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Fulfilling the Promise of Analytics

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One of the best aspects of my job as GM of Dell Software’s Information Management group is talking with customers, industry analysts, peers and colleagues. Lately, it seems that no matter where these conversations start, they inevitably gravitate toward the promise of analytics.

It’s clear we’re on the precipice of a tectonic shift in the way organizations do business, and analytics are poised to be the driving force behind that shift. It could be said that 2013 is the Year of Analytics.

According to Gartner, by 2016, 70 percent of the most profitable companies will manage their business processes with real-time predictive analytics. The question now becomes how do companies position themselves to benefit from the power of analytics?

During a keynote I delivered at this year’s PASS Business Analytics conference, I addressed this topic by looking at the significant yet sometimes unexpected behavioral shifts taking place around us all the time—and how they’re changing everything we thought to be true. For example, according to Edison Research-Arbitron, the average user of social networking is not a 15-year-old high school student, but rather a 31-year-old professional. How about the fastest growing Facebook segment? People over 55. And what’s the average age of a social gamer? No, it’s not your tween, but a 43-year-old woman!

The screen has shifted. Today, 87 percent of internet users prefer a mobile phone as their main means of connecting to the internet. The conversation has shifted too. Consumers now are more likely to make buying choices based on what they see and hear through social networking and online media. And this has caused the authority to shift. No longer are providers always the best source of information.

So it’s no wonder businesses of all types are facing challenges as they try to understand our shifting environment. The answers to important business questions are changing faster than we know. Amid this landscape, we not only need to know exactly who is our target demographic, but we need to know precisely when, where and how to reach them in a manner they’ll find most credible. We’re dealing with the most well-informed group of consumers in the history of trade. We in turn need to be equally well informed as businesses.

This is where the promise—and power—of analytics kicks in. It used to be that business intelligence was solely an inward focused element. Businesses would review internally generated data that focused on what had happened. Then, from looking backward, they were somehow supposed to be able to look forward. Yet more and more often, the view was not illuminating, especially when things started changing so quickly.

The promise of analytics is that it helps us look forward to find critical elements, such as new revenue opportunities and improved products/services, and act on them with newfound speed and effectiveness. Organizations that learn how to use analytics to collect, sort and analyze what is being said in social media outlets stand a much better chance at succeeding over those that don’t.

By reacting swiftly to comments on social media, companies can make changes or improvements before complaints appear or at least take root. That’s the power of analytics; gathering all this information and presenting it in actionable form.

As more companies understand that analytics have become a revenue source, there will be a greater demand for qualified business analytics professionals. Their efforts will enable businesses to find new revenue sources and customer segmentations while creating quicker responsiveness and better personal connection to customers.

To do this, traditional analytics must be merged with new, evolving opportunities. Instead of relying on executive dashboards—again, looking inward—new interactive visualizations and drill-downs into unstructured data sources, social media and text must be delivered to look outward.

The early results of the analytics movement are promising and should only get better. Being able to turn data of all types and online conversations into actionable insights is a giant step toward fulfilling the promise of analytics.

What do you think it will take to fulfill the promise of analytics? Drop me a line at [email protected] or chat with me on Twitter at @matthewwolken.

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