Businesses don’t need a crystal ball or a deck of cards to know what the future holds. Software applications that can intelligently predict business trends and aid business decisions are the way to go, according to an IDC Canada analyst.

Predictive analytics will be the future of business intelligence (BI) as larger markets start to consolidate, according to Joel Martin, vice-president of software and business alignment, IDC Canada Ltd.

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Martin was among the speakers at a BI symposium organized by SAS Institute Canada and Intel Corp., held yesterday at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Predictive analytics is a data mining capability that takes data and views it against a backdrop of other variables – financial, social, and industry-specific – to generate intelligent business predictions.

Predictive analytics, said Martin, will facilitate intelligence process automation.

Compared with traditional or core analytics, which generally involves data analysis and report generation, predictive analytics provides “insight and relevance” to enterprise decision-makers, he said.

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

Predictive analytics would play a huge part as companies struggle to keep up with shortening timeframes in business transactions, the analyst said. For instance, according to an IDC study, the turnaround time for call centre inquiries jumped from an average of eight hours to a mere ten seconds. Supply chain updates, which used to take a whole day to process, are now accomplished in 15 minutes.

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

He said most enterprises have silos of information from disparate functional groups that develop their own reports. These reports generate multiple pages of print out that business managers would “not have time to digest.”

Predictive analytics is basically “taking the information gained and putting it into a form, a scenario, or a model that business managers can quickly digest and act upon,” he said.

The IDC analyst also stressed the importance of having an interoperable business intelligence platform, one that works across multi-vendor and multi-product composite applications.

Software firm SAS Institute is one vendor that recognizes the need for BI interoperability and integration, said Cameron Dow vice-president for marketing, SAS Canada.

Running under the SAS 9 Intelligence Platform, the company’s suite of BI applications 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.We’re living in faster-than-Internet time todayJoel Martin>Text According to IDC, business intelligence tops the investment priority hierarchy among organizations.

Martin, however, emphasized that enterprise leaders need a mindset shift when it comes to technology investments. He said IT investments must be viewed as a “business transformation” and not merely a technology upgrade.

“We have gone through a maturing phase where decision-makers and business leaders should become more IT savvy,” Martin said.

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