Using cloud services to draw practical insights from external data

Director, SaaS Offering Management, IBM Data and AI, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software

Across industries, organizations are recognizing a new source of competitive advantage that lives outside of the enterprise. The key to using this advantage is combining external—structured, unstructured and dark—data with their own business-outcome data. This powerful combination enables companies to uncover actionable insights about customers, markets, operations and more. For example, insurers can touch policyholders in a meaningful way, retailers can optimize inventories, utilities can respond quickly to outages and governments can effectively prepare for and respond to disasters.

Making external data integral to decision making

If your business results are driven by external factors, then leveraging external data when making decisions needs to be an integral part of your organization’s strategy. Leveraging external data is also a foundational element for many companies beginning their journey to become a cognitive business. Cognitive businesses use every opportunity to interact with data to reason, adapt and continuously learn. Core to this shift is the capability to tap into and integrate countless data sets, including weather, social and open data, and combining them with business data to add context, depth and confidence to every business decision. many businesses are aware of the potential value of external data—including event, social, weather, and geospatial data—many organizations don’t have the time or resources needed to fully leverage that data once they get their hands on it. External data is often fragmented, and it can include structured, semistructured and unstructured information. Adding this data to existing analytical models is challenging because the data contains information that cannot be mapped across common entities, events and locations, or directly correlated to internal sources. And additional time and energy of managing third-party relationships to source the data is required.

Extracting meaning from external data

Organizations can address these specific challenges using cloud data services. Several actions for capitalizing on the value of external data in the cloud need to be considered: 

  • Ensure that decisions are based on all available data by including open data and business-owned data pertaining to people, places, events and things.
  • Unify access to this data through a common cloud provider, thereby reducing the need to make or manage separate arrangements with numerous providers of the data and or services.
  • Enable a strategy that collects a wide variety and high velocity of data from mobile devices and Internet of Things sensors.
  • Develop an infrastructure that can ingest, process and analyze data through the cloud in real time and serve resulting insights to diverse users.
  • Build a data science capability that applies data scientist expertise to find meaningful signals in that data by systematically exploring potential triggers of interest and relating them to high-priority business outcomes.
  • Create a plan to drive action from the resultant insights that speeds time to business insights through direct user engagement and/or optional integration into industry-specific business applications.

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