Q&A with Michael Koploy, BI Analyst at Software Advice

Michael Kopoly

Software Advice, a company that reviews business intelligence tools, recently published a report on its Plotting Success blog detailing the industries that have the most to gain from applying data analysis to their operations, called Let's Play Moneyball: 5 Industries That Should Bet On Analytics.

We recently caught up with Michael Koploy, Managing Editor of Plotting Success and business intelligence analyst at Software Advice. We asked Michael to share his thoughts on current data analytics topics and what he believes may be a big trend in 2014.

There is so much talk about data, that it can be overwhelming for small businesses to evaluate business intelligence tools or even know where to start. Are there simple steps companies should take when tackling their business intelligence problem? What do you recommend doing first?

Integration with existing systems and processes, useful training and employee/management buy-in are all important pieces to the business intelligence puzzle. Software is just part of the solution.

When it comes to finding the right analytics technology, it really comes down to the needs of your business. There are many mature solutions on the market, but even the greatest system can underperform without a clear idea of how analytics will turn data into insight. Identify the biggest roadblocks that your company encounters when it comes to analyzing data, and find a solution that can help remove these obstructions.

You have written about excel as a business intelligence tool, what are your thoughts on that overall? We strive to be as easy as excel for everyday users and love how almost everyone with a computer can easily use excel.

Even as Cloud-based solutions such as Google Docs deceases the market share Microsoft Office holds, the fact remains that Excel is one of the most important analytical tools available today. Most importantly, almost everyone has access to Excel and many professionals have at least an entry-level knowledge of how to use the application.

While Excel obviously has its limits, I think it's a great solution for many organizations. The introduction of PowerPivot and Power View in-the-box in the latest version of Microsoft Office continues to add the functionality needed as the community becomes more data-savvy.

As analytical responsibility moves further from IT and into the realm of business users, it's important for BI users to feel comfortable using their tool of choice. For many, Excel is a great application to truly achieve "business intelligence."

What do you think the big trend in 2014 will be?

I see real-time analytics gaining traction in 2014.

Real-time analytics is really about getting the right information in the right hands, at the right time. For example, sales associates with integrated business analytics and customer relationship management tools at their disposal can more accurately address the needs of buyers--even if they've never personally interacted with them before. The ability to analyze CRM system sales data and obtain instant insight will not only help teams sell more, but help drive efficiency throughout sales and the rest of the organization.

The ability to scale Big Data infrastructure and automate reporting is key for effective real-time analytics. Real-time analytics can greatly benefit functions that generally run the same reports as new data or new customers are introduced into the funnel. Automation ensures a central view of all data, and the right infrastructure gets that information to the business user fast enough for them to make better decisions.

For many organizations, real-time analytics is already making a big impact. One of my favorite talks on the subject is a TEDxTalk by two public sector professionals, Donnie Fowler and Zach Friend. In the talk, Friend describes how researchers at UCLA developed an algorithm to predict "crime aftershocks," or smaller crimes that occur after a larger crime occurs, much like aftershocks of an earthquake. With these algorithms, the Santa Cruz police department can in real-time pinpoint fifteen 500-foot by 500-foot locations where crimes are most likely to occur each morning, afternoon and evening.

And it's worked. In the first year of the system's use, Friend explains that Santa Cruz has reduced burglary crimes by 19 percent.

Obviously, accurate analytics that actually occurs in real-time is expensive. If the data isn't constantly changing in scope and breadth and the data isn't truly actionable, the up-front investment to get analytics to real-time may not be worth the investment. But for organizations dealing with decreased resources and an increased in demand, real-time analytics can really help move the needle.

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