How Contextual Awareness Is Redefining Business Intelligence - InformationWeek

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10/28/2015
11:06 AM
Lisa Morgan
Lisa Morgan
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How Contextual Awareness Is Redefining Business Intelligence

Contextual analysis, with the help of mobile devices and the Internet of Things, is giving businesses the data they need to reach individuals in relevant and meaningful ways.
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(Image: jarmoluk via Pixabay)

(Image: jarmoluk via Pixabay)

Organizations commonly use enterprise BI solutions and analytics to answer important "what" questions, such as what's happened, what's happening now, and what's likely to happen in the future. But the critical missing piece is often why.

Contextual analysis helps answer the "why" questions. With it, organizations are gaining deeper insight into the behavior of their customers, employees, equipment, situations, and trends. Marketers can deliver relevant messages and user experiences, and business leaders can make accurate decisions. Although contextual analysis isn't a new concept, it's being applied to a variety of cases to improve bottom-line performance.

"Context is the key to everything human beings do. Where you are at the moment dominates and directs every decision we make," said Margaret King, director of The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, in an interview.

[Having trouble making sense of disparate data? Read Data Visualizations: 11 Ways To Bring Analytics To Life.]

Mobility and the Internet of Things are fueling interest in contextual analysis. Sensors can collect additional pieces of information that help explain a person, place, thing, or situation in greater detail. More generally, interest in contextual analysis is being driven by competitive pressures -- the ability to win and keep customers, reduce costs, and drive more revenue. In fact, contextual analysis is impacting everything from hedge funds and lawsuits to public safety and risk management.

Contextual analysis can help organizations better understand why certain things are happening, not happening, or happening not in the way anticipated. Of course, what qualifies as relevant context varies based on the use-case, the environment, and the particular circumstances.

Otherwise, it's only adding noise. Here are a few ways context is improving the quality of intelligence in different industries. Once you're reviewed these examples, tell us in the comments section below whether you've started to apply contextual analysis to your business intelligence. And, if not, what are the obstacles standing in your way?

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include ... View Full Bio

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