A self-service world

It’s a self-service world out there. It’s just so much easier to do things for ourselves now than it used to be. This has spilled over into the business world. We have a lot of tools to help us get things done ourselves that used to be the tasks of others.

Self-service analytics has been elusive.

For the most part, analytics has mostly eluded self-service. Sure, you could look some numbers or data over in a spreadsheet and even struggle to build charts and graphs from it, but the process couldn’t exactly be called easy. Even with data discovery tools, which take some of the guesswork and manual chart building out of the equation, most of us still have to have an idea of what we want to know and what we are looking for when we go in. Or we have to tell the solution which kind of visualization to create. For many of us, that’s not always possible because we’re not always sure what we want to know nor are we up on all the best visualizations. As a result, few people outside IT or business analysts are using analytics, even though studies have shown that most people in business believe that analytics is critical to business success.

In September 2014, it all changed.

That’s why, in September 2014, IBM introduced Watson Analytics. The intent was to break the barrier of analytics adoption by providing people in business like us with a solution that makes it possible to ask questions of data and get answers. Instead of flipping back and forth between multiple tables and spreadsheets, waiting for canned reports that might or might not have an answer, or finding a data scientist to build complex predictive models, we can get answers ourselves.

Let us be your analytics guide.

Watson Analytics is the first of a new kind of analytics platform that Gartner has called “smart data discovery,” because it enables individuals and teams to use analytics in ways that are more natural to their style of interaction. As such, Watson Analytics:

  • Guides you through your data by automating most analytics functions and automatically creating visualizations that help you discover data patterns, trends, and associations that might otherwise be missed.
  • Provides cognitive analytics that enable you to select starting points offered automatically or ask your own questions in plain and natural language.
  • Automatically builds models that show a targeted business outcome and the factors most likely to influence it you can incorporate predictions about your data without having to be a data scientists.
  • Offers templates for dragging and dropping your data so you can create dashboards and infographics with information important to you and your teams.

Business analysts and data scientists, we did not forget you.

If you’re a business analyst or data scientist, IBM wants you to Watson Analytics as a stepping stone to more advanced analytics. Business analysts can capitalize on its connections to business intelligence data to discover new avenues to explore. In addition, because more people throughout the organization have access to analytics and can understand it on their own, business analysts can spend more time on value-added activities.

Data scientists can take initial views and insights they created with Watson Analytics and formulate more complex models by means of tools like R, SPSS Modeler, and Python. As one of IBM’s own data scientists wrote in a recent blog: “There is always and will always be room for skilled data scientists who develop highly customized algorithms (trust me, I am one of those guys).”

There will always be the human element.

And if Watson Analytics weren’t already special enough, there’s the fact that it’s powered by cognitive technology, using natural language dialogue to move you beyond typical bias traps and so you have a more honest view of what your data is really trying to tell you. Human judgment is always allowed to prevail, but human bias should not be a blinding factor, which would be the case if Watson Analytics were simply building brilliant visualizations from spreadsheets.

1.4 million registrations and going strong!

As of yesterday, Watson Analytics had tallied 1.4 million registrations. Considering the fact that it was announced just a year and half ago, that’s a huge number of people who are able to get answers from their data without waiting, asking for help, specialized training or a having a data scientist on speed dial.

To learn more, check out this great video:

To register for your free edition of Watson Analytics, click here.