SPSS Collects, Collaborates, and Deploys — All in the Name of Analytics

Expanding the use of analytics throughout the enterprise is a good thing, right? Not so fast. Although enabling casual business users to access analytical tools may generate value, the effort can create as many problems as it solves. Data remains siloed or not properly integrated. Reports aren't shared between departments. Crucial data sometimes reaches key executives too late to affect a decision.

Continually aiming to help enterprises treat data as an asset -- rather than as a liability -- predictive analytics software vendor SPSS recently unveiled PASW Data Collection 5.6 and PASW Collaboration and Deployment Services 4. Both versions now fall under the PASW brand that the company launched in April 2009, and both promise to close the loop within organizations in terms of customer feedback, collaboration, and enterprise data integration.

Director of Product Marketing David Vergara says that SPSS has seen an uptick in user adoption of predictive analytics -- not only among data analysts and statisticians, but among business users as well. With the increased number of people vying for data tools, it's important to keep in mind the differing needs of those in the enterprise.

For example, Vergara says, the hardcore data people always demand more options, better features, and expanded functionality without sacrificing any of the value of traditional analytics. The "new" analysts, also known as the business users, have more simplistic needs despite often being the ones making crucial day-to-day decisions based on data. Vergara says that SPSS is addressing this latter group through increased automation to simplify work and by incorporating analytics into existing applications, systems, and platforms.

PASW Data Collection 5.6 (previously known as SPSS Dimensions): Is intended to enable users to take control of (and manage) the feedback lifecycle. "Data collection is the 'why' behind the 'what,' " says Jane Hendricks, product marketing manager for SPSS. The product offers the ability to collect data at moments of truth within any channel and to make feedback part of strategic analysis, she says. The new version holds the following capabilities:

  • a new authoring interface for rapid survey creation;
  • easier data-entry capabilities, including real-time validation;
  • enhancements to phone-based interviewing; and
  • improvements in survey reporting, administration, and security.

Data Collection 5.6 also allows users to create a survey from a PASW Statistics file. "We take feedback and raise it up a level," Hendricks says, adding that the offering's key aspect is integrating the valuable customer data into overall systems.

PASW Collaboration and Deployment Services 4 (previously known as SPSS Predictive Enterprise Services): The SPSS team calls this offering the "foundation for managing the entire analytics environment." Enhancements to the product include:

  • new browser interfaces, which make it easier to publish results -- and even easier to share the results throughout an organization;
  • increased automation that lets users design and manage more-complex analytical jobs by using rules to specify how jobs are executed; and
  • real-time scoring metrics.

"What all companies struggle with on the front end is managing that data and making sure it's accurate and [that they] have access to move it to the analytics engine," says Jonathan Steiman, a Datamonitor analyst specializing in the insurance vertical. "The second part -- and companies can hardly get to that point -- is actually, once you have the information, integrating it into where people are making decisions." Steiman suggests that the highlights of the SPSS upgrade are integration and the ability to get closer to the business user so that she can make the right decisions at the right time.

Steiman points out that, as with many data-related activities, reporting and analysis are frequently siloed. "There [are] tremendous problems where you have the analytics tool and you as a business analyst create a report and there's no good way of sharing the report or parts of the report," he says. "Three or four cubicles over, another analyst is building the same report because there's no sharing or collaboration." He continues, "The ability to have business analysts pick apart pieces of a model is incredibly beneficial in terms of saving time and producing more reports more quickly."

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