Gartner Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit, Day 2: Creativity Is Key

Facing business challenges from a fresh perspective was the major theme of day two of Gartner's Business Intelligence and Analytics Summit. The keynotes delivered by Frank Buytendijk, research VP and Gartner Fellow at Gartner, and Erik Wahl, graffiti artist, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur, ventured into the realms of philosophy and creativity and related such weighty topics back to the ways in which businesses approach data and analytics.

In between speed-painting iconic figures such as Steve Jobs, John Lennon, and Albert Einstein, Wahl talked about the need to tap into creativity that has lain dormant, holding up his own experience—how losing his job served as a catalyst to rediscover his own creativity—and stressing how thinking outside the box can serve businesses when approaching data and analytics. According to Wahl, organizations that are able to use data to create "an emotional connection of trust" with end users are "better equipped to succeed in the future." After Wahl's presentation, the crowd was buzzing with conversation about forgotten passions for the arts.

"We tend to impose our frame, our logic, our design on top of reality and declare it to be the reality," Buytendijk said in his keynote, and while he was commenting on the nature of various philosophical paradoxes, he was also referring to how many organizations approach data. While data may seem objective, competing perspectives can often complicate decision-making processes, and businesses need to be attentive so as not to fall into the trap of making the data fit the problem. As a way to avoid that trap, Buytendijk brought up the Cynefin Framework, which identifies four different problem types: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. Simple problems are those that require observation, complicated problems are those that require analysis, complex problems are those that require consideration of different scenarios and options, and chaotic problems are those that rely on different visions and values.

The theme of approaching data in fresh ways was also reflected in the sessions. W. Roy Schulte, vice president and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, discussed six best practices for real-time analytics—a growing area that includes techniques such as predictive analytics and complex-event processing. According to Schulte, businesses need to convert slow operational decisions into real-time decisions by automating where practical; track the results of real-time decisions and make changes accordingly; use system guardrails and human oversight to prevent real-time mistakes; use continuous intelligence for situation awareness; provide a common operating picture through multiple personalized views; and pursue decision management in a way that is comparable to the management of data and business processes. Schulte also said that overall, real-time analytics requires both fast access to current data and predefined, structured logic.

In a joint presentation by Platfora and Sears, representatives Denise Hemke, director of product management at Platfora, and Mark Pickett, senior director of online analytics and BI at Sears, identified five components of success with Big Data, and discussed three big challenges in modern retail. According to the pair, successful use of Big Data requires self-service data preparation, easy access, smart analysis, visual analysis, and a data catalog that governs security and permissions. And modern retail will have to solve these three challenges: integrated retail—connecting in-store, online, and mobile sales; household acquisition—identifying consumers by household preferences in addition to individual preferences; and evolving customer segments—knowing how to engage with customers as their preferences change, a process that relies on purchase frequency, purchase value, and channels used.

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