Quest for value: Entering a new era of pragmatism for data and analytics

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Program Director, Analytics Platform Marketing, IBM

In the 1981 film Quest for Fire, we learn that the very existence of a prehistoric tribe depends on an everlasting source of fire. The loss of that fire leads to the formation of a search party to save the tribe—and perhaps the human race that will follow.

According to IDC, another important quest has begun—the quest for value from data. Success in that quest may not have the same existential significance as the quest for fire, but it is nonetheless of critical importance to CIOs and their organizations that need to compete in a data-dependent world. As stated in the IDC InfoBrief, The New Look of Data and Analytics for Value: Hybrid, Trusted, Self-Service, “Hype surrounding ‘Big Data’ has subsided and data management and analytics solutions have entered a new period of pragmatism and quest for value.”

Finding value in new places

Where are CIOs and their organizations finding that value? Sometimes they’re finding it within their own organizations, in previously dark data that is brought into the light by new technologies that do a better job than ever of detecting anomalies and connecting the dots among seemingly unconnected data points. And sometimes they are finding value by tapping into new data that was not previously available to them. For example, this data includes Internet of Things (IoT) data from sensors, monitors and meters; conversations from social media; or important data from third parties about subjects such as news, securities trading or weather.

IDC recently conducted a benchmark survey on big data and analytics and found that 77 percent of companies surveyed had expanded their analytics to include new data types or sources. Experience with IBM clients seems to support this survey result. Consider two examples of data value found in new places.

In the healthcare sector, for instance, providers collect vast amounts of data from patient-monitoring devices but simply can’t keep up with the rate of new data creation to derive value. To tackle this problem, applications from CléMetric, with IBM streaming technology as a cornerstone, are now enabling healthcare providers to collect, analyze and correlate information as it arrives from a variety of monitoring devices used in the practice of medicine. These devices include electrocardiograms, pulse oximeters and pulmonary artery catheters. Data is pulled from patient monitors in near–real time and integrated into a single dashboard, giving clinicians a holistic and immediate view of each patient.

The other example is a marketing campaign scenario. If we put on our marketing hats for a moment, consider a common challenge for marketing managers who need to understand the performance of their own campaigns without a full understanding of the campaigns being run by their competitors. Internal data about tactics, leads and revenues is readily available, but meaningful analysis requires real-time insight into competitive tactics.

Using IBM analytics technology, the BSWEB Human Responsive solution addresses this analysis problem by providing real-time competitive insights. Despite the multiple communication channels and the sophistication of marketing techniques, BSWEB clients can now easily monitor and analyze their competitors’ online marketing activity. Not only can they instantly detect new campaigns, promotions and price changes, but they can also detect changes in marketing patterns and thus get insight into competitive strategies over a period of time. In this case, organizations are finding new value by tapping into brand new data.

Helping yourself

In the aforementioned IDC InfoBrief, IDC recommends “a reassessment of current centralized IT practices for all steps of the data management and analytics lifecycle.” With more data available, increasing numbers of individuals and groups within the organization are demanding easy access.

At IBM, we’re seeing this democratization of data as a critical aspect of a broad, cultural shift toward enabling access for everything, encouraging collaboration across individuals and functions, and thus driving data-based intelligence and innovation. CIOs can play a key role in creating an environment that enables easy access and collaboration.

The power of democratized data is evident in a new educational solution from Tabtor Math built on IBM technology. In a traditional educational setting, centralized functions can score tests, but the teachers and individual tutors are the ones who can have a direct impact on math performance for elementary school students.

With the Tabtor Math solution, those tutors are given direct insight into detailed data. They can see and even play back every step of a student’s work, so they have insight that goes way beyond identifying right and wrong answers. They can follow students’ processes, identify where those processes go wrong and then provide correction and instruction tailored to specific needs. Armed with weekly data as well, the tutors can fine-tune lesson plans and improve the math performance for students. 

Gaining new opportunities: The CIO role

Where does the CIO fit into the evolving organization with regard to expanding self-help among data-hungry professionals? IDC sees a new opportunity for CIOs in areas such as strategy development, the establishment of a clearinghouse for best practices and the selection of “a technology platform of composable services that balances the benefits of end-user self-service and organizational agility with the need for data integrity, compliance, availability.”

Perhaps the CIO can become a hero such as the pre-human who discovered fire or the one who found a new fire source for the tribe in the Quest for Fire movie. If not, the CIO can still make a difference by creating a new environment for collaboration that enables individuals and processes across the organization to increase the value they derive from data.

Take a deeper dive into the IDC Inforbrief study