Beware the Dangers of 'Drive Thru' Analytics

Cutting corners isn't the path to analytics success. Data science requires an enterprise commitment.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

March 15, 2018

4 Min Read
Image: Pixabay

Analytics is now a mission-critical tool, yet many organizations implementing the technology are imprudently jumping for any shortcut they can find. "The popular cloud-based analytics services — IBM's Watson, Salesforce's Einstein, et al — offer easy-to-use and economical options for bringing analytics functionality in house, but this isn't a very good idea," according to Scott Robinson, director of business intelligence for Lucina Health.

That company positions itself as harnessing the "power of aggregated data and deep obstetrics analytics to help reduce preterm birth in our community". Robinson will lead the session Drive-Thru Analytics: Dangers of the Smart Cloud at Interop ITX 2018 on May 2.

Analytics is now so pervasive that any organization that doesn't fully embrace it is destined to quickly fall behind the competition. Yet analytics is difficult, Robinson noted. "[It demands] skills, training and technology that were normally left to science, and many, if not most, senior executives charged with developing in-house analytics capability aren't even sure what that entails," he observed.

Making a full commitment to analytics requires adopters to turn their business inside out, understanding both data and processes in new ways. "That's not a very appealing undertaking," Robinson quipped. "You can't blame them for wanting to avoid it if possible."

The right approach

Robinson believes that the right way to approach analytics is by understanding that the technology is every bit as important to enterprise success as accounting. "In this day and age exploiting data wisely and leveraging it in decision-making processes effectively is as intricate and difficult, if not more so, than the management of the company piggybank," he stated.

It’s also important, Robinson added, to not treat analytics as a "precious, secret sauce that's locked in the basement" with a highly paid data scientist.

While data scientists have their role, analytics needs to become part of everyday thinking throughout the enterprise. "Analytics is not just a way of viewing data, it's a new way to look at the business, its processes, the competition, the customers, the world itself," Robinson observed.

Robinson is also a strong believer in analytics training. "Send folks to seminars, not just the key personnel who will be dealing with the analytics strategy, but the lower-level people who take an interest [in the technology] and want to learn more," he said. "They will be the ones who truly get you through the door by thinking of ways to apply analytics throughout the enterprise that the experts would never see or think of."

Strong and credible tools

Nearly all major analytics vendors now offer strong, credible products, Robinson noted. "Most of them have powerful dashboarding capabilities, rich feature sets, good support — many are cloud-based — and many integrate well with in-house apps," he observed.

Robinson also admires the way the latest tools make analytics more flexible and easier to deploy. "The data management features of these packages are often formidable, allowing the enterprise to rapidly spin up completely new, innovative, decision-supporting apps that help de-silo the company and spread the benefits of analytics insights throughout [the enterprise]," he said.

Robinson noted such capabilities are ultimately more important to an enterprise's growth and success than the "cool ways you can eavesdrop on social media."

Robinson also believes that more attention must be paid to mobile analytics. "Enterprise mobility is not just a peripheral layer of enterprise IT — it's rapidly becoming enterprise IT," he stated. "The world is going faster and faster and we're transitioning from sitting-down computing to standing-up computing, relying more and more on our mobiles than our desktops and laptops."

The analytics vendors that understand and tailor their tools to this fact will wind on top," he predicted.

Entering a new era

Analytics has made everything new again. "It's been there all along, right under our noses — all the knowledge and insight and strategy and predictive power we never knew we had — just below the surface of our databases," Robinson said. "Organizations can use this wealth to make themselves faster and more efficient."

Today’s enterprise is an exciting place. "Everything is being shaken up and technology is giving us such rich opportunities to improve," Robinson stated. "We need to embrace that excitement — let it inspire us and move us to change and grow."

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 [Interop ITX 2018, the independent conference for IT leaders, runs April 30 - May 4 at the Mirage in Las Vegas.]

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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