Analyzing the Analytics

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There's a lot of interest in business intelligence these days and analytics specifically. But with that interest comes a lot of confusion over just what business people are looking for in terms of analytics. For example, more than a few BI vendors have extended their BI applications to include some level of analytics. But the analytics found in most of those applications are little more than glorified reports compared to the analytic capabilities found in an SPSS application from IBM, a SAS application from SAS Institute or the Spotfire application from Tibco.

This has people such as Mark Lorion, vice president of marketing for TIBCO Spotfire, wondering whether the time has come for some segmentation of the analytics applications market. Lorion rightly contends that since most corporate business people are familiar with at least the concept of statistical analysis, when they ask the IT department to help find business intelligence applications, they are looking for something that is more open-ended than the traditional canned report that now comes with some visual aids.

What they really want, says Lorion, is a set of BI applications that are on the one hand accessible, but also mask the complexity of the underlying statistical analysis that all too often gets in the way of trying to understand what is really happening in the business. This is the reason why so many business executives still rely on spreadsheets even when they have access to BI applications, Lorion says.

What Lorion is getting at goes to the core of why so many business executives are disappointed with business intelligence. They can't really articulate in IT terms what it is they are looking for. But when you get right down to it, they want a tool that allows them examine a multitude of business scenarios without having to have a Master's degree in statistics to do it.