One of the first things I ask people on the subject of data is “What do you want it to look like?”
I don't mean for the question to be complex, but I generally get an odd look and response in return. “What do you mean how do I want it to look? It’s data, it has to be accurate and structured.”
So why is it when we talk about data we picture streams of numbers, columns and rows of calculations filtering through servers or built out over multiple spreadsheets? Not all business users have the time or skills to interpret large enterprise or spreadsheet data sets.
Why is it we can't be asked the question, “What do you want it to look like?” and answer with a personal perspective? I tend to believe it's because we don't think of data as having a personality. In fact, data has quite a bit of personality.
While often quite shy and reclusive, data will talk your ear off with just a little nudge. It can also be kind of a gossip revealing interesting insight into customer behavior or an organization’s financial information. And it’s those individual users running the data analysis who can easily unleash that personality… for the good of the organization.
That’s why organizations are realizing the value and achievements that come about as a result of having a complete analytic solution built not only for the enterprise, but also for the individual user in mind.
The notion of personal analytics is about bringing agile analysis capabilities to people in an easy-to-use manner without having to rely on IT. Business users can now take advantage of solutions that bring exceptional capabilities to their desktop in terms of personalizing how they display local or enterprise data and how they solve individual or workgroup challenges – all on their terms.
Analytics is definitely becoming a more personal experience. Being able to explore data and format it in a presentation layer of the user’s choice, add built-in calculations, apply scenario modeling and do write-back on the fly, or creating traffic lights that represent key metrics that are important to the individual are all a means to answering my question, "How do you want it to look?"
Take the distribution industry, for example. What if you had the freedom to model out different scenarios based on the price of diesel fuel? An individual user can now identify the key drivers of the business, like fuel cost, then test different assumptions and identify best case, worst case and probable outcomes.
One can only imagine how this could affect you personally, with regard to your line of business in a distribution center. But what if it also affected the manufacturing floor in terms of energy prices for production costs? Would the same scenario be important to other areas of the enterprise?
In a way, building the right analytics competency is like building a business from the ground up. You need to create a growth path that combines personal analytics with enterprise scope and IT values. By providing the necessary foundation of analytics along with limited barriers of usage, you can turn your business users out to the world to explore, discover and grow as analytics professionals with a personalized capability that brings meaning and life to the data.
Knowing that these business users can turn data exploration into action by aligning their discoveries with the enterprise challenges the silos of information that personal analytics has typically produced.
Business users have traditionally created and held onto spreadsheets or data files that only they maintain and which are not reflected across workgroups for greater use. Today's organizations demand a bridge between what line of business users want and what IT requires to run a smooth enterprise environment.
Personal analytics creates that bridge.
So the next time someone asks you, "What do you want your data to look like?" tell them you want it to look interesting and attractive, prescriptive and distinctive, honest and meaningful, and actionable.
But above all else, tell them you want it to have personality!
For more information:
· Register for the IBM Innovations in Business Analytics Virtual Launch Event on March 7, 2012 to learn more about personal analytics.
· Read the 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms which gives IBM Business Analytics exceptional marks for completeness of solutions and vision.