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Davenport On Analytics Buzz and Bravado

Tom Davenport discussed his follow-up to "Competing on Analytics" in my Q&A interview published earlier today. But I thought I'd share some interesting context from recent blogs and interviews in this post.
A few days before Christmas I recieved an advance copy of Tom Davenport's new book, Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results". I managed to score this interview with the author and college professor over the holidays, but I thought I'd add a bit of interesting context in this post.

I was keen to interview Davenport in part because his name has been popping up on Intelligent Enterprise of late. As Cindi Howson recounted in this blog post, for example, it was Davenport who questioned John Schwarz (former Business Objects CEO and now member of the SAP Executive Board) about strategy when he was using the term "analytics" quite liberally at last month's SAP Influencer Summit in Boston.Recounting that event, Davenport told me, "I was a little surprised at John Schwarz's comments because BusinessObjects has historically been primarily a reporting-oriented tool, not an analytics tool as I would define it."

Naturally I asked Davenport for his own definition of analytics, which you can read here, but he's pretty much in agreement with Seth Grimes in viewing it as "a subset of BI." Grimes laments in this post that lots of vendors are now claiming to go "beyond BI" with their own claims to offer analytics.

There is no vendor using the "A" word more frequently than IBM. To its credit, IBM has backed up its bravado with the $1.2 billion acquisition of SPSS. The company has also made much of the Business Analytics & Optimization practice hatched in 2009, though I take that to be more a matter of reassignment and rebranding of existing talent and capabilities. The bolstering efforts and integration work with SPSS is now underway.

In recent chats with Andrew Warzecha, a vice president of strategy, and Deepak Advani, the newly installed CEO of SPSS, these IBM execs both asserted that prebuilt templates, models and "solutions" will take organizations that are new to the science a long way toward analytic decision-making.

I also recently heard the counter argument from Stephen Brobst, CTO at Teradata, who asserts that prebuilt apps or solutions -- whatever you want to call them -- aren't likely to lead to innovation or competitive breakthroughs.

"There are no new answers to questions you already know, so you're not going to get much value from prepackaged analytics, KPIs and reports," Brobst says. "The real value and insight is in the questions you have yet to ask."

You can read Davenport's take on this debate at length in my interview, but the nut of his argument is that technology is just a starting point. Smart, capable people are what you really need to get to analytic decision-making, he says.

I'll share more from Warzecha, Advani and Brobst soon. But for now I pushed the more impartial perspective of Davenport, an author and college professor, to the head of the list.Tom Davenport discussed his follow-up to "Competing on Analytics" in my Q&A interview published earlier today. But I thought I'd share some interesting context from recent blogs and interviews in this post.