Enterprises have plenty of data; now it's time to put that data to work, answering questions such as "why" and "what's next".

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

January 30, 2017

3 Min Read
Ketan Karkhanis, Salesforce

Remember when data was the end-all, be-all for businesses? Companies clamored for data about their customers, until they realized that data alone doesn’t benefit business or customers if it’s not acted upon. Business leaders were looking at analytics the wrong way, only to measure outcomes rather than shape them.

But, over the last year, business leaders have finally woken up to the fact that pretty charts and graphs alone won’t move the needle for business. So, what’s in store as the conversation around analytics shifts to bringing a real business value like never before? Here are a few trends we’ll see as we kick off 2017.

Business culture around analytics will shift from reflective to prescriptive. Data has always been used to find “what happened” -- and reporting on past occurrences is useful. But in order to use data effectively to make decisions and take action, business users need to also know “why it happened,” “what will happen,” and “what to do about it.” Traditional analytics solutions have historically only answered the first question (descriptive analytics) with visualizations that don’t mean much on their own. Without answers to all four of these questions, business users are not getting a complete picture from their analytics solution.

When analytics can become your guidance system, and when users are able to take action on the data without having to open a new window or interrupt their workflow, they are able to drive intelligence in everything they do.  It’s becoming clearer that when data can inform each and every decision a business user is making, businesses are going to see a real a competitive advantage and ROI. Putting a focus on in-context, actionable analytics affects the heart of your business, creating a shift from a culture of reporting to a culture of doing.

The customer analytics imperative. Customer analytics is all about driving customer satisfaction: After all, we are here to serve our customers and make them successful in what they’re trying to achieve. So, by knowing more about what they want, when they want it, and how they want it, we better serve them on that journey. As today’s customers expect a personalized experience when interacting with a business, we’re going to see customer analytics become the spinal cord of the customer experience.

Every business leader needs to be able to answer the question “who is my customer?” and ensure that their investments in analytics are actually helping them connect to their customer.

Every business user in an organization will be empowered in the age of autonomous analytics. Advanced analytics has long been an ivory tower function; data scientists are in short supply, so only the most crucial questions get asked, and only the most pressing hypotheses get tested.

To address this, we must focus on creating machine-led, human-augmented analytics solutions. The combination of advanced artificial intelligence to sift through millions of rows of data, merged with human expertise from business users that have real-world context a computer does not is an essential next step for analytics. This truly allows every employee to use analytics in a way that is most relevant to their role -- a customer service rep can see a predicted CSAT score and the best action to take while marketers can understand the main drivers to optimize a campaign without having to write complex models. The age of citizen data scientist is here. The goal is not to build a supercomputer for the few but a smartphone for the many: easy to use and empowering each employee with the insights they need at every customer interaction.

If analytics, data, and intelligence can help inform every decision throughout the business and every interaction a business has, everyone within the organization is empowered with the best possible course of action to bring about the best possible outcome. C-level executives, now’s the time to jump on the analytics train or risk being left behind.

Ketan Karkhanis is general manager of the Salesforce Analytics Cloud.

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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT professionals in a meaningful way. We publish Guest Commentaries from IT practitioners, industry analysts, technology evangelists, and researchers in the field. We are focusing on four main topics: cloud computing; DevOps; data and analytics; and IT leadership and career development. We aim to offer objective, practical advice to our audience on those topics from people who have deep experience in these topics and know the ropes. Guest Commentaries must be vendor neutral. We don't publish articles that promote the writer's company or product.

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