Gartner Symposium: the future of analytics

Simon Bittlestone - Managing DirectorWe are now less than a week away from Gartner Symposium Barcelona, the largest annual congregation of technologists in Europe. And although much of what is on offer is from the larger players who follow rather than lead the market, in the technology industry even the pace of change of the followers is exciting.

Last year, Gartner’s big pronouncements in the data analysis sector were increasingly focused on analytics that provides real business value and a shift in the purchasing and decision making power from the technology team to the business users. It was not a shock. Those of us in the market itself had seen this change of emphasis for a while, but that Gartner highlighted it was important because it meant that those in the technology world were beginning to embrace it.

As we prepare to sponsor the event the again, it will be intriguing to see how that message has evolved over the last year (nearly a generation in the world of technology). From the market’s perspective, amongst all of the advances in predictive and prescriptive analytics, of learning algorithms and of course processing horsepower, we are seeing something that can best be described as “the return of the hypothesis”. Why? Because while the production of data is doubling each year, the percentage that we are actually analysing is dropping (and its currently only about 0.5% anyway).

That is quite a scary fact. Businesses continue to spend more and more money and time on building giant data lakes rather than effectively trawling what they have to provide value. So the question, “what data matters?” is becoming even more important. That is where the hypothesis comes in. The only way businesses can determine the data that matters is by connecting the data sets in a simple model, starting with market, sales and operational data and ending with financial outcomes. With this in place, it’s easy to see the data that will add the most value. From there, it is much easier to ensure that the analysis that does take place will be relevant and the data programme will be targeted.

The arrival of machine learning can do a lot to help with this; and I’m sure we’ll hear about that at Gartner too. It’s an extremely effective pattern finding capability that can provide valuable predictive and prescriptive insights, generally quicker and to a greater depth than manual methods, but it must still be pointed in the right direction. Get that right and data analysis can provide a significant competitive advantage in today’s complex markets.

At the heart this opportunity is an ever closer tie between technology, finance and business decision makers and at least an equal focus on generating relevant insights themselves in parallel with collecting data (don’t be fooled into waiting for the lake to fill). Hopefully we will see these themes in play in Barcelona this year.

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