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 info@bowriversolutions.com 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 info@bowriversolutions.com 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 info@bowriversolutions.com 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 info@bowriversolutions.com

 

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 info@bowriversolutions.com. It really can be that easy to make better decisions, quickly, and more accurately… today.