Business Analytics Defined as Much by "Where" as by "What"

By | Jun 18, 2012

Dealing with Big Data has been a top priority for businesses over the last several years; as terabytes and petabytes of information are generated, even small and midsize business IT admins must make sense of it all, of finding patterns in chaos. Now, several companies are trying to add an element of "where" to the simple "what" of business analytics in an effort to not only generate more accurate data but to allow a broader range of collaboration.

Social Data

A June 11, 2012, MarketWatch press release discusses the new Karmasphere 2.0 solution, a self-service portal to Hadoop Big Data analysis through a web-based social interface. The effort "removes the barriers for teams of project members, ranging from casual users to the most advanced analysts, to work together with minimal to no support from IT." Its aim is to create actionable insights thanks to easy collaboration and by removing traditional barriers to cooperation, and claims that it "empowers every user to easily ingest and follow data."

Hype aside, the idea is sound. Despite recent strides in bringing down virtual walls with cloud computing and business intelligence (BI) options, many physical walls still stand, prohibiting end users from interacting broadly enough that data sets get the kind of thorough treatment they require. Karmasphere says the IT industry is rapidly adopting Hadoop across small, midsize, and enterprise levels, but that there aren't enough of the skilled professionals needed to analyze Hadoop and MapReduce data to go around; by allowing users to collaborate across physical locations, "where" is no longer a factor, and analyzing "what" becomes easier.

Map Matters...

There's another use of "where" currently on its way up in the industry. A recent Computerworld article discusses the rise of graphic information systems (GIS) to give a clearer view of what data sets are really trying to say. "Where" can be a powerful factor in consumer adoption, one that isn't always obvious in the way Big Data results are reported.

Take the work of East Coast developer EDENS, for example, which recently started using GIS data to help paint a clearer picture for its leasing agents and internal teams to help prospective retailers. The geo-based data includes things like traffic counts, average household income, and other retailer competition in the area, and helps to refine site selections by providing otherwise unknown data points. EDENS's use of GIS has, in some cases, uncovered an unwillingness by customers to cross certain sets of railroad tracks, making what appears to be the perfect store location by all other metrics one almost doomed to fail simply because prospective shoppers wouldn't be willing to make the trip. While the long-term usefulness of GIS has not been fully evaluated, initial efforts show that knowing more about "where" can help inform decisions about "what" and "how."

For midsize IT admins, Big Data is often something that lies outside the tech comfort zone - it depends not only on many non-IT personnel to analyze but takes into account factors never considered relevant by technology experts. For the forward-thinking IT pro, it's not a matter of knowing everything about Hadoop or becoming a GIS guru; instead, it's knowing what a business analytics solution needs to find to offer a solid ROI, how it's going to accomplish that aim, and where it will be best deployed.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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