Archive for Analytics

Building the analytics you need to monetize your innovation

Join us at the Gilbane Conference in Boston December 1-3 and learn how your peers are building superior digital experiences for customers and employees. If you haven’t reviewed your analytics for effectiveness in a while, or are wondering if you are collecting the right metrics to support your business objectives, this in-depth workshop is for you.

Great Ideas Need the Right Metrics to Flourish: Building the Analytics You Need to Monetize your Innovation

For digital innovators, Analytics and data-driven decision-making have become key determinants of success. “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” The right metrics often make the difference between monetizing innovation and under-performance.

Yet identifying these “metrics that matter” isn’t easy—the right metrics vary widely based on your business model—nor is it easy to build the required capabilities and collecting the necessary data. Fortunately there is a way to make it easier, and this presentation will share a better way to tackle the challenge.

In this workshop, author and analytics veteran Jaime Fitzgerald will share his battle-tested method that addresses this challenge. During two decades working with data, Mr. Fitzgerald created a new method that makes it easier to define the metrics you really need to monetize your innovative ideas, business models, and initiatives. In addition to defining the “metrics that matter,” Mr. Fitzgerald’s methodology defines the analytic methods and data sources you need to generate these key performance indicators, and how they will be used to enhance key business decisions, essential processes, and business model evolution.

Instructor: Jaime Fitzgerald, Founder & Managing Partner, Fitzgerald Analytics
Tuesday, December, 1: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. • Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston

This workshop is included in the ConferencePlus package. Save $200 on the ConferencePlus and Conference Only options. To get your Bluebill discount use priority code 200BB when registering online.

I would like my $200 registration discount – code 200BB

 

What big companies are doing with big data today

The Economist has been running a conference largely focused on Big Data for three years. I wasn’t able to make it this year, but the program looks like it is still an excellent event for executives to get their hands around the strategic value, and the reality, of existing big data initiatives from a trusted source. Last month’s conference, The Economist’s Ideas Economy: Information Forum 2013, included an 11 minute introduction to a panel on what large companies are currently doing and on how boardrooms are looking at big data today that is almost perfect for circulating to c-suites. The presenter is Paul Barth, managing partner at NewVantage Partners.

Thanks to Gil Press for pointing to the video on his What’s The Big Data? blog.

Big data and decision making: data vs intuition

There is certainly hype around ‘big data’, as there always has been and always will be about many important technologies or ideas – remember the hype around the Web? Just as annoying is the backlash anti big data hype, typically built around straw men – does anyone actually claim that big data is useful without analysis?

One unfair characterization both sides indulge in involves the role of intuition, which is viewed either as the last lifeline for data-challenged and threatened managers, or as the way real men and women make the smart difficult decisions in the face of too many conflicting statistics.

Robert Carraway, a professor who teaches Quantitative Analysis at UVA’s Darden School of Business, has good news for both sides. In a post on big data and decision making in Forbes, “Meeting the Big Data challenge: Don’t be objective” he argues “that the existence of Big Data and more rational, analytical tools and frameworks places more—not less—weight on the role of intuition.”

Carraway first mentions Corporate Executive Board’s findings that of over 5000 managers 19% were “Visceral decision makers” relying “almost exclusively on intuition.” The rest were more or less evenly split between “Unquestioning empiricists” who rely entirely on analysis and “Informed skeptics … who find some way to balance intuition and analysis.” The assumption of the test and of Carraway was that Informed skeptics had the right approach.

A different study, “Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain“, at the Institute of Neurology at University College London tested for correlations between the influence of ‘framing bias’ (what it sounds like – making different decisions for the same problem depending on how the problem was framed) and degree of rationality. The study measured which areas of the brain were active using an fMRI and found the activity of the the most rational (least influenced by framing) took place in the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning takes place; the least rational (most influenced by framing / intuition) had activity in the amygdala (home of emotions); and the activity of those in between (“somewhat susceptible to framing, but at times able to overcome it”) in the cingulate cortex, where conflicts are addressed.

It is this last correlation that is suggestive to Carraway, and what he maps to being an informed skeptic. In real life, we have to make decisions without all or enough data, and a predilection for relying on either data or intuition can easily lead us astray. Our decision making benefits by our brain seeing a conflict that calls for skeptical analysis between what the data says and what our intuition is telling us. In other words, intuition is a partner in the dance, and the implication is that it is always in the dance — always has a role.

Big data and all the associated analytical tools provide more ways to find bogus patterns that fit what we are looking for. This makes it easier to find false support for a preconception. So just looking at the facts – just being “objective” – just being “rational” – is less likely to be sufficient.

The way to improve the odds is to introduce conflict – call in the cingulate cortex cavalry. If you have a pre-concieved belief, acknowledge it and and try and refute, rather than support it, with the data.

“the choice of how to analyze Big Data should almost never start with “pick a tool, and use it”. It should invariably start with: pick a belief, and then challenge it. The choice of appropriate analytical tool (and data) should be driven by: what could change my mind?…”

Of course conflict isn’t only possible between intuition and data. It can also be created between different data patterns. Carraway has an earlier related post, “Big Data, Small Bets“, that looks at creating multiple small experiments for big data sets designed to minimize identifying patterns that are either random or not significant.

Thanks to Professor Carraway for elevating the discussion. Read his full post.

Frank Gilbane interview on Big Data

Big data is something we cover at our conference and this puzzles some given our audience of content managers, digital marketers, and IT, so I posted Why Big Data is important to Gilbane Conference attendees on gilbane.com to explain why. In the post I also included a list of the presentations at Gilbane Boston that address big data. We don’t have a dedicated track for big data at the conference but there are six presentations including a keynote.

I was also interviewed on the CMS-Connected internet news program about big data the same week, which gave me an opportunity to answer some additional questions about big data and its relevance to the same kind of  audience. There is still a lot more to say about this, but the post and the interview combined cover the basics.

The CMS-Connected show was an hour long and also included Scott and Tyler interviewing Rob Rose on big data and other topics. You can see the entire show here, or just the 12 twelve minute interview with me below.

Right Fitting Enterprise Search: Content Must Fit Like a Glove

This story brought me up short: Future of Data: Encoded in DNA by Robert Lee Hotz in the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 16, 2012. It describes how “…researchers encoded an entire book into the genetic molecules of DNA, the basic building block of life, and then accurately read back the text.” The article then went on to quote Harvard University’s project senior researcher, molecular geneticist, George Church as saying, “A device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet. While this concept intrigues and excites me for the innovation and creative thinking, it stimulates another thought, as well. Stop the madness of content overload first – force it to be managed responsibly.

While I have been sidelined from blogging for a couple of months, industry pundits have been contributing their comments, reflections and guidance on three major topics. Big Data tops the list, with analytics a close second, rounded out by contextual relevance as an ever present content findability issue. In November at Gilbane Boston the program features a study conducted by Findwise, Enterprise Search and Findability Survey,2012, which you can now download. It underscores a disconnect between what enterprise searchers want and how search is implemented (or not), within their organizations. As I work to assemble content, remarks and readings for an upcoming graduate course on “Organizing and Accessing Information and Knowledge,” I keep reminding myself what knowledge managers need to know about content to make it accessible.

So, how would experts for our three dominant topics solve the problems illustrated in the Findwise survey report?

For starters, organizations must be more brutal with content housekeeping, or more specifically housecleaning. As we debate whether our country is as great at innovation as in generations past, consider big data as a big barrier. Human beings, even brilliant ones, can only cope with so much information in their waking working hours. I posit that we have lost the concept of primary source content, in other words content that is original, new or innovative. It is nearly impossible to hone in on information that has never been articulated in print or electronically disseminated before, excluding all the stuff we have seen, over and over again. Our concept of terrific search is to be able to traverse and aggregate everything “out there” with no regard for what is truly conceptually new. How much of that “big data” is really new and valuable? I am hoping that other speakers at Gilbane Boston 2012 can suggest methods for crunching through the “big” to focus search on the best, most relevant and singular primary source information.

Second, others have commented, and I second the idea, that analytic tools can contribute significantly to cleansing search domains of unwanted and unnecessary detritus. Search tools that auto-categorize and cross-categorize content, whether the domain is large or small should be employed during any launch of a new search engine to organize content for quick visual examination, showing you where metadata is wrong, mis-characterized, or poorly tagged. Think of a situation where templates are commonly used for enterprise reports and the name of the person who created the template becomes the “author” of every report. Spotting this type of problem and taking steps to remediate and cleanse metadata, before deploying the search system is a fundamental practice that will contribute to better search outcomes. With thoughtful management, this type of exercise will also lead to corrective actions on the content governance side by pointing to how metadata must be handled. Analytics functions that leverage search to support cleaning up data stores are among the most practical tools now packaged with newer search products.

Finally, is the issue of vocabulary management and assigning terminology that is both accurate and relevant for a specific community that needs to find content quickly and without multiple versions, or without content that is just a re-hash of earlier findings published by the originator. Original publication dates, source information and proper author attribution are key elements of metadata that must be in place for any content that is targeted for crawling and indexing. When metadata is complete and accurate, a searcher can expect the best and most relevant content to rise to the top of a results page.

I hope others in a position to do serious research (perhaps a PhD dissertation) will take up my challenge to codify how much of “big data” is really worthy of being found – again, again, and again. In the meantime, use the tools you have in the search and content management technologies to get brutal. Weed the unwanted and unnecessary content so that you can get down to the essence of what is primary, what is good, and what is needed.

First group of Gilbane sponsors posted for Boston conference

Conference planning is starting to ramp up. See our first group of Gilbane sponsors, and don’t forget the call for papers!

Making big data analytics accessible to marketers

The recent announcement of SAS Visual Analytics highlights four important characteristics of big data that are key to the ability of marketing organizations to use big analytic data effectively:

  • Visualization is a challenge for big data analysis and we’ll continue to see new approaches to presenting and interacting with it. Better visualization tools are necessary not just because those who aren’t data scientists need to understand and work with the data, but because the increased efficiency and time-to-reaction to the data is critical in many cases – especially for marketers who need to react with lightening speed to current user experiences.
  • In case it isn’t obvious, visualization tools need to work where marketers can access them on web and mobile platforms.
  • In-memory data processing is necessary to support the required speed of analysis. This is still rare.
  • Big data is not only about unstructured data. Relational data and database tools are still important for incorporating structured data.

SAS is far from the only company driving new big data analytic technology, but they are the biggest and seem determined to stay on the front edge.

Why marketing is the next big money sector in technology

Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital Ventures predicts that because of the confluence of big data and marketing Marketing is the next big money sector in technology and will lead to several new multi-billion dollar companies. His post is succinct and convincing, but there are additional reasons to believe he is correct.

Marketing spending more on IT than IT

Ajay opens his post with a quote from Gartner Group: “By 2017, a CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO”. It is difficult to judge this prediction without evaluating the supporting research, but it doesn’t sound unreasonable and the trend is unmistakable. Our own experience as conference organizers and consultants offers strong support for the trend. We cover the use of web, mobile, and content technologies for enterprise applications, and our audience has historically been 50% IT and 50% line of business or departmental. Since at least 2008 there has been a pronounced and steady increase in the percentage of marketers in our audience, so that 40% or more of attendees are now either in marketing, or in IT but assigned to marketing projects – this is about double what it was in earlier years. While web content management vendors have moved aggressively to incorporate marketing-focused capabilities and are now broadly positioned as hubs for customer engagement, the real driver is the success of the web. Corporate web sites have become the organizations’ new front door; companies have recognized this; and marketers are demanding tools to manage the visitor experience. Even during the peak of the recession spending on web content management, especially for marketing applications, was strong.

“Cloud” computing and workforce demographics have also beefed up marketers’ mojo. The increased ability to experiment and deploy applications without the administrative overhead and cost of IT or of software licenses has encouraged marketers to learn more about the technology tools they need to perform and helped instill the confidence necessary to take more control over technology purchases. A younger more tech-savvy workforce adds additional assertiveness to marketing (and all) departments. Now if only marketers had more data scientists and statisticians to work with…

Big data and big analytics

Big data has not caused, or contributed very much, to the increase in marketing spending to-date. Certainly there are very large companies spending lots of money on analyzing vast amounts of customer data from multiple sources, but most companies still don’t have enough data to warrant the effort of implementing big data technologies and most technology vendors don’t yet support big data technologies at all, or sufficiently. I agree with Ajay though that the “several multi-billion dollar” marketing technology companies that may emerge will have to have core big data processing and analytic strengths.

And not just because of the volume. One of the main reasons for the enterprise software bias for back office applications was that front office applications beyond simple process automation and contact data collection were just too difficult because they required processing unstructured, or semi-structured, data. Big data technologies don’t address all the challenges of processing unstructured data, but they take us a long way as tools to manage it.

The level of investment in this space is much greater than most realize. Ajay is right to invest in it, but he is not alone.

Gilbane Boston conference now accepting speaking proposals

The call for papers for this year’s conference is now open. See information on the topics and instructions.

Enterprise Trends: Contrarians and Other Wise Forecasters

The gradual upturn from the worst economic conditions in decades is reason for hope. A growing economy coupled with continued adoption of enterprise software, in spite of the tough economic climate, keep me tuned to what is transpiring in this industry. Rather than being cajoled into believing that “search” has become commodity software, which it hasn’t, I want to comment on the wisdom of Jill Dyché and her Anti-predictions for 2011 in a recent Information Management Blog. There are important lessons here for enterprise search professionals, whether you have already implemented or plan to soon.

Taking her points out of order, I offer a bit of commentary on those that have a direct relationship to enterprise search. Based on past experience, Ms. Dyché predicts some negative outcomes but with a clear challenge for readers to prove her wrong. As noted, enterprise search offers some solutions to meet the challenges:

  1. No one will be willing to shine a bright light on the fact that the data on their enterprise data warehouse isn’t integrated. It isn’t just the data warehouse that lacks integration among assets, but among all applications housing critical structured and unstructured content. This does not have to be the case. Several state-of-the-art enterprise search products that are not tied to a specific platform or suite of products do a fine job of federating indexing of disparate content repositories. In a matter of weeks or few months, a search solution can be deployed to crawl, index and search multiple sources of content. Furthermore, newer search applications are being offered for pre-purchase testing for out-of-the-box suitability in pilot or proof-of-concept (POC) projects. Organizations that are serious about integrating content silos have no excuse for not taking advantage of easier to deploy search products.
  2. Even if they are presented with proof of value, management will be reluctant to invest in data governance. Combat this entrenched bias with a strategy to overcome lack of governance; a cost cutting argument is unlikely to change minds. However, risk is an argument that will resonate, particularly when bolstered with examples. Include instances when customers were lost due to poor performance or failure to deliver adequate support services, sales were lost because answers to qualifying questions could not be answered or were not timely, legal or contract issues could not be defended due to inaccessibility of critical supporting documents, or when maintenance revenue was lost due to incomplete, inaccurate or late renewal information getting out to clients. One simple example is the consequences of not sustaining a concordance of customer name, contact, and address changes. The inability of content repositories to talk to each other or aggregate related information in a search because a Customer labeled as Marion University at one address is the same as the Customer labeled University of Marion at another address will be embarrassing in communications and, even worse, costly. Governance of processes like naming conventions and standardized labeling enhances the value and performance of every enterprise system including search.
  3. Executives won’t approve new master data management or business intelligence funding without an ROI analysis. This ties in with the first item because many enterprise search applications include excellent tools for performing business intelligence, analytics, and advanced functions to track and evaluate content resource use. The latter is an excellent way to understand who is searching, for what types of data, and the language used to search. These supporting functions are being built into applications for enterprise search and do not add additional cost to product licenses or implementation. Look for enterprise search applications that are delivered with tools that can be employed on an ad hoc basis by any business manager.
  4. Developers won’t track their time in any meaningful way. This is probably true because many managers are poorly equipped to evaluate what goes into software development. However, in this era of adoption of open source, particularly for enterprise search, organizations that commit to using Lucene or Solr (open source search) must be clear on the cost of building these tools into functioning systems for their specialized purposes. Whether development will be done internally or by a third party, it is essential to place strong boundaries around each project and deployment, with specifications that stage development, milestones and change orders. “Free” open source software is not free or even cost effective when an open meter for “time and materials” exists.
  5. Companies that don’t characteristically invest in IT infrastructure won’t change any time soon. So, the silo-ed projects will beget more silo-ed data…Because the adoption rate for new content management applications is so high, and the ease for deploying them encourages replication like rabbits, it is probably futile to try to staunch their proliferation. This is an important area for governance to be employed, to detect redundancy, perform analytics across silos, and call attention to obvious waste and duplication of content and effort. Newer search applications that can crawl and index a multitude of formats and repositories will easily support efforts to monitor and evaluate what is being discovered in search results. Given a little encouragement to report redundancy and replicated content, every user becomes a governor over waste. Play on the natural inclination for people to complain when they feel overwhelmed by messy search results, by setting up a simple (click a button) reporting mechanism to automatically issue a report or set a flag in a log file when a search reveals a problem.

It is time to stop treating enterprise search like a failed experiment and instead, leverage it to address some long-standing technology elephants roaming around our enterprises.

To follow other search trends for the coming year, you may want to attend a forthcoming webinar, 11 Trends in Enterprise Search for 2011, which I will be moderating on January 25th. These two blogs also have interesting perspectives on what is in store for enterprise applications: CSI Info-Mgmt: Profiling Predictors 2011, by Jim Ericson and The Hottest BPM Trends You Must Embrace In 2011!, by Clay Richardson. Also, some of Ms. Dyché’s commentary aligns nicely with “best practices” offered in this recent beacon, Establishing a Successful Enterprise Search Program: Five Best Practices