Here are more of my notes from the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium: Enterprise Analytics = Business Values. Participants included: Moderator: Michael S. Hopkins, Editor-in-chief, MIT Sloan Management Review, panel: Rock Gnatovich, SVP & COO, Spotfire, TIBCO Software Inc., Brad Peterson, CIO, Charles Schwab, Sid Probstein, CTO, Attivio, and Renée Romano Nocker, Director of Technology Product Marketing, SAS.
Michael said that in 2009 more digital information was produced than in all of past history – so much to look at. They are doing a survey on uses of data at the Sloan Management Review. He asked a survey question – imagine an organization transformed to effectively use data. How close to this ideal is your organization on a scale of 1 – 10? Also where is management in general on this? He asked the panel first.
Rock answered in terms of level of satisfaction of some of their customers. He said that business users are finding traditional BI tools too hard to use. However, some of their customers are using their tool, Spotfire, real time and would rate it 8.5.
Brad said that at eBay, his prior employer, all the IT solutions did not work at first because of the scale but it has been solved and now many of the employees have left to bring this knowledge elsewhere. He would give eBay an 8. Data mining was big for them but it was new at their scale. At Charles Schwab he would say a 6. In financial services you need to be very precise with customer data. They want to go to social and mobile next. What they need to do is drive marketing growth more.
Sid said that at Attivio he would say they are at a 7. They are a young company and not globally dispersed so some data collection is not hard. Michael asked about the business world at large and Sid said it is likely at a 5. It is hard to get data into the funnel. Sid said that the interest in unstructured data has grown in the past two years. Renee said that since coming to SAS she is seeing more of what is possible so she world rate the overall business world at a 3 or 4.
Michael said in their over 3000 responses to the survey so far the average is about 4.5. These numbers are likely high because of a company pride issue. Thought leaders would say a 1 or 1.2 and there is great room for growth. When asked what are the obstacles the answer is not data. The big obstacle lack of understanding how to use the data to solve problems and embed data into business processes.
Michael asked about the biggest misconception about using data. Renee said when business leaders hear analytics there is a focus on reporting and measurement. She sees the value in predicting, not looking back. She sees there is a lack of education in the value proposition on using prediction to make changes in anticipation.
Michael asked if they have seen improvements in the ability to make changes based on data. Sid said there are now offices to manage the data so there is ownership. Analytics are about optimization and changing pain points, not looking backward. Companies need to do more experimenting.
Michael asked Brad about what obstacles he has seen as he is the one non-vendor on the panel. Brad said that much of senior management is not data oriented. He was trained in the value of data at MIT. We need more senior management to get it.
Rock said there is a sense that only a few people can do analytics in an organization. The IT organization has not been responding fast enough so people bypass it. His firm’s client base has a lot of people who do not trust the data they are given and want to work on data itself.
Brad said that at eBay they had to be able to sell anything ever built. So they could not put in place highly structured data gathering. They had to adapt. You have to give up on too much organization or the business will not adapt. Renee agreed that being open is good in many cases but you still need structure in others. IT people get excited when they are using innovative analytics to help drive decisions in their company.
There was a question from audience about being creative and not getting a mess. What is the right balance of empowerment without chaos. Rock said Excel, for example, allows you to do anything you want but you cannot share it as no one else will know what you did. You need a combination of guided workflow and free form.
Another question: Some people need to simply have the forms filled in and others are hungry for more data. What is the thing to move companies from a 4 to an 8 on the scale. Renee said it is the skills on how to pick the important parts of data to look at. It is the analytic skills more than the technical skill. Sid agreed that expertise is an issue but also infrastructure requirements and the corporate need for short-term results that limits investment. Companies do not want to make the investment. Brad said the you need to get funds from marketing budgets as this is where the value will go. Rock said it is a combination of technology and methods. He agrees it is a skill gap in the analytic space. Also, the need to not have to organize everything opens up for innovation.
Audience: I heard this morning that BI is not widely adapted and is still hard to use. How to get this adaption. Sid said you need to get wider use for BI tools. You need to shift from complex reporting to Google style simplicity. We would applaud this at Darwin Ecosystem as that is one of our design goals. Sid added that you need the consumer model of simplicity to increase usage
An audience member said he has to sell BI within the organization. He asked for any practical ideas to sell senior management. Rock said you have to create a virtual environment where people can bring their data. You then need to allow for socialization as people trust other people more than data. Renee said you need good communicators. They went out and found problems that need data to solve them. Then you do pilots on these to demonstrate value. Brad said give business people an iPad with the BI tool on it and they will love it and show it to others.