Business intelligence and Analytics Are Getting Hotter

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A surefire way to draw customers to a casino is to give them cash. The hard part is figuring out how much, according to Ralph Thomas, vice president of strategic analytics and database marketing at Seminole Hard Rock Gaming.

"The primary driver in our business is what we call 'free play,' which is similar to sending cash in the mail, only with a few restrictions," Thomas tellls CRM magazine. "But we can't just send everyone $100, so we need to find that sweet spot, wherein the offer is meaningful enough to the customer to change behavior and drive extra trips, but not so expensive that we simply discount a great deal of existing play."

Thomas and his colleagues tested dollar amounts using the Rapid Predictive Modeler in the SAS Enterprise Miner platform. The Florida-based casino and hotel company was able to deliver better targeted offers, identify more prospective customers, and save money on postage.

To gain insight into customers' interests, companies like Seminole Hard Rock Gaming are shoveling an increasing amount of money into business intelligence (BI) platforms and analytics applications, say analysts at Gartner.

Worldwide BI platform, analytic applications, and performance management software revenue reached $12.2 billion in 2011, a 16.4 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner.

Several factors are driving this growth, explained Rita Sallam, vice president of research at Gartner, during a speech at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Los Angeles.

"Business intelligence and analytics are a top priority for CIOs, but we're starting to see a shift from IT to the line of business, not only in terms of budget but also in terms of influence," Sallam said. "The line of business is driving a lot of investments in self-service data discovery tools, which are more business-user oriented [and can be implemented with minimal IT support]."

For technology to be widely adopted, it must meet three criteria: ease of use, speed, and relevancy, Sallam said. "When you look at Facebook, Twitter, and similar technologies, they all have these [qualities]. BI and analytics are starting to go in that direction as well."

Developments in cloud services, mobile technology, and social data will also lead to greater adoption of BI platforms and analytical tools, she added.

In terms of vendors, the five largest in 2011 (in descending order based on market share) were SAP, Oracle, SAS Institute, IBM, and Microsoft, Gartner reported.

The mega-vendors hold two-thirds of the BI, analytics, and performance management market, but smaller vendors are gaining attention too. Vendors called "niche players" in the "Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms" report include Alteryx, LogiXML, Panorama Software, Pentaho, Salient Management Company, and Targit.

"We are starting to see critical mass in start-ups that are focusing on advanced analytics," Sallam noted. "The mega-vendors…own the dominant share, but there is still a lot of growth."

As more companies invest in BI technologies and applications, Sallam predicted, there will be an "evolution of information management infrastructure and capabilities."

For Thomas, that reality is here. "The Rapid Predictive Modeler in SAS Enterprise Miner makes our lives much easier," he says. ";We've always focused our data mining on big-dollar problems, and now our productivity has soared. We generate predictive models in a fraction of the time it took before…. This investment has paid for itself many times over."

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