Breakthroughs in Analytics, Part 3

Part 1 of this series explores the technologies behind analyzing customer behaviors. Part 2 looks into the tools of business intelligence and Web analytics. Part 3 focuses on analytics tools for niche markets.

The growing reliance on business analytics at the enterprise level to improve strategic operational decision making and increase corporate competitive advantage is driving what IDC estimates to be a US$20 billion market for business analytics development tools and packaged intelligence applications.

Oracle remains a leader of the business analytics market, according to an IDC 2007 forecast report. On top in terms of both revenue and market share, Oracle is nevertheless closely followed by (in descending order) SAS Institute, SAP, IBM and Microsoft, the report stated.

While the enterprise software behemoths battle it out for Fortune 1,000 accounts, niche business analytics opportunities abound for players like Global Market Insite (GMI), a provider of Internet-based market research services and software and desktop analysis tools.

Greater Focus

Today’s software packages are much more focused on the actual application of analytical approaches to specific types of decision problems and specific types of industries, according to Anthony Milano, GMI’s VP of professional services.

“In the old days, tools were typically very general purpose in nature,” Milano told TechNewsWorld. “Now, oftentimes, tools are much more focused on helping users solve specific types of problems in business verticals and industries.”

Vendors are even adapting their core analytical engines to specific needs by creating a packaged solution that includes a version of the engine, analytic models, processes, methodologies, add-ons and extensions that allow the product to solve a very specific need, Milano said.

“Importantly, this type of solution minimizes the amount of time required to solve the problem and makes it easier for the client to get the job done without requiring a deep topic expert,” he added. “In effect, these packaged solutions embed the expertise in the solution.”

Milano stressed the importance of analytics solutions that are provided under the rental model from an application service provider (ASP) as Software as a Service (SaaS).

“These software delivery models have proved to be very cost-effective and efficient for customers, particularly when all the costs of owning and installing your own software are understood,” he said.

Vince Wiggins is VP of scientific development for StataCorp. During the past 10 years, the sheer quantity and availability of information combined with the speed at which it can be processed, analyzed, and presented have fundamentally changed what is possible using analytic software.

“Unfortunately, that sometimes means that we are inundated with more information than we can process,” Wiggins told TechNewsWorld. “It puts the onus on analysts and subject-matter experts to produce results that are truly meaningful to the decisions at hand.”

One important development is that the sophisticated technologies previously available to only a few are now within the grasp of almost everyone, Wiggins observed. Too often, though, this technology is then applied without adequate thought placed behind it, simply producing more data rather than helpful results.

“The tools have gotten faster, bigger, and more capable,” he said. “But they are still tools and require skilled craftsmen to wield them.”

Oracle Ahead

Oracle is a leading business analytics software vendor by revenue, according to IDC’s report: “Worldwide Business Analytics Software 2006-2010 Forecast and 2005 Vendor Shares.” Oracle leads the market in revenue ($2.17 billion) and market share (13.1 percent). If revenue from Siebel Business Analytics, acquired by Oracle in January 2006, is included, Oracle leads by an even greater margin, with $2.38 billion and 14.2 percent market share — nearly $1 billion more revenue than SAS, the next closest vendor.

Although there is no actual Oracle product by the name “Oracle Analytics,” the analytic capabilities provided by Oracle fall into two camps: first, those applications that form a part of the E-Business Suite and Oracle 11i Applications, and then the tools and other facilities that are associated with Oracle9i and Oracle9iAS.

SAS Institute

SAS Institute has covered the spectrum of applications demanding complex, high-data-volume analytic and statistical analysis that yields answers on tough problems such as credit card fraud, customer attrition, money laundering, retail price optimization and more.

SAS offers a wide spectrum of business analytics applications. Its fourth-generation programming language consists of a suite of modules designed for business intelligence (BI) and customer relationship management (CRM). SAS software continues to be the standard used in statistical analysis of clinical pharmaceutical trials for submission to the Food and Drug Administration. It is also widely used for statistical analysis in the insurance industry and the field of public health, at least partially due to the functions added to the base package over the years to extend the analytical capabilities to different data types and formats.

SAS provides data mining, data warehousing and business performance management software. SAS also covers data integration and conventional query, analysis and reporting, while its DataFlux unit deals with vexatious customer and product data-quality problems and the emerging master data management (MDM) approach.

The most advanced analytics systems analyze the quality of data using a Web-based interface to display metrics on a data source, said Scott Gidley, DataFlux CTO. The DataFlux Accelerator for Customer Data Analysis uses a series of pre-built data quality business rules that examine common elements of the data to determine the integrity of that information.

“For example, the system can have a rule to determine the accuracy of customer addresses in a database,” Gidley told TechNewsWorld. “The technology can then display the percentage of records that don’t meet postal standards and provide guidance on corrective measures that can improve the quality of this data.”

SAP Analytics

SAP Analytics, launched in 2005, promises its customers “comprehensive, credible and actionable insights.” More than 100 industry-specific analytic applications aimed at 25 industries use SAP’s composite application model that merges data from SAP and non-SAP applications. SAP Analytics products included SAP Analytics for retail, SAP Analytics for credit management and SAP Analytics for CRM.

The applications pull information from across various systems using BI (business intelligence) queries. SAP said each application plays a role in supply chain management, CRM and product lifecycle management.

IBM’s Family

IBM provides analytics systems that enable a variety of knowledge-discovery and data-mining tools to produce BI. The IBM Data Warehousing BCU for AIX solution includes disk storage from the IBM TotalStorage DS family. The solution also includes analytics and data warehousing components from IBM deep computing technology.

Using these analytics tools, businesses can extract actionable insights from both structured data sources (such as databases or Web pages) and unstructured data sources (such as text, audio and video). These systems can run automatically along with other applications, allowing businesses to mine for data continually and transparently with less administrative involvement, potentially saving time and resources.

Microsoft Office System

Microsoft offers an end-to-end BI solution, starting with the 2007 Microsoft Office System. A widely used set of desktop and server software integrated with SQL Server 2005 enables people to access, analyze, predict, share and collaborate on information in a familiar environment.

Key elements are Office Excel 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007. Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 supports three key aspects of the performance management process: monitoring, analytics and planning. Using analytics, businesses can analyze and identify business trends, opportunities and threats. Microsoft SQL Server 2005 is a secure, enterprise-scalable BI platform for integrating, storing and managing data assets. SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services is an online analytical processing (OLAP) engine built into SQL Server that structures data into multidimensional cubes optimized for analysis, including data mining technologies delivering predictive analysis across Microsoft BI solutions.


NCR spinoff Teradata, a data warehousing and enterprise analytics firm, formed partnerships with Microsoft and SAS in 2007.

Microsoft’s BI suite will provide a low-cost way to share Teradata insight, the company said, while SAS analytics embedded within the Teradata database will speed access to complex, high-data-volume analyses that drive time-sensitive decisions.

Netezza Performance Server

Netezza’s Performance Server streaming analytic appliance is a data warehouse system that integrates relational database, server and storage — “bringing processing power to the data.” In 2007, Netezza established a developer network and opened up its technology.

As a result, SAS, SPSS and others can help their customers embed analytic and algorithmic code right inside the box, with the promise of cutting hours if not days off of complex, high-data-volume analysis.

Breakthroughs in Analytics, Part 1

Breakthroughs in Analytics, Part 2

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