Consider costs for Business Intelligence Project

Budgetting for Business Intelligence

Setting Your Budget for a BI project

Whether you know you’re going to need BI or you’re just trying to determine if it’s worth the cost you need to know what the costs really are. We’ve worked with customers in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to come up with a budget for their Business Intelligence projects and find ways to minimize that expenditure. Here are some factors to look at when setting your budget for your analytics project.

  1. Sources of Data
  2. Initial project size
  3. Number of recipients
  4. Internal versus External Resources
  5. Type of Software and Brand
  6. On-Premise or SAAS
  7. Data Volumes
  8. Timeline
  9. Real time Versus Near Real Time Versus Batch
  10. Cost Overruns

Sources of Data

Sources of Data – since the whole purpose of business intelligence is to analyze data this is a good starting point. Do you know where your data is stored? Who has access to it? Is it in an easily readable format? What are the volumes of data? Are you looking to compare to external data like weather trends or social media? Knowing where your data is and how many sources is key to getting a feel for how long it will take to pull things together and provide access to the data. Multiple sources can make for a bigger budget – but also a greater value provided to end users who can then get a complete picture of the organization and impacts.

Initial Project Size

We always recommend starting small and building up to bigger projects. This reduces the risk to a limited amount and if things to go wrong the team can quickly learn from the issues and be on track for bigger projects in the future. Projects that can be delivered in 30, 60 or 90 days are ideal for starting out. Once the team has successfully delivered these short term projects then it may be time to move onto larger deliveries. Proving out the return on investment is key regardless of size but starting out with a short term delivery is helpful in many ways. Budgeting for a 30 day project is also much easier than determining the budget for a long multi-year project.

Number of Recipients

Paraphrasing an idea from “Think and Grow Rich” is the idea that the most success can be found by helping the most people. However, a bigger audience will increase the costs of your project both with software costs increasing and in the time and effort to gain consensus on each issue. The benefits of helping more people within your organization do have to be weighed out with the increases in costs. You can provide BI to a greater audience – but we recommend baby steps to get there to help keep costs to a minimum and to gain momentum.

Internal versus External Resources

A separate post needs to be written to cover all of the pros and cons of internal and external resources for BI projects. A general approach is to get external resources to help get you off the ground quickly and get the initial projects delivered, while training internal resources. This approach helps to set best practices and reduces costs over the long run. Once that project is delivered then maintenance and upgrades need to be considered.

Some companies are too small for a full service IT team for maintenance and ongoing projects – in this case it is helpful to outsource this type of role. When a task like adding a user is only done once every six months or so it’s easy to forget the steps and sometimes easier to call on external resources to complete these small support tasks rather than have a Full Time Employee assigned to do ongoing support when it comes up occasionally. Again, many considerations for resourcing but helpful to take a long term perspective even when looking at small projects as the costs can add up in a variety of ways.

If you have an experienced internal team it can be a great way to reduce costs over bringing in expertise – if not then a balance of internal and external can help keep costs down while delivering an advanced system on time and on budget.


It’s no secret that some software is more expensive than others. When looking at which one to go with you can look at the Gartner Magic Box for a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each product. There are many considerations for evaluating the software for a new project – do you already have software installed? Are you an Oracle/IBM/Microsoft etc. shop? Who will be maintaining it? How easy is it to get resources to work with this software? Is the software sold on a concurrent user basis or named users, PVU (size of your server) or other?

Software licensing is often different depending on the type of software – it’s good to ask how it’s sold and if there are better options for you depending on the number and type of users you are expecting. There are also Express versions of most software for small deployments or proof of concepts – or Software as a Service that reduces the upfront cost and is often better for companies who don’t want to handle software upgrades but just want to jump right into data analysis.

When looking at software costs it is important to remember there are often renewal costs to deal with. (Conditional on whether the software is on-premise or SAAS). Often renewal costs fall in the range of 20% of the initial purchase and increasing each year. Just one more item to consider when planning your BI project budget.

On Premise or Software as a Service (SAAS)

As mentioned above Software as a Service is an option for BI projects. This is a big consideration for project costs – do you want an on-premise solution or SAAS? There are many different considerations here; upfront costs, ongoing maintenance, data security and policies about the location of company data. As well this could impact whether the cost becomes an operational expense or a capital expense.

SAAS can significantly reduce the upfront cost of a project and in turn reduce the risk of the project, however there are other considerations like how the expense affects the financial books.

Data Volumes

Big data is completely relative to the systems that are handling the data and quite simply bigger volumes mean more work in pulling the information together and in hardware storage costs – even though these costs have been continually coming down in price.  Do you have hundreds of SKU’s or millions? Tens of customers or thousands? Sensor data that’s coming in by the millisecond or once a day or once a month? Frequent updates tend to create larger data volumes and more work in managing those data volumes. In turn this has an impact on your budget. Having an idea of your data volumes at the outstart of your investigation will help you decide on software and the impact on your budget.


Budget and timeframes go hand-in-hand and often can be balanced against one another. If you need this information yesterday the costs will be high in getting things together quickly and pulling a team together to complete all the work upfront. Often this is a matter of spreading out the costs or facing them upfront. However, if faster means you have to rely more on external resources and high-value expertise this could add additional costs to your project, particularly in comparison to slowly building an internal team to complete the tasks at hand.

Real time Versus Near Real Time Versus Batch

Real time data or the ability to see how things are changing as it happens is critical for alerts for equipment, servers, etc. and allowing for early warning of changes in your business. At the same time, it’s not always helpful to have real time data; when a report is constantly changing it means that every conversation is dependent on who looked at the latest report. This can result in individuals doubting the reports or having unnecessary conversations about the results simply because they changed since they were last looked at. Month over month and year over year reporting rarely needs real time data. Knowing how old your data can be is critical in deciding the type of hardware and software needed for the project. This is a key item to understand when planning your BI budget.

Cost Overruns

Understanding all of the above considerations will help mitigate cost overruns. Despite this, when starting the journey of understanding your business data things do come up. This may be as simple as extra discussions surrounding business rules that were believed to be well understood but the data shows otherwise, or unforeseen issues like network problems when moving large volumes of data. Other considerations include backup frequency and network/hardware infrastructure.



It often takes many months to get a full BI project started with a budget established and approved, a timeframe set, and an expected return on investment. Despite the length of time it takes these projects, it can be very important for companies to jump into business intelligence and key to gaining a competitive advantage in many industries. As well understanding these budget impacts will help to mitigate the risks to the project in general and the budget specifically.

Ask us for more information and how we can help you to make the most out of your BI project. Send us an email at or call at (587) 885-1090

Business Intelligence

Good Cop Bad Cop – Getting Your Data To Spill The Beans

Good Cop Bad Cop – Getting Your Data To Spill The Beans

We’ve been working with clients throughout Western Canada – including Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria and other cities – to help them make the most of their Business Intelligence software purchases and get real use out of the mountains of data that we are surrounded by these days. There are several approaches possible to make the most of your data more than a good cop/bad cop approach.

Exploring your data through Business Intelligence helps to eliminate missed opportunities and gain a competitive advantage. There are many elements to Business Intelligence that help in this regard. Here are just a few examples:

  • Understanding how project costs are accumulating will help to keep track of projects as they progress.
  • In addition a thorough understanding of project costs will ensure current and future project success.
  • Understanding social media and what your customers are saying about your business and industry can give you insight into how to best spend your time.
  • Effective BI systems help to understand all areas of a business – finance, operations, sales and marketing. Finance with year over year reporting with easy slice and dice by business area and managers, operations – for ahead of the game quality control, sales for on the road reporting and customer understanding, and marketing for campaign analysis, and so much more.
  • With Business Intelligence and data warehousing we are able to join isolated silos of data to provide the full view of organization.

We develop solutions that answer business questions and put the control into your hands where it is most needed so you can do your job quickly and effectively. By having self-serve access to your business information you don’t have to put on the bad cop attitude – you can simply answer your own questions and start taking action. This isn’t a pipe dream; ask us how we’ve been able to help other companies to get the data into the hands of those that can make decisions so they’re able to make fact based decisions. Contact us today at or  (587)-885-1090.




Artificial Intelligence

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence with Watson

Machine Learning IBM AnalyticsMachine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence sounds like a futuristic world where robots are going to take over. The reality is the future is now and we have the ability to make use of AI in our every day lives and in our work in particular. AI is a broad concept covering machines that have the ability to complete processes that we would consider smart. Machine Learning takes this a step further in that it entails machines accessing data and learning for themselves rather than being programmed to understand and/or complete tasks.

Using IBM’s Watson Analytics it is possible to ask a natural language question and get answers without having to IBM Watson Analyticsprogram the system to come up with that specific answer. The system then learns what is more appropriate and helpful as answers are selected and the picture of the information is refined. Future questions are answered faster and even more appropriately. This really is the smarter future where information is reported on as seamlessly as new movies are recommended within Netflix. In fact we are already so entrenched in the future of Artificial Intelligence that it seems common place. We even think it’s a pain to shop on a site that doesn’t recommend a better alternative when we’re trying to find that specific item we need. We expect the website to use AI and ML to suggest what other customers have bought or similar items that we might be interested in.

Over the past 5-10 years it has become a common question – why can’t I get ‘my report’, ‘my information’, ‘the answer’ (you fill in the blank) not only as quickly as Google but with a similar understanding and reasoning of the question as Google. Now with systems like Watson Analytics it is possible to ask a question in your own words and get an answer that has reasoning and logic built into it – a truly smart answer.

While many machine learning calculations have been around for quite a while, the capacity to consequently apply complex numerical counts to enormous information – again and again, quicker and quicker – is a current improvement. Here is a couple of broadly announced cases of machine learning applications you might be acquainted with:

  • The intensely advertised, self-driving Google auto? The path of machine learning.
  • Online suggestion offers, for example, those from Amazon and Netflix? Machine learning applications for regular day to day existence.
  • Knowing what clients are saying in regards to you on Twitter? Machine learning combined with a real understanding of words and their meanings.

User Interface Artificial Intelligence

Why is machine learning vital?

Resurging enthusiasm for machine learning is because of similar variables that have made information mining and Bayesian examination more famous than any other time in recent memory. Things like developing volumes and assortments of accessible information, computational handling that is less expensive and all the more capable, and moderate information stockpiling.

These things mean it’s conceivable to rapidly and consequently create models that can break down greater, more unpredictable information and convey speedier, more precise outcomes – even on an extensive scale. What’s more, by building exact models, an association has a superior possibility of recognizing beneficial open doors – or evading obscure dangers.

Oil and gas

Finding new well locations. Breaking down minerals in the ground. Anticipating refinery sensor disappointment. Streamlining oil appropriation to make it more proficient and practical. The quantity of machine learning use cases for this industry is tremendous – and as yet growing.


Breaking down information to distinguish examples and patterns is critical to the transportation business, which depends on making courses more productive and anticipating potential issues to build benefit. The information investigation and displaying parts of machine learning are imperative devices to conveyance organizations, open transportation and other transportation associations.

Social insurance

Machine learning is a quickly developing pattern in the medicinal services industry, on account of the coming of wearable gadgets and sensors that can utilize information to survey a patient’s wellbeing progressively. The innovation can likewise enable restorative specialists to break down information to recognize patterns or warnings that may prompt enhanced analyses and treatment.

Showcasing and deals

Sites suggesting things you may like in light of past buys are utilizing machine figuring out how to dissect your purchasing history – and advance different things you’d be occupied with. This capacity to catch information, dissect it and utilize it to customize a shopping background (or actualize a promoting effort) is the fate of retail.

Budgetary administrations

Banks and different organizations in the money related industry utilize machine learning innovation for two key purposes: to distinguish critical experiences in information, and avoid misrepresentation. The experiences can distinguish speculation openings, or enable speculators to know when to exchange. Information mining can likewise distinguish customers with high-hazard profiles, or utilize cyber surveillance to pinpoint cautioning indications of extortion.
For customers of ours in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and British Columbia we’ve been using advanced analytics to boost profit, reduce costs, and save time. Send us an email at or call at (587) 885-1090 to request your FREE Watson Analytics access and like thousand of others, give Watson analytics a test-drive! 

Data is the new Oil Business Intelligence

‘Data is the new oil’

‘Data is the new oil’

This quote is an interesting perspective on the importance of data in our digital society. This isn’t a particularly new quote but is very relevant for businesses in Calgary, Edmonton and other areas impacted by the energy industry. Our interaction with the digital realm has become an ingrained part of our daily lives, affecting how we interact socially, how we shop and access services, and how we conduct business. Data plays a critical infrastructure role for businesses both internally (being able to accurately forecast and track sales, manage and analyze inventory), but also externally (managing customer relations to improve sales, building a brand’s identity, delivering targeted advertising). To remain competitive and innovative, companies must stay up-to-date on managing the flow of data: how it is captured, analyzed, and leveraged to inform solid decision making. Forward thinking organizations are interested in making the most of this data resource as a means of reducing costs and operating efficiently in dynamic markets. The need for data analysts to interpret and turn data into actionable knowledge will continue to grow as organizations struggle to keep up with the volume and complexity of big data.

Business analytics/ business intelligence: propelling business forward

Business Intelligence has several functions and can be used in the corporate environment to detect fraud, reduce wasted resources, increase revenue and save time. Perhaps most importantly, it empowers decision making at all levels of management, moving away from “gut” or instinct-based decision making that can lead to sub-optimal performance. Key functions of business intelligence include advanced reporting and analysis capabilities, and the ability to compare data to improve tactical and strategic management. Data that is properly managed can be an incredibly powerful tool, and the industries that are adopting business analytics are growing. In the restaurant industry, for example, data analytics can be used to predict how busy a restaurant will be based on factors such as weather, special events (if there is a conference in town, sporting event, or concert), and seasonal demand. With this demand forecast, the restaurant manager can then accurately plan the number of staff to schedule and how much food to order, reducing operational costs, increasing profit margins, and offering a better guest experience. Businesses that know how to leverage their data have a competitive edge against their competitors and are able to plan dynamically according to data trends.

Ask us how we can help you make the most of your data commodities and how our customers in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and British Columbia are saving time, reducing costs, and increasing revenue with business analytics.  Contact us at or (587)-885-1090.

Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics, Data Warehouse, Dashboard

Analytics Success – has it been elusive for you?

Analytics Success…. or Not?

It’s happened more than once that we have had customers call us in after struggling to implement their analytics software for a year or more. Although we’re happy to be able to help, it would be nice to see more success for these projects early on. Based on what we have seen it is not surprising to read the McKinsey study results showing 25% of companies have felt their analytics activities have been unsuccessful and a full 86% suggest that their analytics efforts have been only somewhat effective (or worse) at meeting their primary objective.

So what’s the problem and what do we do about it? How do we get the promised Return on Investment (ROI) that is promised when analytics sales are made?

Meta S Brown has some great tips for avoiding the downfalls and getting success out of your next analytics project in this article.

Start Small

I’d like to reiterate the point that Meta makes regarding starting small. Having a success out the door is much better than trying to solve the biggest problem with the biggest potential impact as the first project. This start small approach is ideal to run with Agile project management. Gain some success quickly and build up the user buy-in.

User Buy-In

Speaking of user buy-in, this is a key part of the process for a successful project. This was mentioned in our Agile Data Warehouse blog post but it’s worth reiterating here. Gaining support from end users is great for showing immediate value in the project but also for the support of future projects. Staying away from the “if we build it they will come” approach is key in driving value out of any analytics project.

Market Differentiation

Data driven decisions can be a big key to market differentiation and gaining a competitive advantage. There is a valuable ROI to be had by implementing analytics wisely. Ask us how we can help put you on the success side of the statistics for showing ROI from analytics projects!


Feel free to ask us for guidance in getting the most out of your Analytics Projects. We are happy to help with a plan to help you find analytics success. Contact us at or (587)-885-1090.

Predicting The Future

Predicting The Future

You may not be able to predict the winning lottery numbers but with advanced predictive analytics options today you won’t need to. That’s because it’s possible to increase your company revenue by predicting trends to be successful in a more traditional sense than winning the lottery. By analyzing your data you can predict customer churn, or employee churn, you can visualize the trend of customers most likely to purchase and focus your sales efforts in those areas. You can determine the best place for your next business location and so much more. The possibilities are virtually limitless. In addition to increasing revenue, there are also practical ways to reduce costs with highlighting areas to reduce waste, reduce downtime, or optimize maintenance practices.

Predictive Analytics can be used to improve Operations, Sales, Fraud detection, Marketing, Crime Prevention… and more!

Not Magic and Not Just for Technical Wizards

We have been helping our customers evaluate predictive analytics solutions for many years and recently there is a new option from IBM that provides many benefits and is available with virtually no learning curve. Watson Analytics allows any user with a data set to quickly visualize unbiased predictions. Cognos SPSS is another great tool with a wide variety of predictive options that get much more in depth than Watson Analytics. So which one do you need? Watson Analytics allows a free trial for the complete version for the first 30 days and a limited version after the 30 day trial. As well you can try a 30 day free trial of SPSS. Using either of these tools you can easily use historical data to predict what will happen next and visualize trends.

Here’s how to get started with each and where you might want to look first.

Watson Analytics

Watson Analytics is known for its ability to provide a user friendly interface for analyzing data for any user – without needing a technical background. With natural language processing it is possible to easily upload data and start analyzing without any of the work to manipulate data, or write cryptic code. Suggested reports and analysis are provided automatically with the capability to drill into further detail. The power of this data analysis on its own is impressive particularly when it is so easily accessible. However, an important additional feature is the ability to look into trends and predictions based on the same data, again, without the need for a technical background. You don’t need to have a computer science degree or a statistician background in order to get real benefits from this tool. With Watson Analytics you will be able to visualize trends and patterns or correlations and details for questions that you didn’t even know to ask.

When creating a prediction in Watson Analytics you can choose up to 5 targets for the prediction for example customer churn would be one target. Once the targets are selected Watson Analytics automatically runs through thousands of algorithms to find the best model and likely predictors. You won’t need to know what type of model to select for the best statistical fit and you won’t end up with a biased prediction based on your own hypothesis.

Click here to get access to your free trial and get started with uploading your data and see what you learn.

Then follow this post in the Watson Analytics community to help you get you started with your first prediction. You’ll be on your way to visualizing trends almost immediately.

The trial version also includes the Watson Analytics Social Media analytics for ten days – giving you the ability to analyze marketing campaigns and more by pulling in data from twitter, review pages, blogs, and more. This gives you the ability to be The Fly on The Wall and to understand what your customers or community are saying about your company and products. This is a powerful tool providing insights and answers into sentiment, demographic information and more.

Watson Analytics is a cloud based offering allowing you to upload your data immediately after signing up for your trial version. Try it today and let us know what you think!

IBM SPSS Modeler

IBM SPSS Modeler is a user friendly tool that you can learn to use to create accurate predictive models for valuable insights. You can use the tool to drag and drop and create the work flow you need without programming, this simplifies the process of building models and visualizing results.

SPSS Modeler is the perfect tool for when you’ve outgrown the capabilities of your Excel spreadsheet and want to do more with predictive analytics but without signing up for a course in programming or coding. This is a user friendly environment that will allow you to draw out, analyze, then communicate and validate results to change processes, policies and systems through predictive intelligence. You can automate data preparation and modeling, access a full range of modeling algorithms and choose which one best suits your needs and get the predictive intelligence results you need. In the chance that you are a technical wizard and want a highly customizable or scientific model you can easily embed a model available in open source (R/Python).

SPSS is a true leader in predictive analytics showing up in the top corner of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for completeness of vision and ability to execute. This is a tool that will help you improve decision making through accurate predictions and discovery of data patterns. SPSS includes text analytics, entity analytics, decision management and optimization for near real-time insights. SPSS modeler can be used as a stand alone desktop installation or a larger deployment integrated within the whole organization. This can be an on-premise, cloud, or hybrid solution.

You can create models to help you understand customer churn, retail market basket analysis, identify fraud, predictive maintenance, and more. With an SPSS model you can see specific actions to take per customer to avoid customer churn, or an approach for avoiding fraud before it happens. You will be able to take immediate action with record by record analysis of predictions and correlations with probability of a target displayed for each record. Empower yourself to make effective decisions and take immediate action with predictive intelligence and SPSS modeler insights.

For your 30 day Free SPSS trial version click here. You can get started right away with a drag-and-drop model that will allow you to apply predictive intelligence to your business data. Feel free to talk to us about how you’d like to use predictive intelligence and we can help point you in the right direction that will help to increase revenue, reduce costs, and/or save time.


Predictive Analytics without the Pain

Whether you’re using Watson Analytics or Cognos SPSS you can quickly increase your revenue and reduce costs by seeing the future trends in your data.

Feel free to ask us for guidance in getting started with either Watson Analytics or IBM Cognos SPSS. We have people that are happy to help with either product and provide suggestions for making the most out of the 30 day trial versions or ongoing tool evaluation.  Contact us at or (587)-885-1090.


Gaining Support for Your BI Project

How to Gain Support for Business Intelligence

How to Gain Support for Business Intelligence

The one thing we notice whenever we’re implementing business intelligence programs with our customers in Calgary, Edmonton, and western Canada is that high level support is crucial for long term success. If you want a business intelligence project to deliver value over the long run and truly achieve the necessary return on investment (ROI) then the first step is to have that executive support. But, if you don’t have it at the moment how do you get it? How do you get the buy-in necessary to allow for a BI program to get started, grow, and show success?

Here are four steps to gain support for a BI project:

1) Show need (increase productivity, decrease sales cycles or production cycles)
2) Demonstrate (potential) value
3) Break out of status-quo (hard to do when everyone is extra busy – they’re covering two jobs… etc.)
4) Gain support.

Show Need
Show need – here’s where you likely don’t need any help. You can already see that it doesn’t make sense to spend a week of full time work each month building the same report that should be automated, or you see the time being wasted in searching for the best options for a customer. You know you could fix issues faster if you just had visibility into when problems were starting to build. You could reduce equipment downtime if you had real access to the sensor information before the equipment fails. You can improve revenue if you knew which customers to focus on. Etcetera, etcetera. There are many ways to gain value from data analysis and a BI program – you can see the problems every day. Start collecting these issues and documenting the details. This will be key to showing how much value you can gain by solving these problems. If that one person is spending 12 weeks in a year gathering the information for the one report that they put together manually each month you can show a dollar amount that will contribute to the return on the investment that we’ll discuss next.

Demonstrate Value
Demonstrate the potential value. Here is where you often need the results to prove that it’s worth investing in, but there are ways you can demonstrate the value of a BI project without putting all your budget up front. Watson Analytics is a great tool that is available with a free trial that allows you to upload your own data or a sample set and immediately see reports and gain insights without doing extensive preparation work. We’ve also done small proof of concepts for customers to show that it is possible to pull together the information needed to address the issues identified. This can be a simple demonstration of tools using a sample of your data or a small project taking 30-60 days to take real data and show real value with business intelligence tools. The type of data may predicate the method for demonstrating value but there are options that we’d be happy to discuss if this isn’t straightforward for you.

Breaking out of Status Quo
We see it every day – and completely understand it. You’re so busy doing your job that you don’t have time to take a step back and see if there is a better way. This isn’t just you – this is everyone in every organization. It’s an endless loop of trying to get everything done before the day is over and respond to the endless emails in your inbox. This is when it is critical to stop and spend five minutes asking if there is a better way. Schedule in this time either at the end of the day so you can start fresh the next day on a more productive foot or first thing in the morning before everyone is dropping in or sending emails that you have to respond to immediately. My favorite is the last five minutes of the day. Here’s where it’s important to take a moment and see what you can do the next day to be more productive but also to review those issues that you know can be dealt with in a better way. This is where you’ll gain clarity on the items from step # 1. Taking the time to see how you can build a more productive process, identify roadblocks, highlight areas of waste, and other processes for improvement. Recognizing the issue really is the first step in making real improvements. This is the first step for you to break out of the heads down, work hard, but running on the treadmill feeling. Change begins with you – is a new-age, feel good slogan, but is really true in that once you start making progress on these areas for improvement others will notice and jump on board.

Gain Support
Once you have made progress in the previous steps it becomes much easier to gain support with others within the organization. Take the time to show the documented need for improvements and to demonstrate the results of the trial programs or proof of concepts. Building support with other co-workers is one step in the right direction, showing the potential dollar value improvement is another step in the right direction. Executive level support is gained with both a dollar amount of projected return on investment but also a team of people with confidence in a new project. Building the right support from the start makes such a difference, not just in getting the initial budget approved but more importantly in getting the right system delivered to show a true Return on Investment throughout the life of the project. Developing the excitement and the vision for improvements is worth the effort once such a project kicks off.

We’re always happy to set up a conversation and discuss these points: helping with examples to show the value, realizing the need and potential gains and talking through how we’ve seen support grow. We can also discuss the overall vision with examples of how value has been delivered with many business intelligence projects. Send us an email at or call us at  (587)-885-1090  for further information. We’re happy to meet with you at our Calgary office at 264 Midpark Way SE. or at your location in Calgary or western Canada.

If you’ve successfully gained enterprise support for your Business Intelligence project let us know if we’ve missed anything in the above steps. We’re always happy to hear about your experiences.

IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media

Hear What Customers Are Really Saying

IBM Watson Analytics for Social Media

Market analysis is not new and at this point social media is really not new either. (You’ve seen the messages that you’ve been friends for over 8 years, memories from 5 years ago!)

It’s time to start making the most out of Social Media and what we can gather about how customers feel, brand reputation, problems or concerns, what customers want, and so much more from Social Media Analytics. We have had customers in Calgary, Edmonton and Western Canada analyzing their marketing campaigns for years – since we started helping them with Business Intelligence in 2005. Now we can do so much more and so quickly with advanced software like Watson Analytics for Social Media. This tool can help you save time, reduce brand risk, increase revenue, and reduce costs – all through real time insights provided through Social Media Analytics.

Analyzing audiences by demographics and geography is standard for marketing campaigns but this is just scratching the surface of the potential. With IBM’s Watson Analytics for Social Media it is possible to get real time responses to basics like demographics and geography of people talking about products or businesses – but then with sentiment analysis, influencer identification, natural language processing, and image analysis; the bigger picture becomes very apparent and very quickly.

Sentiment Analysis WASM Sentiment Analysis

One of the strengths of Watson Analytics for Social Media is the ability to process the sentiment behind reviews, blogs, tweets, re-tweets, and other online information. There are accessible metrics available to show the number of tweets on a topic. Not as many that can give you a good picture of the positive versus negative sentiment behind these tweets – and include other sources as well including reviews, blog posts, video descriptions and comments, news etc. Watson Analytics can include all of these sources and summarize the sentiment across topics and present in a visually appealing fashion.

Influencer Identification

Maybe you need to access that one person that has a wide audience, or maybe you want to only see what true influencers – ones with over 1000 followers – have to say about your product. Watson Analytics makes this happen.

Natural language processing

Ask questions using natural language to easily uncover insights into data – all without an advanced technical skillset. Once again we are talking about Not Needing to be a Data Scientist to work with data and understand exactly what’s going on. You’ve worked with your business for years – you’re the business expert. Now you can ask questions like a business expert and not a statistician or computer scientist.

Image analysis

With a rich understanding of visual images Watson Analytics can include more than just text analytics to help you understand what people are saying about your business or brand.


Putting all of these options together it is possible to come to conclusions and make fully educated decisions based on the results of your analysis. Watson Analytics for Social Media doesn’t leave the demographics or geography behind either – you can also view responses by gender, or region as well, in addition to other demographics and geographic information.


Industry Usage

There are many benefits to industry in being able to get the direct message from their customers. Watson Analytics for Social Media provides this fly on the wall perspective merged with a big picture view. Here’s a few examples of how businesses can make the most out of this advanced software:

Security and Risks – brand risks and community perspective are an important aspect of businesses even without a direct tie to consumers – such as those in oil and gas. Social Media advisors are expected to use social media to protect the company and overcome perception challenges. Watson Analytics for Social Media’s prebuilt visualizations and filters can highlight relevant content quickly providing immediate insights.

Hospitality industries can immediately benefit from social media analytics with understanding trends, being proactive about responding to customer opinions. More than this it is possible to respond to analysis results with supply management and staff scheduling. Tracking the market share is also highly relevant and helpful.

Retail industry can gather real-time feedback on styles, desires and service feedback. No longer will it take months of planning only to order the wrong colours or wrong products, the time frame is now immediate.

Product Owners need feedback on existing product features or feedback on proposed features. Competitive intelligence can also put a company at advantage. WASM can be used to prepare the sentiment analysis and user feedback that would take months to gather through surveys or other market analysis. With additional topics suggested by Watson Analytics for Social Media it’s possible to find what you weren’t even looking for as well.

Sales representatives – can easily understand the needs of their market and prospects and at the same time understand perceptions of their products versus their competition. All with almost no training.

Event planning of all sorts can be enhanced through social media analytics. Understanding potential response and demand will help you with supply chain decisions, staff requirements and other capacity requirements.

Universities and Higher Education facilities can better respond to student needs, feedback and actively market based on key influencers when the information is in your hands

Technology companies can understand outages and provide real-time insights that are simply invaluable.

Be that fly on the wall and understanding just what is thought of your brand – and understand how you can improve with new insights can be invaluable.

Ask us how you can get a free trial of Watson Analytics for Social Media and how we can help you understand the topics and themes necessary to analyze your business and provide immediate insights to reduce costs, increase revenue, save time, and reduce risks. Contact us at or  (587)-885-1090.

Cognos Analytics or Watson Analytics

Cognos Analytics Versus Watson Analytics

Two Products for Business Analytics

IBM now has two business analytics offerings that our customers in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have been using and evaluating. Cognos Analytics is the long standing product evolving from Cognos -> Cognos ReportNet -> Cognos Business Intelligence -> Cognos Analytics and now Watson Analytics – the new offering using cognitive analytics and natural language originating from Watson that competed on Jeopardy. With these two analytic products the question comes up – Which one do I need?

Cognos Analytics

Cognos Analytics has evolved significantly from its roots in Ottawa, Canada back in 1969. The main selling feature for years was their PowerPlay Cubes for quick top down analysis, and slicing and dicing data in so many ways. The offerings changed significantly over the years but became a more complete offering in 2008 when purchased by IBM and combined with the extensive research and development and other tools that IBM has had to offer. The core of Cognos Analytics is still that easy access to corporate information – but with so much more now. Cognos Analytics is moving more and more into business users self service access to information. With both Cognos Analytics and Watson Analytics IBM is reducing the technical skillset needed for more advanced analytics – empowering users as they progress in this direction. This has been discussed previously in our post on So You’re Not a Data Scientist… So What! Cognos Analytics is a truly complete business analytics offering for professional reports, dashboards, self service information access, emailed reports and more. This one tool provides the complete picture of where you are and where you need to go. This is the tool that allows users to make analytics part of their daily work routine with information at their fingertips and a reduced IT backlog. In addition, the sharable features of Cognos Analytics helps to build a community within the organization – with the all important single source of the truth.

Cognos Analytics

Watson Analytics

Watson Analytics is the new kid in town when it comes to Business Analytics. However, this does not mean it’s lacking in power. On the contrary, Watson Analytics is a very powerful tool that has many benefits to adding to your toolkit. The primary strength is in the simplicity – this is the epitome of empowering end users and reducing the necessary technical skillset. There is no need at all for an IT background or a degree in Statistics in order to find the gold in endless columns of data and even unstructured data such as social media analytics. Using natural language it becomes very easy to ask questions and immediately see reports that address those questions with options to drill in or filter to more specific data or alternative views to answer similar questions. Watson Analytics allows for immediate visual understanding of information with key exception reporting. No longer are you searching through data for a vital piece of information – this information stands out immediately.

Not only does a user not need to understand a SQL statement like

“Select name, location, age from table1 join table2 on table1.primarykey = table2.key where table2.lostTimeIncident > 2”

But that user doesn’t even have to drag and drop and create a report or design a report specification. A user can simply type in:

“Tell me about the lost time incidents”

Watson Analytics guides data exploration and by doing so a user can immediately see all of the lost time incidents and drill in to find any issues such as locations that are at higher risk, departments, etc.

Watson Analytics – More Capabilities

Watson Analytics can take things one step further with automated predictive analytics providing answers and new insights. Uncover patterns, correlations and key drivers in your data. Reveal unbiased insights – all without that highly technical data scientist skill set. Business users that truly understand their data will be empowered with new data discoveries. All of this with the ability to tell a powerful story through charts, dashboards and automated visual representations.

Watson Analytics also makes data preparation very easy – it can be as easy as uploading a spreadsheet of data or connecting to a cloud data source – with an automatically produced quality report. Refinement can be completed on top of this – creating new groups, calculations or hierarchies. All in an easy to accomplish fashion – easier than Excel. Then immediate guided exploration is possible.

One additional benefit of Watson Analytics is in Social Media Analytics. This provides a truly powerful and insightful view of your company or industry with insights about what people are saying including a sentiment analysis feature that quickly summarizes what people are saying to identify customer trends and consumer sentiment.


Curious about Watson Analytics? We can help you get set up with their free trial! To get your Watson Analytics Free Trial email us at


showing you what you didn't know to ask

Watson Analytics Versus Cognos Analytics?

It’s great that IBM has these two products and they each have some very distinctive advantages. If you’re looking for business intelligence without a huge technical skillset you have options! So how do you decide which one you should use and why?

First of all with Cognos and Watson Analytics it isn’t necessarily an either/or decision. These two products serve two distinct needs and can effectively build on one another. It doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other.

However, because there are distinct usages of each it helps to point out that Cognos Analytics excels at the operational reporting and providing easy access to accurate information, and Watson Analytics excels in the Data Discovery/Predictive Analytics/and Pattern Analysis area.

Cognos Analytics tends to be more focused on the professional report side with easy viewing and sharing of information. Watson Analytics leans towards data discovery – showing you what you didn’t know to ask.

When comparing Cognos Analytics and Watson Analytics what it really comes down to is if you’re looking for a traditional (but highly advanced!) business intelligence implementation with professional reports and a shared environment then Cognos Analytics is going to provide a next generation solution for your business. If you’re looking for new data discovery with a new way of analyzing your business including predictive analytics and social media analytics – then Watson Analytics is the answer.


We can help you discover what is best for your specific needs with a custom needs assessment. Call us for a needs assessment or for your free trial of Watson Analytics  (587)-885-1090 or email us at It really can be that easy to make better decisions, quickly, and more accurately… today.



True Leaders Know to Ask This Question

The One Question Leaders Need to Ask

​With our business analytics customers in Calgary, Edmonton, and Western Canada we have noticed the difference in organizations that are really progressive with a great sense of employee ​morale. There is an innate organizational structure that really does start from the top.

When something goes ​wrong in a business – whether it’s poor sales results or a failed marketing project or any number of issues that need to be addressed;leaders can ask two questions and these questions will ​quickly ​impact the whole organization.

Question # 1

​A leader of an organization can ask “What went wrong?” and they will get to the bottom of the issue and determine what went wrong and how to fix it. This is important for ensuring the issue doesn’t happen again. However as a first response to an issue, there is a better question that will change the direction of the organization.

Question # 2

If they choose to ask ​​Where do we go from here?” then ​they get immediate responses of ideas, suggestions and plans for how to make things better and still make sure the issue doesn’t reoccur.

The type of question is really important for company culture. Asking the first question results in an organization that is tuned to point fingers ​to determine where an issue occurred and why. This is an employee group that ends up covering their bases all of the time ​ with responses and ideas that are safe and not progressive. They know that if something does go wrong a full investigation into the problem will occur long before any recovery plan. ​ ​This may start with one issue but it grows into an organization where employees limit their ideas and actions to only what’s safe.

When people say company culture comes from the top down it really originates from this simple mentality shift.  Are the leaders looking for how to fix things or are they looking for what went wrong?  If they’re looking for what went wrong, that’s all people will be trying to deliver for the next project or initiative.  Who can be blamed?  ​How do I stay safe? ​But, if things go wrong as they will ​from time-to-time, ​and the leader is out there asking Where do we go from here?  People will be working hard to correct things and keep going. This is the mentality that quickly filtrates throughout an entire organization.

There are very positive organization​s​ and very negative ones, and ones that went from positive to negative.  Why?  Because of the direction that the leaders are looking. ​Empowering employees to look for new ideas​, knowing they will be backed up and encouraged to make the best of a situation; they will try harder to bring out the best ideas and really grow an organization.

Be a true leader and start asking “Where do we go from here?”. If you start asking yourself this question every day it will become the kind of habit that will help you to go places and will make you the kind of leader that everyone wants to work for.

Ask us about what other progressive changes can be made in your organization. As we help organizations with their business analytics we have had the honour of seeing what management styles really can make for a successful organization. Send us an email or give us a call  (587)-885-1090.