Use Analytics to Gore Sacred Cows

Susan Hall
Slide Show

Analytics and the Path to Value

When it comes to business, information is clearly power.

An interesting article at profiles the work of Atefeh "Atti" Riazi, CIO of the New York City Housing Authority and how she uses predictive analytics to challenge assumptions about public housing.


Riazi uses SAP AG's BusinessObjects and IBM's Cognos and WebSphere, and an Omniscope application by Visokio Ltd. that runs correlations on large data sets on her desktop. It's not about the products, though. She insists: "It's about opening minds."


Public housing has lots of what she calls "urban legends and sacred cows." Analytics helps her gore them.


For instance, conventional wisdom says more cameras around the properties helps deter crime. After looking at a decade's worth of data, including police reports, she concluded that cameras do help deter vandalism, but not violent crime once they had been in place for at least two months. Other measures, such as random police patrols and a good intercom system were needed along with the cameras.


Said Riazi:

Here we were, ready to make huge investments on additional camera equipment before these findings showed that would not be a particularly useful expenditure.

IBM has been working with Riazi through its interest in smart buildings. Through that collaboration, Riazi says she has learned that tracking sometimes seemingly unrelated elements can help you see problems through a whole new lens. According to the article:

To foster the open-mindedness that analytics and predictive modeling require, Riazi urges CIOs to start adding some statisticians, mathematicians and sociologists to their staffs.
"We have to get out of our comfort zone, which means IT is not about deploying hardware and software. It is about intelligence, which is why IT professionals had better understand how to use data," Riazi said. Analytics is going to take the IT profession "from the place of 'thinking' to what I call the wisdom phase. It is not that 'I think, therefore I am,' but that 'I know, therefore I am," she said.

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