After just returning from IBM's Information on Demand (IOD) Conference in Las Vegas, I would like to take this opportunity to virtually whisper just one word in the ear of a current–day Benjamin Braddock—"analytics". Many businesses have spent the past 25 years or so automating and streamlining business processes in order to drive improvements in efficiency and productivity. But now, it is becoming apparent that these businesses expect their future success will increasingly depend on how skillfully they manage, govern, and analyze information. Businesses are applying analytical techniques to business information to help reduce risk and increase the certainty that they are making the right decisions.
IBM has, in fact, spent $12 billion in software investments (both organic multiple acquisitions like SPSS, Cognos, Filenet, iPhrase, and Ascential Software, just to name a few) over the past 4–5 years to ensure it will be able to support its customers in their quest to unlock the business value of information. In addition, in April of 2009 IBM announced a new organization comprised of 4000 consultants focused on advanced business analytics and business optimization—teams with skills in applying business intelligence technologies like mathematical modeling, simulation, data analytics, and optimization techniques.
In an era of intense competition, tight credit, and cost concerns across global and vertical markets, this focus on getting the most value from the information you have makes a lot of sense. Companies find they are processing more information than ever before, but less of this information is being accurately and adequately used. The quantity of available data that a business needs to manage and understand has skyrocketed along with the increase in instrumented and intelligent products. For example, RFID tags that are embedded in manufactured products, plants and animals generate an enormous amount of data in efforts to control inventories and improve security and safety. Trying to make decisions with inadequate, inaccurate, or untimely information is like driving a fast sports car down the highway with a very large blind spot impeding your view of the truck approaching on your side. You need to know about the obstacles that might appear in your pathway before you try to make a "real-time" correction and steer your car (or your business) off a cliff. So, students and business leaders alike please take note, I see some "analytics" in your future.