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Trends and Outliers

TIBCO Spotfire's Business Intelligence Blog

Monthly Archives: May 2011


Will Supply Chain BI Work For Your Company?

j04352451 150x150 Will Supply Chain BI Work For Your Company?If you want to effectively manage your supply chain, you have to invest in business intelligence (BI) software.

That’s the word from the Aberdeen Group, which conducted a survey of 149 supply chain professionals in March and April 2011. The report, “Business Intelligence Command and Control Center for the Chief Supply Chain Officer,” looked at the challenges enterprises face in managing their complex, global business operations. The report also identified the top strategic actions that top companies are taking to operate more efficiently through business intelligence.

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The Data Analytics of Gas vs. Charcoal Grills

Let’s face it. Today, work is secondary in thought because most people are ready to head home for the unofficial start of summer – Memorial Day weekend. Mark Lorion, our vice president of marketing, took a quick break today to answer the burning question for all barbecue aficionados – charcoal or gas?

And, he says you’re all invited to his BBQ…visualization, that is. Check out this visual dashboard of the growth in BBQ grill trends which were created with Silver Spotfire.

analysis of bbq grills 1024x472 The Data Analytics of Gas vs. Charcoal Grills

Are you grilling this weekend?  Leave a comment with your plans. And, please answer our burning question – charcoal or gas? Happy Memorial Day and don’t forget to follow Mark on Twitter @mark_lorion.

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IBM’s Watson: Becoming a Doctor with Data Analytics

Data Analytics Medical Diagnosis IBM’s Watson: Becoming a Doctor with Data AnalyticsThe supercomputer that beat human Jeopardy champions earlier this year is now as advanced as “a second year medical student,” according to tech blogger, Bruce Upbin (@bupbin).

In his post on the matter, Upbin points out that Watson has been training to be a health care diagnostician. While he may not be a candidate for Fox’s Dr. House’s elite fellowship yet (the producers should definitely invite Watson to be on the show), Watson is on the road to changing healthcare diagnosis in the next five to 10 years.

Cramming for Boards

The DeepQA software developers at IBM have been working for the past year to refine how Watson collects and analyzes health data. For instance, the human team (as is required in data analytics) headed by Dr. Eliot Siegal, a senior radiologist and vice chair of informatics at the University of Maryland, provided IBM with a list of the most important texts and journals for Watson to read. Much like a college student (but at a much accelerated pace), Watson hit the books (dozens of them) plus he absorbed the knowledge of the Medline and PubMed databases.

Also like a student, Watson is taking board exams by asking and answering the questions. He’s shown the same over-time improvement that he did in his rise to Jeopardy fame, reports Upbin.

Diagnostician Residency in Watson’s Future

Watson’s team will soon put the scary smart computer through a residency of “anonymized patient records so it can marry what it knows about diagnostics with the procedures, treatment and outcomes that follow.” The end goal is to aid doctors in treating real patients, especially in rural or underserved areas.

Analytics Behind What Watson Can Read

Another report we found says that Watson will soon be working past “natural language queries and advanced text analytics” to learn from more visual and auditory forms of communication – recordings and video. According to Michael Vizard’s blog at ITBusinessEdge, Watson’s development team “relies heavily” on the open source Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA). The software will soon be supporting video and audio searches, which will allow Watson to search through “troves of audio and video files.”

Mastering the Bedside Manner?

Lastly, Watson is working on his conversational skills – asking questions – a key skill in data analytics. Right now, researchers are “fine-tuning the original query by comparing questions based on previous similar interactions.” This practice will allow Watson to pose more follow-up questions. The longer-term goal is to give Watson the ability to ask more spontaneous questions as he collects data, writes Vizard.

Our Take

Watson is a key example of how important the human element and team collaboration really is in the field of data analytics. To learn more about the human element and collaboration as it relates to data analytics, check out our recent webcast on TIBCO Silver Spotfire.

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team

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Text Analytics Summit 2011 – A Twitter Recap

Last week, another event lit up the Twittersphere – the Text Analytics Summit #TAS11. This event sparked some interesting conversations around adding semantics and nontraditional data to the analytics mix plus over 300 Tweets.

You can see the data visualization here:

archivist of TAS11 Text Analytics Summit 2011   A Twitter Recap

Presented by chairman Seth Grimes, the Text Analytics Summit is in its seventh year. Alongside Grimes, who is considered the leading analyst in the field of text analytics, presenters included a number of analysts, social media directors and VPs, CMOs, researchers and vendor representatives. You can see the entire speaker list at this link.


Text analytics is a hot field. According to Grimes, the attendance for the Text Analytics Summit was up 30 percent from 2010. Additionally, he reports that it’s taking a $835 million share of the $11 billion BI market.

Seth Grimes kicked off the event with an overview of where we are with text analytics and where the industry is going. If you missed the summit, you can see his presentation slide deck here. Grimes also gave a more in-depth look at the text analytics market and solutions in a workshop format at #TAS11. You can find all 79 of the presentation slides here.

Grimes is known for his witty Twitter commentary, and he doesn’t disappoint with this event’s best Twitter quote:

Seth Grimes: “Text analytics is like a dancing bear. You don’t care how good it is, you’re just amazed it works at all.” (approx) @Kurtis_Williams #TAS11

A couple more related to Grimes:

Chris Jones, senior manager of text analytics at Zynga (the company behind social games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars) received many Twitter accolades on his presentation: How to Operationalize the Voice of the Customer in Your Company.

Some of the best Tweets:

  • Nicole Laskowski: “Chris Jones (Zynga): Text analytics can distance you from customers. Don’t forget to meet, talk to, shake hands with customers. #tas11.
  • Lee Feigenbaum (VP of Technology Services at Cambridge Semantics): “Chris Jones (Zynga) — link it together — text analytics data + other enterprise information #tas11 #semanticweb.”
  • Tom H.C. Anderson (CEO of Anderson Analytics) : “Zynga talking about Farmville “There are 2 million farms in US. We have 30 million farmers on Facebook” #TAS11 #NGMR.”

A view of the experts. gives you the ability to search the hashtag #TAS11 and return all the Web resources related to the event. You can sort by Web, Blogs, Tweets and Experts. Here’s an experts list related to the Text Analytics Summit.

The Twitter Leader Board

  1. Seth Grimes – Grimes Tweeted more than anyone else by more than 6 percent. His Tweets accounted for more than 16 percent of the event’s Twitter Traffic.
  2. Jon Blossom – president of Shore Communications – a research firm specializing in marketing content and technology. Blossom accounted for just over 10 percent of the Tweet volume.
  3. Samir Batla – principal product manager at EMC Consulting. He Tweeted just under 10 percent of the Tweets. He also appeared on the Spotfire blog recently to discuss putting content in context.
  4. Shantanu Godbole – a researcher at IBM in New Delhi, India. He provided just under 8 percent of the real-time updates on TAS11.  He also wins best Twitter handle with @solzaire.
  5. Nicole Laskowski & Deborah Balme. Laskowski is the new editor for business analytics and BI at TechTarget. She tied with Balme, associate director at OgilvyOne (advertising) specializing in analytical and data solutions. Both Tweeted just over 5 percent of the total TAS11 updates, respectively.

Here’s a convenient “Follow the Experts” list for you:


Subscribe to the Trends & Outliers Blog for more insights on text analytics and what’s happening in the Twittersphere.

Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team

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CIOs and Data Analytics: A Twitter Recap of the MIT CIO Symposium

twitter follow friday224 150x150 CIOs and Data Analytics: A Twitter Recap of the MIT CIO Symposium We’ve got a special #FF post for you today – a recap of the Tweetfest that was around the MIT CIO Symposium on Wednesday of this week. Read on for the “he said, she said” details (on data analytics, CIOs and mobile BI) and a great list of people to follow.

The Leader Board (according to The Archivist, a tool to save and share Tweets)

  1. Iron Mountain, an information management firm – 9.31%
  2. MIT CIO Symposium , the event organizer – 7.93%
  3. Larry Hawes, an analyst and consultant at Dow Brook Advisory Services – 6.90%
  4. David Wihl, CEO of SoftArtisans – 5.86%
  5. Nick Carrier,  a Capgemini consultant – 5.17%
  6. Julie Boughn, acting deputy director of operations for the CMS Innovation Center at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare 4.83%
  7. Merritt Maxim, a product marketing manager for CA Technologies – 4.83%
  8. Kingsley Idehen, founder and CEO of OpenLink Software – 4.14%
  9. DanWoodsCITO, a researcher who writes on IT for CITO Research and -4.14%
  10. ECIOForum– Enterprise CIO Forum, a community of CIOs and IT leaders – 4.14%

Note: This tool ranks users by percentage of Tweets, not the number. To see the full visualization, visit our Archive.

CIO and Data Analytics Twitter Chat 300x178 CIOs and Data Analytics: A Twitter Recap of the MIT CIO Symposium


  • Honorable Mention: Spotfire’s own Brett Stupakevich had 2.07% of the Tweets.
  • Best Twitter Handle: The Dodge Retort – a blog from tech journalist John Dodge.
  • Data Visualizations: It was a tie between the data behind this hashtag and Nick Carrier (see No. 5 above): “#MITCDB using fMRI to study the brain’s activity during buying decisions is what I would expect from MIT. Really cool.”

Spotfire Presents

Spotfire’s COO and SVP Rock Gnatovich spoke at the event as part of the Enterprise Analytics – Business Values track. The topic of conversation centered on how data analytics tools allow companies to predict and experiment with data to find insights and causalities.

The Role of the CIO & BI

The most Tweeted topic – the role of the CIO – was  conveniently defined by the release of a CIO study from IBM on Tuesday of this week.

In a press release from IBM, we learned that four out of five CIOs or 83 percent see BI and analytics as “top priorities for the businesses and they seek ways to act upon the growing amounts of data now at their disposal.”

This technology was named a competitive differentiator over the next three to five years among all CIOs surveyed. For 95 percent of the CIOs in South America (except Brazil) and Canada, it is the differentiator.

And if you look at the Twitter responses to the CIO Symposium, you’ll gather the sentiment that CIOs are business execs with a background in technology.

Popular Tweets on the matter:

  • John Dodge: “CIOs have to think like CEOs and behave that way:” David Castellani, sr. managing dir., CEO, NY Life retirement services.”
  • Larry Hawes: “I’ve heard the word “learning” uttered by several speakers already today. How often have you heard that term associated with CIOs?”

Cloud & Mobile BI is Key

According to the IBM study, “as mobile applications that support business productivity and new market opportunities continue to grow, mobile computing and mobility solutions are now see by 74 percent of CIOs as a game-changer for their businesses.”

The most ReTweeted post was related to this topic.  McKinsey & Company Technology Consultants, said that the “key to convincing execs value of analytics [was to] place data on an iPad.” McKinsey & Company also Tweeted out an interesting link on their new study regarding the economic impact of “big data.”

This leads nicely into the next big topic at the MIT CIO Symposium – what to do with all the data. But before we move along, here are a few of the popular tweets on the matter of #cloud and #mobile BI:

  • Dan Woods: “You must get self-service right to gain max value from private cloud adoption.”
  • MITCIOSymposium: “Mobile + Cloud presents huge opportunity – Access to data on the go. New relationship building on the ground.”

Handling the Virtual Piles of Data

One of the issues the Enterprise Analytics panel addressed was what to do with all of the data coming at us from departments, social networks, transactions and everywhere else. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog article on the causes of today’s “data tsunami,” Gnatovich said that “the amount of data that’s trying to be combined from a variety of sources is all machine-driven. But, ultimately it’s got to be the human that interacts with that, interprets that then is able to make the decision and drive the action.”

The way this will interaction and decision making will happen is through better visualization and interactivity on all types of devices.

Gnatovich told this story in greater detail in Wednesday’s panel discussion. He said we need to combine “the data scientist and storyteller to create better analytics.”

Popular Tweets on the matter:

  • ECIOForum: “More digital information was produced in 2009 than all info since beginning of time. M. Hopkins, EIC Sloan Mgt Review.”
  • Eileen Glovsky (a government IT professional): “#Spotfire COO says analytics either results in an Aha! Or an Oh NO! #mitcio.”

The No. 1 Sentiment in BI is Frustration

Gnatovich said that this is the call heard round the world about business intelligence projects.

Why? It might have something to do with these two nuggets straight from Gnatovich’s mouth, “forcing analytics to go through IT imposes a curiosity tax” and “most customers are frustrated with analytics – rebellion of biz users.”

The DodgeRetort, a tech blog by journalist John Dodge, was the first to Tweet this truth. It was followed up by a fervent Tweet from David Wihl (mentioned in the list above) that explained the business user rebellion as BI tools “need so much improvement.”

More popular Tweets on the matter:

  • Jim Ericson (Information Management editorial director) “#mitcio Survey @MIT says orgs overall rate themselves 4.5 on a 10 scale in analytic proficiency.”
  • The takeaway of this event is summed up rather nicely by our own Rock Gnatovich as Tweeted by Spotfire’s Brett2point0: “Human interaction is crucial to driving action w/#analytics.”

The Full #FF List


Amanda Brandon
Spotfire Blogging Team

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The Data Analytics of What CEOs Do All Day

ceo and data analytics 220x300 The Data Analytics of What CEOs Do All DayRecently, four professors looked into the work life of chief executive officers at major companies. Of course, they came back with some interesting data analytics.

Harvard Business School Professor Raffaella Sadun and three of her colleagues dived deep into the impact the CEO’s time had on the success and failure of a company. The test was conducted in Italy by Sadun and her colleagues, Oriana Bandiera and Andrea Prat of the London School of Economics and Luigi Guiso from the European University Institute.

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The ABCs of BI Implementation

abc blocks 150x150 The ABCs of BI ImplementationA:  What is it?

“Implementation” covers the start-to-finish activities associated with any Business Intelligence project.  That includes projects of every size, from replacing a single report to building a BI infrastructure from the ground up.

Implementation can be viewed in terms of four typical phases:

  1. Planning and discovery: Defining the need(s), deciding on solutions, detailing what to do, how to do it, and who will be involved.
  2. Project preparation: Risk assessment, budgeting, purchasing, staffing, establishing project management, etc.
  3. Development: Requirements, installation, coding, documentation, testing, etc.
  4. Deployment: Training, roll-out, support, etc.

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Prescriptive Analytics – A Step Beyond Predictive Analytics

prescriptive analytics 300x297 Prescriptive Analytics   A Step Beyond Predictive AnalyticsIf it seems like ages ago that you began using descriptive analytics, and you’ve already mastered the data mining, pattern recognition, forecasting and predictive modeling of predictive analytics, then it’s probably time for you to move to something more complex that delivers an even greater business impact. According to “Analytics Journey” from Analytics Magazine, that next step is called prescriptive analytics.

While predictive analytics helps you model and forecast what might happen in the future, prescriptive analytics helps you decide the best course of action to take given your objectives, requirements and constraints. It seeks to find the optimal solution given a variety of choices, alternatives and influences that might affect the outcome. An even more advanced area of prescriptive analytics uses stochastic optimization to also take into consideration the uncertainty that might exist in the data used in the analysis.

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How to CrowdSource Predictive Analytics

crowdsourcing predictive analytics 300x216 How to CrowdSource Predictive AnalyticsYou can argue that data modeling and predictive analytics is as much art as it is science. There are many different approaches that can be taken when trying to come up with the best solution to a problem. That’s why some organizations have begun to “crowdsource” their modeling projects by making the data available to the public to see what solutions others can devise. We’ve posted here about the contest to win Red Sox Gear as well as the Heritage Health Prize that’s worth $3 Million to the winner.

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Six Essential Soft Skills for Data Analytics and BI Professionals

Top Soft Skills for Data Analytics Pros Six Essential Soft Skills for Data Analytics and BI ProfessionalsIn just milliseconds, IBM’s Watson computer was able to search and evaluate thousands of potential responses to clues on the Jeopardy! game board and ultimately beat out its two human competitors on the game show. But in a real company setting, having the right answer isn’t enough. In real life we need “soft skills” to communicate, persuade, collaborate and work with others. An article in the January/February 2011 issue of Analytics Magazine outlines six soft skills that every analytics professional needs — skills that Watson doesn’t possess, at least today.

1) How to turn a client into a partner
Every project has a “client” who is responsible for it. Analysts need to develop a winning relationship with that client and be aware of potential conflicts that exist. By exploring and discovering the problem together with the client, learning from each other, and making the client your champion, it’s possible to turn a client into a partner.

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