Is Big Data the Missing Link in Predictive Analytics?

BI Theory No Comments

Most companies do not suffer from lack of data. They suffer from how to extract insight from data in a timely manner. As most organisations are still struggling with how to get value from their dashboards, they are now being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data and the rapidly changing market trends.

Predictive analytics relies on certain underlying market assumptions either remaining constant or being predictable in their change. To date, we have been winging it on a wide range of assumptions in terms of where market opinion will move next.  However, Big Data has the ability to change that. Where we once relied on somewhat unreliable market surveys to predict changes in consumer attitudes, Big Data provides us with real insight into changes, as they happen. Using social data to create  ‘market state correlations’ and we can start to build up a library of more reliable assumptions that may be reused.

Mining Big Data brings us one step closer to the level of customer intimacy that really starts to work for both sides of the market. Businesses can be more targeted in their product development and market messaging, and consumers get exactly what they want in terms of product features and convenient sales channels.

Keep Your Eyes on the End Game

Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, Dashboard Design, Data Visualization No Comments

In business intelligence it is easy to get caught up in the data technology, the current obsession for ‘big data’, or producing as many dashboards as possible. However, none of this is as important as the end game  – extracting usable insight that will improve your ability to reach your strategic goals.

It frustrates me that BI vendors continue to pump out dashboard building tools that fail to deliver the basics of good dashboard design, yet they seem to have the resources to deliver new tools for big data. Whilst I am a great supporter of the ability to be able to extract market triggers, and explore data for possibilities, rather than rely on historically driven predictive analytics, there is a danger that we are losing sight of what we are aiming to achieve.

There are those who claim that big data is nothing new – are they missing the real value that Big Data delivers, and again, focusing too much on the technical definition, rather than the marketing definition? Data volume has always been an issue – and yes, virtualisation and cloud computing have certainly improved processing speeds. In-database analytics, and in-memory processing have also helped us get to the truth faster – but how fast do we really need to go? As humans we can only view, assimilate and make decisions at a limited speed. Rather than faster data – we need smarter ways of making decisions – robust decision models, statistical models to trigger alerts, to provide us with glimpses of a likely future outcome. Big data [as defined as social data and other data plucked from the marketsphere] is being made available in ways it never has been before. That is big news! That is a big jump from the market intelligence channels we once had to rely on. The key is in finding the value within this data.

I love technology innovation – but not at the expense of sound logic, readily dispensed, and in a format that is rapidly assimilated and instantly usable.

Big Data and BI

Cloud BI, Data No Comments

Just returned from an Altis breakfast briefing where William McKnight was talking about technology supporting BIG data. Although I am a strategic performance consultant, I find it very important to understand both the technology options and the approaches used by IT to deliver to the business intelligence requirements of the business. As data is the foundation of performance management, every time there is a big change in data, there is a big change in both the business and technical requirements.

  • On the business side – if your competitors are accessing the insight from Big Data, you need to stay on the same playing field if you want to remain competitive in the same game.
  • On the technology sideRead the rest…

3 Considerations for Mobile Dashboards

BI Theory, Dashboard Design, Mobile BI No Comments

I was just reading an interesting article on Harvard Business Review called The Future Isn’t About Mobile, It’s About Mobility. It prompted me to remind you that if you are designing dashboards not to fall into the trap of just replicating desktop dashboard for mobile. Users of mobile dashboards are experiencing the dashboard in quite different environments, and I am not just referring to the small device screen. It’s not about making desktop dashboards mobile – it is about understanding the specific needs of users during mobility.

Here are my top 4 considerations when designing mobile dashboards:

  1. Lighting conditions – vary considerably and this can be especially difficult for those starting to feel the effect of aging eyes, where the range of light in which they have clear visibility is far narrower than for someone without presbyopia. Design dashboard backgrounds and fonts for fast reading. This is often completely opposite to what one considers ideal design for desktop dashboards. Viewing white letters on a black background is often easier in bright light, than black letters of a white background – but in desktop we use the exact opposite. Subtle colors get washed out in bright lights – but are ideal for desktop etc
  2. Time constraints – often users have just a moment to quickly glance at a dashboard – they don’t have time to dig down three levels to get to the combination of information they need. I read recently [I would credit the source if i could remember] a great description of the difference between mobile and desktop dashboards where mobile dashboards are for leaning out [just glancing], whereas desktop dashboards are for leaning in for analysis
  3. Security – think carefully about storing data locally on mobile devices. If you remember the above, that mobile dashboards are not a lean-in activity, there is little reason for cached data. Doing so creates a security risk worthy of close consideration.

That’s it for me – there are many other considerations, but the main one is to not be tempted to just replicate the desktop to the mobile. As the HBR article says, its not about mobile, it’s about mobility.

Great Story for Mobile BI

Mobile BI No Comments

Wanted to share this great video on mobile BI – it is a quick 2 minute reminder of the essence of mobile BI – and I just love seeing someone draw freehand with level of skill

Key Reminders

  • Make users curious with new information on new devices
  • Mobile communications are only suited for companies that have 100% correct information every day
  • Need the right content for the device – and it still needs to be in context and from the right perspective for the user
  • A small screen is no excuse for not telling the best story
  • If your are going to provide interactivity through mobile devices, you need good security

BI Analytics – Force Multiplier or Transformative?

Analytics, BI Solutions, SAS No Comments

Just read an interesting blog by Leo Sadovoy on software used in business today. I liked his categorization that some software is merely a force multiplier – it helps to get the work done faster, using less people. Other software is transformative.

According to Leo, BI Analytics falls into the transformative category. Its non-linear, transformative characteristic that helps leaders transform their organizations, and may well concurrently change the business model and the rules of the game for their industry as well.

I agree.

Read Leo’s article

Mobile Making is Mark in Retail

Mobile BI No Comments

Mobile marketing and mobile POS is nothing new – what is new is the growing support by retail organizations to use mobile as a commercial and operational tool across a broad range of functions. A recent survey of retailers by research firm Aberdeen found that “while 13% of retailers are using mobile as an enterprise-wide commerce and operational tool, 63% of retailers plan to use mobile as an enterprise-wide tool for commerce and operations in the next two years”.

One of the key drivers appears to be the wide availability of tablets – making access to POS, stock locations, promotions, product information and a range of other retail operations anywhere in the store.

The back room is also experiencing an increase in use of mobile devices with activities such as customer support for cross-channel customer orders, access to in-store information, merchandise buying, procurement, inventory management, and marketing.

Business Intelligence Back to Top of CIO Mind

BI Strategy No Comments

A recent survey by PC World shows that Business Intelligence [BI] is once again ‘top of mind’ for CIO’s. After slipping down to the number 2 spot below virtualization it seems BI has bubbled back up to the surface. Whilst the survey editorial acknowledges that this may be purely because most server virtualization has now been completed, it also alludes to the lack of ROI on BI programs being the cause for the drop.

Personally, I see virtualization and MDM programs as part of the BI strategy in making good quality data available at high performance levels. Rather than being separate, competing initiatives, they are merely projects along the BI continuum.

However, I do believe that insufficient thought is given to education in BI strategy and dashboard design. Both of these factors lead to significantly lower value outcomes for investment in BI.

A couple of resources to help remedy that:

For those of you earlier in the BI intiative and need a full guide across all elements of BI, including strategy, data, software selection, and how best to use BI tools in your business, then The Logical Organization is the full strategic guide for you.

What are your thoughts on how well BI projects are performing? Please add your comment below.


Animated Advanced Visualization

Data Visualization No Comments

As advanced visualization is gaining traction within academic circles we are starting to see some amazing renditions of massive volumes of data telling stories previously not possible to the same depth. This 4 minute animation is a perfect example:


Hans Rosling reveals the story of the world’s past, present and future development.

BI Helps Overcome Fear of Failure

BI Theory No Comments

Fear of Failure is often cited as the reason for not extending ones reach in both personal and business feats. In the case of an employee, the fear of failure is really little more than fear of criticism or blame – they personally don’t take a financial hit if the product is wrong or the launch campaign isn’t as effective as planned. So how does BI help? BI puts the analytics, the rationale and logic behind a decision out there for everyone to see – everyone to accept – and everyone to share the blame. It takes the onus of decision making off a single person and spreads it across the business. It provides a fact-based, rather than person-based foundation for decisions.

Getting away from the blame game, gets your business away from the lame game, and gets it competing with more focus, more knowledge and more confidence. It opens your business to becoming more remarkable. Staying safe, playing within the lines is not the way to grow a business – growth requires risk, calculated risk. The very best outcome will be one that most people love and some people hate, but at least you are pushing the barriers and getting noticed. Getting noticed today is a major goal of any business – getting noticed profitably is the ultimate agenda.

Playing safe and staying the same as your competitors doesn’t get you noticed, and doesn’t get you ahead of the pack. As businesses start to stretch out again following the recessionary shrink, caution will be a common call. Only those with the tools to analyse their options in a rapid manner, thus avoiding paralysis by analysis, will lead the charge in the post recessionary wave.

It’s your choice to ride the wave, or wave goodbye. It’s your choice to go it alone or lean on BI.

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