to have the �friend talk� and break up with spreadsheets.
You�ve never really loved them. It�s been a relationship of convenience � they just showed up one day on your laptop and the rest was history. Yes, they�re nice and have a good personality (as much as software can), but it�s time to cut the cord and just be friends.
Disclaimer:I am not attempting to disparage or declare war on spreadsheets. They serve a useful purpose and will always be a staple inside organizations, but they are not the analytic application you want to bring home and introduce to your parents.
Spreadsheets have been widely used for financial and cost accounting, data collection and analysis, and mathematics. But, when they are called upon to perform a task for which they are not designed or beyond the limit of their capabilities, spreadsheets can actually be a fatal attraction.
Mark Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer at Ventana Research says that spreadsheets �can be one of the most expensive pieces of technology because of the risk and wrong decisions that are made due to their numerous errors.�
In fact, a number of studies have indicated that 90 percent or more of spreadsheets contained errors.
And Bruce McCullough, the software editor for the International Journal of Forecastingwrote that �Professional statisticians continue to write books with titles like �Statistics with Excel,� but they now warn students not to bet their jobs on Excel�s accuracy. They advise students to use a real statistical package when they need to do statistics.�
So, I guess you have to ask yourself, do you want a meaningful relationship with your data, such as being able to perform detailed analysis, find hidden patterns or make reliable forecasts, instead of a dangerous liaison that gives you little in return, besides frustration?
Speaking of meaningful relationships:
�Elie Tahari, a global fashion brand, found that its retail controllers were struggling with monthly budget reports because its 22 locations submitted spreadsheets separately. By turning this task over to a more robust business analytics solution, they were able to create a seamless reporting framework that provides granular, real-time information from the sales floor to its suppliers� inventory and production schedules. They reduced their reporting cycle from as many as two days to a few minutes, and saw a 30 percent reduction in supply chain and logistics costs. (Read the case study.)
�Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., the largest chain of double drive-thru restaurants in the United States, relied on spreadsheets for financial planning processes that were taking up to three months each year. By breaking away from this burden, they are now able to get the same jobs completed in three weeks, do better forecasting and more quickly respond to changing economic conditions. (Read the case study.)
It�s been said that once you break up with someone, remaining friends is almost impossible. Things just get weird.
Not true with spreadsheets. They�ll still be hanging out on the laptop, going to the same meetings and most importantly, will play a prominent role in sharing the results of the analysis across the organization (if you so choose).
But they will be frustrated by their shortcomings and say, �I wish I could�ve done better.�
For more information:
� Registerfor the upcoming webinar: �The Risks of Using Spreadsheets for Statistical Analysis.� (February 15 at 12:00 pm ET)
� Readthe whitepaper: �The Risks of Using Spreadsheets�
� Attendour upcoming IBM Innovations in Business Analytics Virtual Launch (March 7, 2012) to see new solutions that will give you a more personal relationship with your data.
It has almost become a daily occurrence when I arrive home from work and go through the mail to find yet another credit card offer from my bank, even though I already have a credit card with that very same bank.
Shouldn't they already know I have one of their credit cards? Do they even know me? Or, care to?
That�s the problem.
And according to Mark Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer, atVentana Research, it�s imperative that banks and insurance providers anticipate and align their business around the customer.
�This is whybusiness analyticshas become a required must-have,� said Smith. �Business analytics is a significant set of technologies that is going through a huge transformation. It now plays a key role in everyday business processes, drives improvement and helps meet customer expectations and satisfaction.�
This is especially true for today�s customers who are savvier and price sensitive, and far less loyal. Customer experience now goes a long way.
Whether its banks or insurance providers (or any industry), business analytics is forcing disparate parts of those businesses to speak to each other, share data and create a personal experience for the customer.
However, according to research from Ventana, the problem is that only 1 in 5 banks and insurance companies are using business analytics at an innovative level of performance.
Smith said that these firms either have great people with skills, but struggle with technology, or have the technology but aren�t using it to drive improvements.
�Firms need a balanced approached across these elements in order to improve their analytics maturity,� said Smith.
What is holding these organizations back from taking the next step?
According to Ventana�s banking and insurance benchmarks, only 42 percent of banks and 37 percent of insurance providers are satisfied with their current analytic process.
Smith points to three main barriers that halt analytic success:
� Wasted time due to data related activities (preparation, fixing errors)
� Lack of intersection between the business and IT (read a recent blog post on this rivalry)
� Continued use of spreadsheets that increase risk factors and contribute to poor decisions
What can banks and insurance providers do to generate better value from their analytics?
According to Smith, 68 percent of companies surveyed said the most popular use of business analytics today is in customer service. What is most interesting, however, are the least popular uses which include customer profitability, voice of the customer, marketing campaigns, communications channel usage and social media (at a lowly 4 percent).
These are the areas where the use of customer analytics can have exponential effects, and according to Smith, become a true measure of innovative maturity.
This is when the analytic process gets deeply integrated into every business process and customer touch point to make every interaction personalized.
� "My business is changing on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, and in order to stay competitive I need quick access to the data without IT getting in my way."
Are these comments common inside of your organization?
It�s an interesting battle of wits: Business users needing that fast agility to get at information, and IT needing to ensure governance and control.
IT is often painted as the bad guys because they create roadblocks and are unable to deliver what the business wants � quickly and consistently.
Business is viewed like spoiled brats who have no patience or vision and ultimately rebel.
It�s a dysfunctional relationship that thrives only because these �factions� are more similar than they realize. And, they need each other. It should be very symbiotic�if only they realized.
They are both working towards the same goal: driving the business forward.
But, in order to feel like they are accomplishing their goals, they need freedom from each other. Some might say they need an �open relationship.�
IT doesn�t want to be strapped to a barrage of mundane requests. Business doesn�t want to be constrained to the complicated systems and processes IT has set up for them.
Ultimately, business wants to live in a world where they can easily access the information they need (from any source), manipulate the data without having to be a spreadsheet programmer, and share it with others.
IT wants to be able to leverage the analysis the business user has been working on and still maintain the governance and control to ensure consistent information and use of that information across the organization.
Depending on which side of the aisle you sit, there is an answer and an easy way both can be successful. In fact, both sides can have their cake and eat it too.
We invite you to view the first chapter of our Business vs. IT story in the video below.
In the simplest of definitions, analytics is all about maximizing probability.
In other words, how do you use the information around you to gain a better advantage?
For marketers, business analytics has become an easy way to measure and prove success, but also to support the decisions that drive campaigns, help anticipate customer actions and even guide the selection of messaging and content.
Yes, a scientific approach has become an absolute necessity for modern marketing.
Lest not scoff at the idea of cold, clinical data driving marketing decisions. Heck, it�s been proven that spending $1 on business analytics technology will yield almost $11 in return.
Using analytics to drive better customer experience unshackles the organization from ignorance and maximizes the probabilities for increased customer loyalty, better up/cross-sell and sales conversion.
These organizations focus their analytics capability to gain insight on cost reduction and not at consumer personalization.
Most marketing efforts focus on segmentation efficiency, such as increasing the conversion of a selected group of customers by reduction and removal of messages (for instance, avoiding delivery of identical catalogs to multiple household members), thus lowering the cost of communication.
These firms can increase customer retention by up to 9 percent, capture 2 percent more wallet share and convert an extra 3 percent of inbound contacts into a cross-sell event.
Stage Two � Sharing the Goods
To keep pace with the mobile generation, organizations within this second stage must have a clear customer analytics strategy that enables information sharing across any digital device and channel.
In fact, research shows that tri-channel buyers spent an average of two and a half times more than single-channel buyers.
The most sophisticated marketing organizations in this stage apply analytics for marketing event optimization, an approach that leverages analytics as a �horizontal control tower� to optimize the organization�s various direct marketing events over a given time period over multiple channels.
This better aligns marketing with customers� needs � and varying personas � related to those devices/channels.
Stage Three � From Reaction to Action
This stage focused on information responsiveness.
These organizations are leveraging �raw� data as it streams customers� social commentary and changing moods.
To avoid a veritable data deluge, these organizations focus on identifying the questions that � if answered � will impact their business the most.
This acts as a filter on data collection and helps an organization avoid the task of collecting all available information and then deciding what to do with it after the interminable wait to standardize and analyze it.
Companies able to perform real-time external data analysis combined with rules-based actions have experienced average conversion rates of 16.9 to 38.2 percent.
Stage Four � Next Best Action
This stage focuses on executing a strategy that enables information on demand.
This approach combines all the skills developed in earlier stages with in-depth segmentation approaches and leading-edge work in multichannel customer monitoring and real-time action recommendation (read: Decision Management).
Using predictive analytics (combined with business rules), organizations are able to engage with the customer throughout the buying cycle � from the point of needs identification through the exploration and discovery phase to the purchasing cycle.
Those companies able to apply real-time predictive analytics while executing a multichannel next-best action strategy had an average converted response rate of 24.1 to 64.3 percent.
� Understand the different stages and get a better handle of your organization�s analytics maturity by downloading the full "Customer Analytics Pays Off" white paper.
� Also, read the "Five Steps to Improving Business Performance through Customer Intimacy� white paper.
�Registerfor the �Customer Analytics Pays Off� webcast (Feb. 15 at 1:00 pm ET).
Twas the night ofbusiness analytics, when all through the org
No one in IT was stirring, the business felt like a morgue. Cognos Mobiledashboards were delivered to the iPad with care,
In hopes that the CEO would soon review them there.
The business line managers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions ofDecision Managementdanced in their heads.
With business rules and predictive models working in sync,
Automated, optimized decisions happen in a blink.
While over in finance there wasn�t any stress,
WithFinancial Performance Managementit�s no longer a guess.
Away to the budgets everyone flies like a flash,
To create flexible, rolling forecasts to always know how much cash.
And as the year ends, it�s time to look back
To close, consolidate and report to keep everyone on track.
When, what to the CFO�s wondering eyes should appear,
But an easy way to complete thelast mile of regulatory reportingto stay in the clear.
To anticipate customer behaviors, it�s hotter than a flame,
The industry is shouting, and calling for business analytics by name!
"NowCognos! Now,SPSS! Now,AlgorithmicsandOpenPages! IBM is taking business analytics out of the Dark Ages!
Lose the excel spreadsheets and head to the top of the charts
Measure yourAQ, that�s where the journey starts!"
With all these pieces any organization should be so proud,
Confronting the obstacle of big data? Let�s take it to the cloud.
And to not forget about all the social media noise
Taking things a step further, and to make all business users merry
2012 is when analytics gets personal, like a sundae topped with a cherry.
Interact and explore, build models and share insight
All without the help of IT, oh yeah, that�s right!
So spring to the laptop or any mobile device,
Away the business will fly, decisions no longer made by a throw of the dice.
And hear all employees exclaim, analyzing with all their might,
"Business Analyticsto all, and to all a good-night!"
There's a series of AT&Ttelevision commercialsrunning in the U.S. that portray how quickly things move in today's digital age.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (among others) make it easy � and difficult � to keep up with the latest news, trends and funny baby or animal videos.
By the time you see these items on your desktop or mobile device you quickly realize you are behind the times. That was so :27 seconds ago. Or worse.
In the world of analytics this has never been more true.
27 seconds (or less) is all a retailer, telecommunications provider or insurance company has today to effectively interact with a customer and take the appropriate action � making an offer, fixing a problem, or identifying possible fraudulent activity.
Time is the essence�especially in the world of social media.
Reigning in social media chatter has become a necessity. It�s not just listening to what people are saying, but understanding what they are doing, what they�re thinking and how to better engage with them.
Henkel, a leading producer of laundry and home care, cosmetics and toiletries and adhesive technologies based in Germany, recently deployedIBM social analyticsto better understand what its customers were saying about its brands in the social sphere, and more importantly where, so it could refine its message and take better action.
One of the interesting discoveries for its cosmetics business was that customers that were talking about hair were doing it on a cooking social network. They figured that once at a site, people were likely to remain on that site and continue talking about various topics. Knowing this, Henkel was able to better optimize keywords and better market appropriately on this same site.
While Henkel is finding success, many organizations are still unable to tap this precious resource due to lack of understanding of analytics or lack of in-house analytics skills.
This is why more and more universities are creating programs specifically focused on analytics, includingNorthwestern University, who recently announced two new programs, a full-time Masters of Science in Analytics in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and a part-time Masters of Science in Predictive Analytics program in the School of Continuing Studies.
Students coming out of college today are byproducts of the digital age and intuitively understand social platforms. They are not only the largest consumers of digital information, but also the purveyors of the content, and are the ones that will parlay their social media prowess into a lucrative career that will turn this social data into business value.
Scott Kellert, a student at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern, commented that organizations will soon realize they need his skills to turn vast quantities of data, especially social media data, into something meaningful that can be quickly applied to improve the business.
�What I love is that analytics can be applied to everything � from insurance fraud to marketing to student retention,� said Kellert. �The new program at Northwestern will take my skills to the next level. Future employers will have confidence that I will know exactly what to do when I encounter large data sets and how to get value from them.�
Value is the operative word�and quickly.
If 27 seconds is all organizations have, they better be precise � and be adaptive to data that changes every minute to catch trends as they are happening, such as in the entertainment (X Factor) or fashion (high-heeled shoes) industries.
Think about if organizations are actually still using a spreadsheet to analyze their data, let alone social media data.
You know that feeling you get when you surprisingly find money in a pocket of your clothes?
There�s nothing better. It's free money.
And according to Nucleus Research, a provider of investigative IT research and advisory services, that's exactly what business analytics is for organizations.
In a new report from Nucleus, they found that "Analytics pays back $10.66 for every dollar spent."
Let's put that another way. Let's say you spent $1,000; the return is $10,000. Spending $10,000? That's $100,000 in extra revenue. And so on... (I rounded down for easier math.)
This number was calculated from reviewing all of the Nucleus Research case studies that have been produced and examining the implementations of analytics applications, such as business intelligence (BI), performance management, and predictive analytics.
In fact, the report states that "with such high returns to be earned on the deployment of analytics, management teams should consider these technologies to be one of the most attractive investment opportunities available to the CFO."
In fact, it would bring a smile to any C-suite executive.
In speaking to David O�Connell, the author of the report, he says that it's a matter of black and white when it comes to those who have incorporated analytics into their business.
"We have found that if we lined up 3-4 firms in the same industry and vertical side by side, those using analytics to guide their decisions would win. Analytics provides such a competitive edge and improvement to the bottom line that we could almost start handing out pink slips to those firms not adopting."
The Cincinnati Zoo, an IBM business analytics customer that participated in a ROI case study (download here), was facing tough operating factors with admissions and donations going down.
"They needed to find ways in which they could change their business model that could make them more efficient and profitable," said O'Connell.
For example, the zoo used analytics to learn moreabout when visitors were most likely to buy ice cream and made smallchanges to the operating hours of the ice cream kiosks, leading to anincrease in food revenues by 20 percent.
For organizations in any industry, O'Connell believes that it only takes a few insights into data with lots of leverage that turns into serious ROI.
That's the power analytics bring to organizations � whether it's better understanding the cost for a customer segment, realizing if a product has high or low margin or determining thatphases of the moon were a big indicator when crime would occur.
It's very much like the butterfly effect where small, unrelated happenings can have major effects on results in another area.
As Nucleus proves, deploying analytics creates those few shifts that produce revenues or lower costs.
So why aren't more organizations taking advantage of this technology?
The report talks about skepticism to technologies like analytics, but O'Connell takes it further.
"There is a complete lack of understanding about how much can be learned from analytics,� said O�Connell. �Senior managers � the CXOs � don't realize how blind their decision makers are flying right now. Organizations are relying on faulty reporting, organizational folklore and gut feel."
To be successful, organizations need to communicate and understand where visibility pain points exist.
O�Connell believes that building a business case on cost reductions and revenue increases is the way to go.
�When you use analytics, you become aware of so much granular information. Organizations suddenly realize how much they didn�t know.�
Just like that $10.66 hidden inside your jeans pocket.
For more information:
� Watcha video of Cincinnati Zoo discussing how it increased revenues by half a million dollars in less than one year.
Guest post from Anuj Marfatia, Senior Market Manager, IBM Predictive Analytics Solutions
Not to frighten anyone, but there are only five weeks before the holidays. The pressure is on.
In the U.S., the holiday shopping chaos, advertisements, music and decorations now begins on Nov. 1, right after Halloween. I actually feel bad for Thanksgiving. Somehow the poor bird has lost its mojo, though I don�t have time to think about it.
With the holiday season in full swing and Black Friday looming, I�m already worried about missing out on this year�s most popular toys for my family.
Like everyone, I promise myself that I will shop earlier, but in the end, I am usually sifting through the shelves of Toys R Us or Target on Christmas Eve that are stocked with items that no one wants or are insanely overpriced.
So, I end up scrounging the floors, hoping that someone else had mistakenly dropped a toy that I could use. (How does it go? Someone�s garbage is another�s treasure?)
I have always been late to the popular Christmas toy party. Even as a child, I remember getting the Rubik�s cube not in the early 1980s when it was hot, but a mere 15 years later. I was determined not to be last when it made its comeback.
What always surprises me is that the popular items are usually talked about and expected to be popular a month or two before the holiday shopping season begins (I could bet today that the XBOX Kinect and My Pillow pets are going to be hot this year), and yet there is never any in stock � either on the shelf or online?
So what gives?
Aligning Marketing, Inventory and the Supply Chain
Assuming that the corporate strategy was not to provide fewer products, it has become apparent that organizations have a difficult time aligning inventory with demand � and the holiday season always puts a strain on operational processes.
Granted, it�s not an easy task for retailers to determine which product and how many of them need to be on which shelf of which retail location and then streamline the manufacturing and distribution processes to meet demand for that specific product.
Or is it?
Organizations traditionally have used the approach of viewing sales from previous months or years and extrapolating how many will be sold in the coming year. Then, manufacturing follows that schedule. At times, this process is more art than science.
And, these organizations aren�t receiving ample feedback from customers, nor are they listening to what their customers are discussing in the socialsphere. In addition, they don�t take into consideration:
� The complaints that recently came up on Facebook regarding a competitive product or an earlier version of its own product
� What to do if 10% of the warehouse team just quit?
� The operational processes affected knowing that raw material prices have increased by over 30% in just a few days
� How to account for decreased consumer income due to the economy?
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Now, more than ever before, technology exists to analyze all the consumer and organizational data so decisions can be made in real-time to account for macro or micro changes.
Wouldn�t it be great to be able to predict price elasticity, how many products are needed to meet demand, where on the shelf it should go to maximize sales, and how much product can be manufactured with the raw materials and resources that are at hand?
Take, for example, a US-based consumer electronics retailer. The past few holiday seasons, some specific tablets were purchased almost immediately when placed on the shelf.
There was a lot of lag in the supply chain process and by the time additional products arrived to the store, the season was over, so they were leaving much money on the table and were overstocked during the New Year. In order to eliminate their excess stock, they were forced to provide additional discounts to try to open shelf space.
Last year, by deploying predictive analytics software they were able to better predict customer purchasing behavior and demand, and better anticipate failures in the manufacturing and supply chain processes to ensure that they had enough inventory during the holiday season.
Predictive analytics leverages all the consumer, distribution, inventory, and manufacturing data inside the organization, as well as all the social media conversations happening outside. It then runs that data through predictive models, so organizations have a probability or likelihood of what products need to be on the shelves (and always on the shelves) for the holiday shopping spree.
I�m not just being selfish when I say this, but, I know I can speak for many that if more organizations utilized predictive analytics to align supply and demand during the holiday season, there might actually be an XBOX Kinect under the tree this year.
Otherwise, it may be another year of extra Halloween candy stuffed in stockings. Sorry family!
For more information:
� Watch the Predictive Operational Analytics video
� Read the whitepaper on Predictive Operational Analytics
� Get insight into how an auto parts retailer used predictive analytics to align inventory and customer demand
In this edition of �Ask the Industry Analyst,� we sit down with Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer of Dresner Advisory Services, and a well-known authority and author in the areas of Business Intelligence (BI) and Performance Management (PM).
Howard also recently was a guest on our monthly webcast, IBM Tech Talk, discussing best practices and trends in Mobile BI. The webcast is available on-demand here.
As we�ve seen, organizations today are looking for new user experiences that expand traditional BI solutions with planning, scenario modeling, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics. Using a limitless BI workspace supporting how people think and work � in the office, on the go and even offline � decision makers want to quickly search and assemble all perspectives of the business.
Below we chat with Howard about upcoming trends in BI and PM, the �operationalizing� of analytics, results from his 3rd Mobile BI Market study and what to expect in 2012, including cloud, collaboration and mobile.
You've been around the BI and PM industry for many years, what changes have been the most significant for customers?
At a macro level, BI has become very mainstream and the adoption of BI across large enterprises and SMBs is substantial. It has always been a high priority for users and management alike, however, now the technology is approachable for more average types of users. Vendors are now designing their products for end users in mind and not IT. This is especially true in the mobile world.
We are also starting to see customers using BI as part of their business applications (e.g. ERP or CRM) from the beginning. Customers are thinking of BI and analytics at the outset and the value this analysis provides, rather than processing the data and then waiting for someone to come up with an idea of how to analyze it.
Can you talk more about the mainstreaming of analytics?
Moving forward there are several things that are really important to customers. Topping the list is pushing BI and analytics further down into the operations of organizations to professional line management roles.
Traditionally BI has been a really valuable barometer providing a strategic perspective on the historical performance to date. As organizations continue to amass varying data sources � and more of it � they have to have an easy way to push this intelligence to tactical areas of the organization so quick decisions can be made as opportunities present themselves.
For example, it�s becoming increasingly important for retailers to correct something minor at a store level before it becomes a significant issue. I talked to one retailer who was alerted because a popular SKU was not selling well on a particular day as opposed to other days and compared with other stores. This information was passed to the store manager in real-time, and they learned that there was something physically in front of the display preventing customers to see the product.
Bottom-line: A minor course correction multiplied by thousands of stores can be extremely significant.
This is very similar to what we found in ourWisdom of Crowdsstudy in May 2011 along with advanced analytics (data mining), in-memory analytics, collaborative decision-making and mobile.
The world is changing, so fasten your seatbelt. Mobile (e.g. tablets) continues to have a huge impact on business and the way decisions are being made. For a number of individuals going forward this will be their primary device, especially younger employees who have never actually used a computer.
In a number of customer or patient-facing industries, mobile is just far more efficient and ideal. It also has a psychological aspect that makes the device far more approachable and creates a better conversation versus someone talking over a computer.
Tablets also holdcach�and a cool factor. And, executives are the number one consumers because of that factor, as well as the fact they provide tremendous value. Once the executives adopt them, then you will see a huge proliferation in the devices. This is very different from what we saw last year.
What were the major changes in the results of this survey over the last one you did?
From 2010 to 2011, executives jumped 12 percent as the primary targets, followed by middle management, who were the biggest jump for the primary focus of Mobile BI. It�s interesting to see executives get excited about Mobile BI as most of them own a tablet.
There was also a big increase in penetration and deployment plans. Globally last year, 73 percent said deployment would be under 10 percent, but now it�s 58 percent. Looking out even further, there are very ambitious and aggressive plans to deliver Mobile BI more broadly.
North America and smaller organizations appear to be leading the charge towards Mobile BI. North America because they tend to be early adopters and smaller organizations because they can most readily integrate and benefit from new technologies.
Finally, 65 percent said exclusive Mobile BI use wouldn�t be less than 10 percent over the course of the next two years. That sounds like a paradigm shift. It�s changing the way we work.
What is some advice that you can give to customers who currently have a Mobile BI solution or are thinking about deploying one?
If you are not doing mobile now, begin a proof of concept as soon as possible. This technology is not standing still. If you wait, you'll never do anything. There are huge direct benefits to the organization, which at the minimum are efficiency and effectiveness, especially for those in operational roles. Dragging your feet is not an option.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself, �What do I want to automate?� Anyone who is moving from their desk to somewhere � across campus, to a manufacturing shop floor, or the traditional road warrior � is mobile. So pick your targets. In fact, those people might already be out there and using their devices for business. Go find them and automate those people and their processes.
What are some of the key BI trends moving forward that will create opportunity for customers?
There are three key foundations of BI moving forward: Cloud, Collaboration and Mobile.
�Cloud� Today, smaller organizations seem to think that BI wasn�t made for them. That is untrue. They won�t have the technological staff or resources, but they will have an internet connection. BI can, and will, happen in the cloud for those who want ready-access to applications and data. And, more vendors continue to invest to make this technology a success.
�Collaboration� We have fewer expert resources and truth be told, email doesn�t really help us as much as we need it to. So, if I have a collaborative engine that is supporting my functional area, I can focus all the interactions in one place increasing the ability for structured and workflow collaboration. But, this will only be successful if the organization supports a collaborative culture.
�Mobile� Contrary to what IT and finance might want to believe, Mobile BI is going to shift the industry. The insights now follow you around and with more eyes on the data, organizations can better align their employees with the overall mission and increase the confidence in the decisions. It also creates a better culture of accountability and transparency. Eventually an organization will turn on its afterburners when the culture aligns with BI.
For more information:
�Listento the recent IBM Tech Talk with Howard Dresner
More than 4,000 IT professionals from 93 countries and 25 industries shared their opinions andprovided their views on future IT trends, including how they plan to use Business Analytics (see graphic on right).
The report provides IT and business professionals a roadmap of the four critical and interconnected technologies and skills that will be in greatest demand in the coming years: business analytics, mobile, cloud and social business.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills over the next 8 years. Helping to fuel this increase is the rising use of business analytics by companies in their efforts to learn more about their customers, including buying habits and preferences, as well as protect against fraud and mitigate risk.
Analytics skills are no longer just a requirement for the IT professional; they�ve become a necessity for organizations to remain competitive.
In a recent blog post, IBM�s Erick Brethenoux discusses how this analytics skills gap is getting proven by the significant widening of the overall performance between those that have analytics skills and those that don�t. Watch a video of Erick discussing this �epidemic.�
These IT professionals who gain the necessary analytics skills can also be change agents inside of the organization.
To make sure that organizations have the necessary talent, universities such as DePaul, Yale and Northwestern are also developing programs to prepare business and IT professionals with the analytics skills to bridge this gap, including the sophisticated analytics inside of IBM Watson to help understand the meaning and context of human language.
Other key findings in the Tech Trends report include:
� 42% of respondents named Business Analytics as an �in demand� area for software development
� Analytics has the highest adoption tendency (90%) when compared with other technology areas
� Half of those who are not currently using analytics plan to do so within the next 24 months, to increase automation, streamline processes and do more with less in faster time
� Survey respondents selected education and healthcare as the areas that could benefit the most, with financial services, life sciences and government also ranking near the top
� There is a growing importance of open source platforms such as Apache Hadoop and Linux for Business Analytics software developers
Guest post from David Pugh, Program Director, Product Management, IBM Business Analytics
I really love speaking to customers who are pushing our software to its limits. Those customers who are at the bleeding edge � the innovators and early adopters � regularly have great input to the creation of the products of the future.
Why? Because they are using the products in anger � pushing the software up to and beyond its intended use in order to drive competitive advantage and increased revenue.
The story starts five years ago when I went on a �world tour� to spend time with customers with some of my product management colleagues.
In particular, we were interested in customers who were actively deploying and using the results of predictive analytics in their day to day business operations, such as:
�Auto insurancecompanies using predictive modeling to determine on the fly � while the customer is on the phone describing the accident � whether the claim was possibly fraudulent
�Retail banksproviding personalized marketing offers to their online banking customers, trying to sell them additional products
�Mobile telecommunicationsproviders scoring millions upon millions of customers every night looking for any signs that they were going to defect to a competitor
As I said, the customers we visited were using our products in anger, like a coach demanding the most from his/her players.
For instance, the customers were using Decision Management in conjunction with other applications (e.g. CRM, call center, websites and campaign management); had stringent performance requirements; and, all had inventedtheir own methodology for managing / updating the predictive models that were being deployed into these front-end, operational environments.
It became apparent that the processes used to create, deploy and manage predictive models were eerily similar.
In fact, thanks to our customers, we were able to develop a list of best practices to easily create predictive models and inject the results of the analysis directly into business processes to improve outcomes.
The Seven Steps to Analytics Deployment
1)Acquire the Data.Customers use a mix of data including transactional, demographic, call center notes, social media, and attitudinal data from customer surveys as input to the modeling process.
2)Identify the AudienceDetermine the population for whom the outcome of the decision is valid. For example, with regards to insurance fraud, the customer may want to exclude any insurance claims that are caused by natural disasters (and process them a different way).
3)Define the Desired OutcomesThis is the heart of �The Seven Steps� where the customer determines the range of �Decisions� that could be delivered into their operational environment.
For insurance fraud, the desired outcomes that would be ideally delivered as a �Decision� to the call center agent processing the claim could be:
�Fast track the claim � low risk of fraud and low cost
�Push through standard processing � low / medium risk of fraud
�Refer the claim to the special investigations unit � possible fraud.
4)Enlist Business Rules and Predictive Analytics to Determine the Ideal Outcome.If Step 3 is the heart, Steps 4 and 5 are the brains. Staying with the insurance fraud example, there may be a number of policy (business) rules that need to be applied to the decision, such as �All claims made within two weeks of setting up the policy must be investigated for fraud.�
Customers were also building predictive models that determined � based on historical examples of fraud � the liklihood that this particular claimant was behaving fraudulently.
5)Optimize the Outcome.What if the business rules output says �Refer the claim to the Special Investigation Unit� and the predictive model says �Push through standard processing�? The user may decide whether rules override models or vice-versa.
For marketing applications it is here that a user could optimize which of the five valid marketing offers would be made based on factors such as liklihood to respond, revenue and cost.
6)Deploy, Deploy, Deploy!Take the intelligence defined in steps 1-5 and deliver it to the appropriate business process. Once the IT configuration has been completed this is typically a one-click process.
7)Report and Monitor.Watch the performance of the deployed application and ensure that it continues to perform well, as well as share the results across the organization in easy to understand reports and dashboards.
Business users typically need to update rules, predictive models or the way in which the result is optimized on an ongoing basis. Automated techniques such as �Champion-Challenger� modeling are used to ensure the best models are always deployed.
If you�re a customer using our products in anger, please get in touch. Your input will help us build the next generation ofIBM Business Analytics software.
For more information:
�Readthe whitepaper on how Decision Management creates a closed-loop system that continually incorporates valuable feedback into your decision-making processes.
�Watchthe video of industry analyst James Taylor discussing the importance of Decision Management.
It's been 25 years since the iconic 1980s movie Top Gun hit the big screen, but the message from the movie is still true today � �We have the need, the need for speed.�
If you�ve never seen the movie, it�s about Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise, and his adventures to overcome shortcomings as a fighter pilot at the Top GunFighter Tactics Instructor program.
Maverick was dangerous, he took chances, relied on his gut, made poor decisions, and �his ego wrote checks his body couldn't cash.� (Sound like anyone in your organization?)
And most importantly, he didn't buy into the classic fighter pilot methodology, the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) Loop, developed by U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd, and taught at the real-life Top Gun.
Boyd's philosophy was simple: Those who could quickly process this loop and react to real-time events better and faster than their adversaries could then anticipate their adversaries� thought processes and decision-making to gain an upper hand.
It's actually the same strategy that is being applied today from commercial and government organizations with IBM SPSS Decision Management technology.
The Need for Speed
Decision Management � through the combination of predictive analytics, business rules and optimization � enables organizations to automatically deliver high-value, high-volume decisions at the point of customer impact. Watch a demo here.
Essentially, it gives organizations the ability toensure optimal outcomes by injecting predictive analytics directly into the business process, such as cross-sell or up-sell marketing campaigns, reducing customer churn or minimizing the impact of fraud.
Without the combination of analytics + rules + optimization to improve a business process, an organization can effortlessly increase the velocity of bad decisions. To paraphrase from the movie, �I�ll hit the brakes and the competition can fly right by.�
(Watch the short video below of James discussing Decision Management and his new book.)
For example, if a high-value customer dials into the call center of a retail bank to complain about a product or service, IBM SPSS Decision Management may predict, based on the customer's past behaviors and interactions, that this individual is likely to churn.
The information about the current complaint, combined with the customer's history, can then be used to create a customized retention offer on the spot to prevent churn.
The bank has easily removed any blind spots that had kept them from making the right decisions, every time, with its customers.
And in an indirect way, it has turned the call center into a profit center, empowering employees to become an extension of the sales team rather than just �complaint takers.�
Never Leave Your Wingman
By the end of the movie, Maverick had finally realized that by trusting not only himself, as well as the philosophy of the OODA Loop, he could be a successful fighter pilot.
In other words, Decision Management becomes any organization�s ultimate wingman, giving the confidence to make the right decisions, at the right time, with amazing speed and agility.
Do you have the need for speed?
James Taylor, CEO and principal analyst at Decision Management Solutions, talked with us at the IBM Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas about how Decision Management works, why it's so popular, how customers are using it and best practices to get started with this technology.