In what is being described as its most important analytics announcement in a decade, IBM has launched a set of cloud-based data analysis tools using its Watson artificial intelligence technology. The company's goal is to make data analytics -- and business intelligence based on big data -- more accessible to anyone in the enterprise who needs it. The new analytics tools require less technical expertise than traditional analytics, making them a good fit for use by sales and marketing, R&D, customer service, and throughout the enterprise.
IBM named the new analytics service after its Watson artificial intelligence system that earned notoriety for winning the Jeopardy TV game show. Now, IBM is promoting Watson Analytics through a freemium model to help attract more clients.
The initial release of Watson Analytics offers a full range of self-service analytics, including access to easy-to-use data refinement and data warehousing services. These tools make it easier for business users to acquire, prepare, and interpret large quantities of data. The system also provides better analysis tools than simple spreadsheets can offer, and produces data-driven visualizations based on natural language queries. Companies can upload data free of charge to IBM’s platform.
"I'll Take 'My Best Leads' for $100, Alex"
In comparison with more traditional data analysis systems that are designed for statisticians and researchers, Watson Analytics is intended to be much more intuitive and accessible for the average business person. It automates steps like data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals across data-intensive disciplines, including marketing, sales, operations, finance and human resources.
Enterprise clients can essentially outsource data analysis to IBM, using Watson’s ability to parse natural language to ask questions such as “what are the key drivers of my product sales?” and “which benefits drive employee retention the most?”
A marketing executive, for example, could use the service to type a query into his tablet and receive an answer in seconds, without having to ask his IT or analytics department to prepare a query for the company's databases. CEOs could ask Watson which deals are likely to close in the next quarter or which sales leads are the strongest. Watson can even, according to IBM, comment on the quality of the data set it is analyzing and make recommendations on how to improve it.
IBM is promising Watson Analytics will provide a a seamless, unified experience that brings together multiple self-service enterprise data and analytics capabilities. The service will help clients source their data, cleanse and refine it, discover insights, predict outcomes, visualize results, create reports or dashboards, and collaborate with users.
Big Blue's Big Bet on Analytics
If the service can deliver as advertised, employees without technical backgrounds in either writing predictive queries or the minutiae of statistics will be able to analyze their enterprise data in a way that would have required significant technical capabilities in the past.
“Watson Analytics is designed to help all business people, from sales reps on the road to company CEOs, see patterns, pursue ideas and improve all types of decisions,” said Bob Picciano, Senior Vice President, Information and Analytics Group, IBM. "We have eliminated the barrier between the answers they seek, the analytics they want, and the data in the form they need.”
IBM’s analytics division is one of the company’s fastest growing services, with revenues increasing 9 percent last year to $20 billion. The company has said it is investing $1 billion in the division to help it grow. Like other IBM Cloud solutions, it will be hosted on SoftLayer and available through the IBM Cloud marketplace.
The company also intends to make Watson Analytics services available through IBM Bluemix to enable developers to leverage its capabilities in their applications. IBM reports that some capabilities will be made available to beta testers in the next 30 days, while the freemiumware version is expected to launch later this year.
Posted: 2014-09-23 @ 3:40am PT
Still, Watson does require huge volumes of heavy lifting services within an organisation to actually make it work. The organisation I work for has spent tens of millions to make it work and we are no closer to achieving the utopia that IBM claims. We are probably closer to throwing it out than anything.