Q&A: IBM's VP of predictive analytics talks social media, BI

The future of analytics will be geo-spatial

IBM has continued its push into the business analytics space, announcing in July that it had assigned 200 researchers to work across its customers’ business systems.

IBM’s vice president of predictive analysis, Deepak Advani, explained to CIO that his work has expanded since the advent of social media.

What is your role at IBM and where were you working prior to this? What experience do you bring to the table?

I have a responsibility for the development and strategy for the business analytics portfolio, which includes business intelligence; a lot of acquisitions we’re making in the risk analytics space as well. As far as my background I have a computer science undergraduate degree and early on in my career I worked on parallel supercomputer software for IBM, and I also spent four years as a chief marketing officer for Lenovo.

I’m really interested in the space of predictive analytics, because when you combine computer science and mathematics to disciplines like marketing it really changes the game in a revolutionary way.

What is the difference between business intelligence and business analytics?

I think of business analytics as an umbrella that includes business intelligence and predictive analytics. Business intelligence to me is about having knowledge workers in an organisation that need insight so they can make better decisions to benefit the business.

Predictive analytics, on the other hand, is analytics that gets embedded into business processes in an organisation and all people in the organisation are making better decisions — the analytics almost becomes invisible to the end user, they are just making better decisions because of it.

When you put business intelligence and predictive analytics together, that’s what we think of as business analytics.

What role do you think social media will play in the future of analytics?

I think social media is already playing an important role. When you look at the classic model of marketing that people build, the way that people interact with brands and the way they make buying decisions is totally changing. We think of it more as a cycle rather than a linear process.

People would rather ask their friends on social media what product they would prefer to buy, and those influencers have more to do with people’s buying behaviour than a company driven advertising campaign. So when you get into the world of predictive analytics, a lot of people have thought that that really is applying analytics on your structured data, or the data that sits in your databases, but what we’re seeing now is that more and more of the data is unstructured, like social media, so that means you also need to analyse it at the same time to have a holistic view of analytics. In order to apply analytics holistcally, you need to analyse not only your structured data, but also your unstructured data.

What will the next big development be for analytics?

Social media as an element for an analytics strategy is very important, but the next set of trends I see becoming important is geo-spatial.

These additional dimensions of time and space are relevant because people are trying to do things in real-time versus in a batch. This whole notion of Big Data was thought about as having gigabytes of data, and you’re now using terabytes - data is growing in size.

You almost have the issue of having too much data, so sometimes being able to identify that data and being able to find a needle in a haystack becomes increasingly difficult. I see the three leading trends as being the geo-spatial, real-time analytics and Big Data, particularly the social data on the Web.

We believe the trend for the next decade or two will be around optimisation, and optimisation will have analytics at the core. We are now seeing some very interesting use cases in analytics to do a smarter job of strengthening loyalty. The last two decades were about automation and the next two will be about optimisation.

We see CIOs playing a very important role as analytics starts to go mainstream. What analytics will allow CIOs to do is to change the conversation in the lines of business.

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

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