Friday, August 17, 2012

Not Excited About IBM Cognos?..You Should Be

As part of the IBM Social Business Social Residency this week, run by the IBM Redbooks, we had the luxury of having a great conversation with Mark Heid from IBM. (I hope to publish more on this for the IBM Social Business Insight Blog in the near future.)

Mark is the Program Director of Social Analytics at IBM and luckily, he is based in Raleigh. His session was the highlight of my week by far! As I tweeted earlier today, I am such a geek and have fallen in love again with a technology.

No slides, no marketing pitch, just here is what we do and what YOU can do with a product like IBM Cognos Consumer Insight. Man have I been an idiot to ignore this for so long. but let me backtrack a bit.

Most likely I can not do the product justice, but here is what we gleaned from today and see if you agree with me. I suspect most of my technical friends will agree, for the rest of you I am going to try to shape the description in a way to help you see why this is just so cool.

For those that do not know what analytics are, analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. It is the idea that one can measure or chart details culled from disparate sources of data into an algorithm which could lead you to a conclusion about, well, anything.

Big Data is a term for all the mounds of data streams that companies, even you at home, amass but are unable to sort properly or see the string which holds it all together.

When you combine analytics with your Big Data you start to find patterns that emerge that can be very meaningful to your business or life.

As an example, if a store or restaurant has a loyalty or rewards card, as many do, your purchases are recorded and in most cases scoured for tangible information to assist the business in providing you even better service next time or perhaps coupons to match your lifestyle.

Before you cry foul over privacy, IBM does not perform any analysis unless you have opted in. Businesses let you know when you get their cards that the data will be used potentially and you have the right to opt out of this analysis. I doubt many of you have opted out or even thought about it. But that is another blog post for a later time.

While I am in Raleigh my credit card companies are probably trying to gauge if I will be returning again soon or was this a one off event, like a vacation. If the same credit card companies followed my social media stream they would of course realize this is a class which we have come to Raleigh and not likely to return in the near future.

In contrast, I am quite sure most of our credit card companies recognize that we all "vacation" in Orlando every January around the 3 rd week of the month. I know Disney looks forward to us coming at least.

Think about the upcoming US Presidential election and how much sentiment is being expressed online over it. Poring over the data and analysis could provide a much better indication of who might win over any data those annoying robocalls or political pollsters can provide. Anything which gets rid of political robocalls and pollsters calling me I am VERY in favor of helping.

Real time analysis of what is happening in your IBM Connections world could be greatly beneficial to your HR staff as far as understanding employee sentiments, to Finance around perhaps costs which are not always so clear for some projects and from a Sales angle you could glean which of your sales people is up or down at any given time. No more guessing.

The cost for the full product is not cheap, it is a 6 figure deal and then some. But there are numerous uses for this even without looking at a retail angle. As a Business Partner I see numerous ways to work with the product and I would imagine so would you. Think of government entities which need to analyze their usage of consumables, small businesses which want to find what holds their client base to them or a financial institution looking to plan for offerings not seen before but gleaned from the data.

What is the downside, aside from the cost, you ask? It sounds too good to be true. The part for IBM Connections is real time for the last 2 years but if you wanted to devour lots of data and social media, the process will take a little longer. The reason is because syntax and tweaking of the searches, data review and such is time consuming and we don't all have IBM Watson in our offices. The programming language which would require one to invest quite a bit of time as well to be able to make the data turn into gold.

Why write this 2 years or so after Connections was an entitlement to Cognos 10? Because like you I watched or listened to various presentations, read posts but it never spoke to me like Mark did today and that is what made all the difference. As a long time Lotus person my focus was elsewhere, and for good reason, but as we evolve as partners and the technology evolves in looking for that next ledge to jump off, this is a good one.

I hope Mark will continue his relationship with all of us and thus future blog posts can delve into this deeper, but for now I feel like a new window has opened and I "get" it and I hope you can appreciate why as well.

Lastly, if you want to see it in action you can go to this IBM page and test it out.