What’s the ‘power to know’ worth? (Yes, we know that’s the slogan of a business intelligence vendor…SAS, to be specific). Ask most people and they will easily agree that accurate information, as detailed as the situation demands, is invaluable.
That’s why data analytics is tipped for big things by the likes of Gartner. The growth in spend, to over US$18-billion this year, is matched by the positive attitude which business leaders have towards concepts like big data (which is a branch of analytics). 85 percent of them believe it will dramatically change the way they do business.
There’s good reason for all that positivity. Analytic tools take raw data and turn it into valuable information to support decisions made by people. Combine gut feel with data insights and amazing things can happen: customers can be better served, problems anticipated and prevented, performance tracked and managed ‘at the minute’, products developed more effectively and at lower cost – and much, much more.
Powerful analytics solutions were once the preserve of very big and very rich companies. That. Along with a lot of other things, has changed dramatically thanks to the evolution of cloud computing. Now, in the same way that you can access top-performing computing power and a myriad of other services, you can access analytics as a service, on a subscription basis. You could be ‘doing’ analytics with nothing more than a credit card. OK, and some data. And maybe a computer of some sort.
With analytics as a service, available from the likes of Microsoft or Amazon Web Services or any one of several other providers, the potential for carving out a competitive advantage is established.
But, there are a few things to bear in mind, before just jumping right in there.
Firstly, it is important to understand your source data; the old computer industry adage of ‘Garbage In Garbage Out’ applies. Decent source data is crucial if decent outcomes are to result. Then there is the necessity to know what to ask the data – how will you analyse it, for what purpose? Sorting out these two issues is more important by far than the type of tools you use.
Other considerations include:
1. Analytic tools can measure the ‘pulse’ of your business. With so much information available, it is important to focus on that which is relevant. Consider focusing on, for example, the top three things that will make or break your business – and seek to understand that better with analytics.
2. Different analytic tools are aimed at different skill levels, data types and even business processes. Match tools to roles, objectives and skills.
3. Set reasonable expectations for what you want to get out of analytics. Remember, you must walk before you run. With the low cost of analytics as a service, go ahead and experiment to get an idea of what, where and how analytics can help your business.
4. Invest in professional assistance. Guidance on the possibilities available to your organisation can greatly accelerate value and the quality of results you can get from analytics deployments.
Top businesses around the world, from airlines to retailers like Amazon, financial institutions and governments, use analytics every day to establish and maintain their competitive advantage. It is worth establishing if it can make a difference for your company, too – before your competitors do.