We talk about “mainstream BI” that continues to be more vision than reality, but how about mainstream analytics? This week visualization and analytics vendor TIBCO Spotfire is one step closer to making that a reality with its 3.1 release.
Statistical analysis and predictive analytics requires expertise in both the data and statistical methods. Consuming the results of such analyses, however, does not. So imagine an expert who creates a model that optimizes which customer is most likely to respond to a marketing campaign. The process of determining which factors (such as age, gender, income, and customer tenure) most predict likelihood to respond is something the expert normally does. So the expert runs the model, refines the model for maximum response rates, and ultimately gives a list to the marketing department of which customers are their best targets.
In Spotfire 3.1, there are two new aspects that make predictive analytics more accessible to the final decision-makers (in this example, the marketing department). First, are parameters that allow a business user to select the variables that go into the model. So maybe, age really doesn’t provide the best likelihood to respond. Maybe, instead, it’s education level. Via a simple parameter drop down, a business user can choose which factors they’d like to use as input to the model.
Second, the business user can see the results of the model via an intuitive dashboard from within Spotifire. The R engine is still processing the model behind the scenes, but the results don’t stay off to the side as is often the case today.
A few vendors have tried at least to facilitate the consumption of the results of models, with varying ease and effectiveness. SAS in the way it can surface stored processes in Web Report Studio would be one example. MicroStrategy’s optional Data Mining Services would be another. And yet, neither is particularly widely adopted, partly for complexity and partly for licensing reasons. A few weeks ago, SAS previewed a new product that would be a big enhancement to the concept of “mainstream predictive analytics,” but details are under NDA.
So while “mainstream BI” may still be more of a vision, this release of Spotfire brings “mainstream predictive analytics” one step closer to reality.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard