Decision support needs better visualization. Scorecards, Dashboards, Heatmaps, Alerts, Management Reporting, Operations and Transactions Reporting are all enterprise example of data visualization outputs.
Some data visualization examples include:
- Data Scientist — uses “R”, a programming language used for statistical modeling, to understand traffic flows and congestion patterns and advise on options to improve travel times for Amazon.com Local delivery drivers.
- Pharmaceutical Sales Representative — uses QlikView on an iPad to access current industry sales trends and doctor prescription history while on a sales call with a busy physician.
- Healthcare Chief Medical Officer — uses Tableau Software to analyze all aspects of hospital performance including population management, emergency room effectiveness and Affordable Care Act compliance.
- Crime Analyst— uses Microstrategy to maintain a consolidated view of crime levels and optimize staffing allocations to dispatch police into high crime areas.
- Retail Store Manager — uses QlikView to analyze which products are selling best which impacts store assortments and which products get featured vs which ones get discontinued.
- Telecom Customer Service Agent — uses Spotfire to monitor call center statistics and how it translates into customer satisfaction and retention.
Our AMEX credit card was recently compromised. Someone got hold of the card information and Petro Canada charges started to rack up. Amex spotted this suspicious pattern and immediately initiated a fraud alert thru multiple touch points.
What does your credit card company know about you? A lot…maybe more than your spouse. A study of how customers of Canadian Tire were using the company’s credit cards found that 2200 of 100,000 cardholders who used their card at drinking places missed four payments within the next 12 months. By contrast, only 530 of the cardholders who used their card at the dentist missed four payments within the next 12 months. So drinking is a predictor of credit risk.
Predictive analytics is not a fad. It’s not a trend. In a real-time world, Analytics is a core business requirement/capability. However, many organizations flounder in their efforts not because they lack analytics capability but because they lack clear objectives. So the first question is, What do you want to achieve?
Analytics so far has largely been a departmental ad hoc activity. Even at the most sophisticated corporations, data analytics is a cumbersome affair. Information accumulates in “data warehouses,” and if a user had a question about some trend, they request “data priests/analysts” to tease the answers out of their costly, fragile systems. This resulted in a situation where the analytics are done looking in the rearview mirror, hypothesis testing to find out what happened six months ago.
Today it’s possible to gather huge volumes of data and analyze it in near real-time speed. A retailer such as Macy’s that once pored over last season’s sales information could shift to looking instantly at how an e-mail coupon impacts sales in different regions. Moving to a realtime model and also building an enterprise level “shared services” model is going to be the next big wave of activity.
Obsolete KPIs can be Lethal
In the Aesopian fable of the one-eyed stag, a deer overcomes his visual handicap by grazing on a cliff near the sea with his good eye facing the land. Since all his known dangers were on land, this keeps him safe from predators for a very long time – until he is killed by a hunter in a boat.
The relevance of our KPIs can make or break our business. KPIs are often defined as static metrics for an enterprise and can easily become outdated. Economic uncertainty and competitive pressures are prompting questions on the validity of KPIs and performance management processes. To stay competitive requires a process of continually validating metrics with the business environment.
Another common challlenge with KPIs is that there are too many of them. Modern technology has gven us the ability to measure a very large number of parameters in the business. Some of these are more relevant than others. Jack Welch is known to have said, ”Too often we measure everything and understand nothing”. Monitoring some metrics and ignoring others are decisions we make based on our business perspective.
Relevance Enabled by Process
How do you decide on which KPI’s are most relevant to success? An often overlloked first step is to understand that primary business goals before looking at the technology solution. Avinash Kaushik defines KPIs simply as “Measures that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives”. This fundamental aproach is a good way of weeding out items which are not relevant to what we want as a business and avoid adverse surprises. At a more deeper level, building a robust Business Analytics solution requires answers to questions such as:
1. What events have the greatest impact on the busiens and how are they measured?
2. How often do you validate that you are measuring the right parameters ?
3. What instrumentation do you need to create the right dashbords for your KPI’s ? Can this instrumentation be updatd as teh KPIs change?
4. What is the process for collecting, synthesizing, manipulating and presenting the data to represent thsese metrics? How does the process change when if the metric change?
5. What technologies and architecture are necessary to support those decision-making patterns? Is there need for a “single source of truth” or a federated model possible?
Centers of Excellence
Needless to say, this approach requires a tight inegration between the business owners and IT acrchitects. A recent study by Gartner says that ”IT collaboration initiatives fail because IT leaders hold mistaken assumptions about basic issues…..rather than making technology the starting point, IT leaders should first identify real business problems and key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to business goals.”
Many business executives believe that IT is unable to deliver results where it counts. At the same time, IT organizations spend an incredible amount of time, money and resources simply reporting obvious data within their business process and workflows.
An organizational solution to this problem is the creation of a Competency Center or Center of Excellence (CoE) with representation from from both business and IT and shared objectives. The CoE defines the blueprint for implementing BI, Performance Management and Analytics aligend with KPIs. Some of the obvious benefits include:
- Cost savings from eliminating Silos
- Better collaboration between Business and IT
- Joint ownership of corporate objectives
There are other aspects of the CoE which make it a practical approach to creating an effective vehicle for deploying analytics solutions. The sheer volume and texture of busienss data is much more complicated than it has ever been in modern busienss history. The world’s data doubles every two years creating more opportunities for analyses. Understanding this data even at an aggregate level requires a business perspective combined with technological expertise. Furthernore, understanding technologies such as Big Data for unstrcutured data analysis requires business leaders and IT eimplementors to work together.
The CoE is the ideal structire to implement a Business Perspective Solution. A well implemented Business Perspective Solution takes into account the key objectives of the busienss, leverages sophisticated analytics technologies and focuses on sustainable processes to support decision making in an organization.
Superior decisions based on business perspective separate winners from losers.
Are your KPIs in sync with your business perspectives? Please share your comments below.
1. Six Web Metrics / Key Performance Indicators To Die For by Avinash Kaushik, Occam’s Razor
2. Practical BI – What CEOs want from BI and Analytics by Ravi Kalakota, Business Analytics 3.0
3. The Stupidity of KPIs in Business Analytics by Mark Smith, Ventana Reasearch
“More firms will adopt Amazon EC2 or EMR or Google App Engine platforms for data analytics. Put in a credit card, by an hour or months worth of compute and storage data. Charge for what you use. No sign up period or fee. Ability to fire up complex analytic systems. Can be a small or large player” Ravi Kalakota’s forecast
Big data Analytics = Technologies and techniques for working productively with data, at any scale.
Analytics-as-a-Service is cloud based… Elastic and highly scalable, No upfront capital expense. Only pay for what you use, Available on-demand
The combination of the two is the emerging new trend. Why? Many organizations are starting to think about “analytics-as-a-service” as they struggle to cope with the problem of analyzing massive amounts of data to find patterns, extract signals from background noise and make predictions. In our discussions with CIOs and others, we are increasingly talking about leveraging the private or public cloud computing to build an analytics-as-a-service model.
Analytics-as-a-Service is an umbrella term I am using to encapsulate “Data-as-a-Service” and “Hadoop-as-a-Service” strategies. It is more sexy 🙂
The strategic goal is to harness data to drive insights and better decisions faster than competition as a core competency. Executing this goal requires developing state-of-the-art capabilities around three facets: algorithms, platform building blocks, and infrastructure.
Analytics is moving out of the IT function and into business — marketing, research and development, into strategy. As result of this shift, the focus is greater on speed-to-insight than on common or low-cost platforms. In most IT organizations it takes anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to procure and configure servers. Then another several months to load, configure and test software. Not very fast for a business user who needs to churn data and test hypothesis. Hence cloud-as-a-analytics alternative is gaining traction with business users.
- How to convert Lookers to Bookers…
- How to create unique and effective Digital Experiences that impact probability of purchase or likelihood of return.
- What offers might result in higher “take rates”
The change in consumer behavior and expectations that e-commerce, mobile and social media are causing is hugely significant – big data and predictive analytics will separate brand/retail winners from losers. This won’t happen overnight but the transformation is for real.
Retail Industry makes up a sizable part of the world economy (6-7%) and covers a large ecosystem – E-commerce, Apparel, Department Stores, Discount Drugstores, Discount Retailers, Electronics, Home Improvement, Specialty Grocery, Specialty Retailers and Consumer Product Goods suppliers.
Retail is increasingly is looking like a barbell – a brand oriented cluster at the high-end, a very thin middle, and a price sensitive cluster at the low end. The consumerization of technology is putting more downward pricing pressure in an already competitive “middle” retail environment. The squeeze is coming from e-commerce and new “point, scan and analyze” technologies that give shoppers decision making tools — powerful pricing, promotion and product information, often in real-time. Applications in iPhones and Droid, like Red Laser can scan barcodes and provide immediate price, product and cross-retailer comparisons. They can even point you to the nearest retailer who can give you free shipping (total cost of purchase optimization). This will lead to further margin erosion for retailers that compete based on price (a sizable chunk of the market in the U.S, Europe and Asia).
Data analytics is not new for retailers. Point of sale transactional data obtained from bar-codes first appeared in 1970s. A pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum was the first item scanned using Universal Product Code (UPC) in a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio in 1974. Since then, retailers have been applying analytics to get even smarter and speedup the entire industry value chain.
More recent use cases of retail analytics include: Read more
In the ancient Indian parable of the elephant, six blind men touch an elephant and report six very different views of the same animal. Compare this scenario to a data warehouse that is getting data from six different sources. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as a field in a database can be written as “HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone” or as “Harry Potter I” or simply – “Sorcerer’s Stone”. In the data warehouse these are four separate movie titles. For a Harry Potter fan, they are the same movie. Now increase the number of movies to cover the entire Harry Potter series and further include fifty languages. You now have a set of titles which may perplex even a real Harry Potter aficionado.
What does this have to do with data analytics?
Went to an interesting talk by Ed Brandman, CIO of KKR & Co, the legendary Private Equity firm, hosted by CIO Perspectives in New York city. KKR is using a custom Business Intelligence solution, called Portfolio Central, to track and manage their portfolio of 62 companies. This portfolio includes some well-known companies like First Data, Toys R Us, Sungard, Dollar General, HCA and others.
“Dissatisfaction is the basis of progress. When we become satisfied, we become obsolete.” J. Willard Marriott
We talk to customers often about their dissatisfaction with things as they are and hear the same pattern of complaints. Despite increasing adoption of BI and data analytics tools, the current sets of tools are inadequate to meet the needs of users.
The market of BI is enormous. According the recent Census 2010, there are over 20,000 large and medium-sized enterprises (organizations with over 500 employees) and ~ 7 million small businesses (organizations with ten to 500 employees) in the United States alone. Now include Europe and Asia and you can see the potential.
However, most organizations face the following limitations: Read more
Marshall McLuhan‘s enigmatic phrase – medium is the message- from the sixties gives him credit for predicting the World Wide Web 30 years ago. He could have just as well have been talking about Data Visualization for Business Analytics. While information management technology has grown at a blistering pace, the human ability to process and comprehend numerical data has not.
Visualization opens up the channel of communication between the technologists who create the data and the business people who act upon it. Data visualization tools, such as mashups, executive dashboards, KPI and performance scorecards and other data visualization technology, are becoming more popular and necessary to deal with mind numbing charts and exponential data growth.
However, the C-Suite has heard about the promise of dashboards and interactive scorecard for a few decades now and is typically dissatisfied with what they get from IT and the speed at which they get it. The big difference is that visualization technologies have finally advanced to a level where they can give actionable intelligence to the right people at the right time at the right place.
Lets take for instance an a mobile BI solution using a tool such as an Apple iPad. This gives the business executive the ability to manipulate the data with the ease of reading an e-book. The visualization library that you can draw upon to create an interactive experience on the iPad includes:
There are three critical business requirements addressed by such a solution. These are: Read more