Predicting with business intelligence

Businesses don’t needa crystal ball or a deck of cards to know what the future holds.Software applications that can intelligently predict business trendsand aid business decisions are the way to go, according to an IDCanalyst.

Predictiveanalytics will be the future of business intelligence (BI) as largermarkets start to consolidate, said Joel Martin, vice president ofsoftware and business alignment, IDC Canada.

Martinwas among the speakers at a BI symposium organized by SAS InstituteCanada and Intel Corp., held yesterday at the Hockey Hall of Fame inToronto.

Predictiveanalytics is a data mining capability that takes data and puts itagainst the backdrop of other variables – such as economic, social, andindustry – to generate intelligent business predictions.

“Predictive analytics will result in the realization of intelligence process automation,” Martin said.

Comparedto traditional or core analytics, which generally involve data analysisand report generation, predictive analytics provide “insight andrelevance” to enterprise decision-makers, he said.

However,there aren’t many of them in the market right now, according to Martinwho said core analytics still occupy 80 per cent of the BI space.

Predictiveanalytics would play a huge part as companies struggle to keep up withshortening timeframes in business transactions, the analyst said. Forinstance, according to an IDC study, the turnaround time for callcentre inquiries jumped from an average of eight hours to a mere tenseconds. Supply chain updates, which used to take a whole day toprocess, are now accomplished in 15 minutes.

“Such shortertimeframes make long-range planning a thing of the past. We’re livingin faster-than-Internet time today,” Martin said.

Hesaid most enterprises have silos of information from disparatefunctional groups that develop their own reports. These reportsgenerate multiple pages of print out that business managers would “nothave time to digest.”

Predictiveanalytics is basically “taking the information gained and putting itinto a form, a scenario, or a model that business managers can quicklydigest and act upon,” he said.

TheIDC analyst also stressed the importance of having an interoperablebusiness intelligence platform, one that would work across multi-vendorand multi-product composite applications.

Softwarefirm SAS Institute is one vendor that recognizes the need for BIinteroperability and integration, said Cameron Dow vice-president formarketing, SAS Canada.

Runningunder the SAS 9 Intelligence Platform, the company’s suite of BIapplications cover intelligent process automation from ETL (extract,transform, load) to storage to reporting to predictive analytics.

From the beginning, SAS has been promoting integration and interoperability, Dow said.

According to IDC, business intelligence tops the investment priority hierarchy among organizations.

Martin,however, emphasized that enterprise leaders need a mindset shift whenit comes to technology investments. He said IT investments must beviewed as a “business transformation” and not merely a technologyupgrade.

“Wehave gone through a maturing phase where decision-makers and businessleaders should become more IT savvy,” Martin said.

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