Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

Business Analytics Q&A


Following Thursday's General Session, a few of my fellow bloggers and I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the senior executives leading IBM's efforts around Business Analytics - Deepak Advani, Erick Brethenoux, and Adam Klaber.

They spoke about how in the wake of the explosion of social media over the past few years, there are new opportunities for techniques such as sentiment analysis, giving companies new ways to measure things like customer satisfaction or to find opportunities to create or enhance products beyond traditional means like surveys.  (Of course, this doesn't just apply to products... the same tools can be applied to track virus outbreaks or for other similar purposes.)

Adam Klaber described how one important difference between the situation organizations are in today and in the past is that much of the information they need to analyze resides outside of the traditional four walls of the company.

To see the most value from analytic techniques such as these, they explained that it's important to make sure you have high quality algorithms [e.g., ones that can factor in emoticons to tell a genuine "I love my cable provider :)" to a sarcastic "I love my cable provider :("]; that you take insights and build them into a predictive model, not just view reports; and that you make sure you don't take social media as your only source, but factor in output from transaction systems, data warehouses, etc. to build out a complete picture.
Deepak Advani explained that it's very easy to think of this as "predicting the future" (which to many can sound a bit far-fetched or be dismissed as such), but that's really not the point.  The idea is to be able to get a more accurate view into things like the probability that a customer will leave (so you can take action before they do), or to identify who your most profitable customers are (and how to attract more like them), or market basket analysis to determine how to better display products in a retail store or supermarket.  There was a lot of talk at the conference around the ways banks and insurers are using fraud analytics to protect their customers and keep policy costs down, or the ways in which tax agencies are applying analytics to determine which corporations or individuals should be prioritized when it comes to collecting back taxes.

I asked how someone who might be a big believer in this kind of analytics - but doesn't themselves have the purchase decision authority - might be able to convince their executives to sponsor an analytics initiative in their company.  Adam Klaber responded that this is exactly what the CEO, CIO and CFO studies released over the past year are designed to do.  They are available in 11 languages and have been designed to present to that audience concrete data that demonstrates the value that focusing on these types of approaches can have for an organization.  (Links:  CEO study, CIO study, and CFO study.)

Deepak Advani added that the situation today is very different than even a few years ago; many senior executives now realize that techniques such as social analytics are important to monitor and can make a significant contribution back to the organization.

All in all, a very interesting conversation, and it was great to have the opportunity to hear firsthand their thoughts on these subjects.