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FreePint BlogBig data - too clever for end-users?

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By Tim Buckley Owen


Using big data analytics can help empower organisations to make better and faster contextualised decisions in response to business opportunities or threats. However, despite the range of products available to help with this, many companies still lack the requisite skills to use them.


Many companies just don’t have the skills to incorporate intelligent business operations into their workflow, exploiting big data analytics to make faster changes in their offer to customers. Maybe they don’t – but there are still plenty of products lining up to help them.

In the past, data analytics was separated from transactional work, points out the technology consultant Gartner. Increasingly, though, analytics will be integrated into operational processes, empowering the workforce to make better and faster contextualised decisions and (hopefully) respond to emerging business opportunities or threats.

Increasing recognition of the value of interacting with customers socially and the move towards big data analytics will drive this trend, Gartner believes. The problem is, though, that the capabilities these intelligent business process management products can offer will exceed the skills of many end-users.

Gartner advises users to continue evaluating the available products for solutions to fit their business needs. There’s certainly no shortage – covering everything from keeping an eye on what customers are doing to spotting privacy and security breaches within the staff.

Among recent developments, data extraction specialist Connotate has just announced that it has acquired Fetch Technologies, which specialises in analytics. The marriage will result in “innovations that customers will love,” says Connotate’s Chairman Liam Donohue. Watch this space.

Meanwhile another analytics specialist, FirstRain, has launched its Enterprise Customer Intelligence System, automatically providing targeted information on things like which clients are expanding their business, what’s going on in their industry or relevant management changes. Delivered to collaboration portals, enterprise workflow platforms or mobile devices, the claim is that it will allow executives to “easily manage an entire enterprise intelligence system”.

Or take NewsGator, which has partnered with compliance solution provider HiSoftware to launch Compliance Sheriff for NewsGator Social Sites. This gizmo monitors employees’ social activity to highlight posts that contain obscenities, trade secrets, personal information, potential corruption and more – enabling administrators to unpublish the information and “address the employee who posted it”, NewsGator ominously adds.

Most spectacularly, perhaps, Citibank has started exploring possible applications for IBM’s Watson – the system that a year ago beat two warm-bodied contestants on the Jeopardy television quiz programme (BBC comment here). It’s Watson’s deep content analysis, coupled with its ability to process natural language and learn from the evidence it receives, that interests Citi; it’s looking initially at how Watson can help financial professionals make better business decisions by discovering and satisfying customer needs faster – and lending more responsibly as a result.

Citi is a global company with the talent resources to make a system like Watson work. But – bearing Gartner’s warnings in mind – will the rest of us have the capability to use equivalent but less spectacular tools straight out of the box?


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Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.

Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at

Tim can also be reached at

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