How can Business Intelligence be intelligent?
Since Business Intelligence arose as a technical and commercial practice, the aim of using it has been to help us, as users, to make better decisions with accurate information, delivered at the right time and in the right format.
The classic Business Intelligence formats – dashboards and reports – have been useful for monitoring the business, but are rarely sufficiently intuitive to make proactive decisions. Business Intelligence has always been retrospective, looking back over events that have already taken place. The technology just about guides the only-human user, solely giving them the facts and dumping the more stressful work – analysis – in their lap.
What if we add Predictive Analysis? The name alone describes its forward-looking approach and it’s a field falling within Artificial Intelligence. Algorithms extract patterns of existing data and project them forwards. These patterns are often deeply hidden and difficult to deduce just by looking. Predictive Analysis enables successful optimisation of many business scenarios, by calculating credit ratings in finance; stock levels in manufacturing; room bookings that are going to be cancelled; the consumption of a specific customer, and much more.
So, what’s the problem? Simply that Predictive Analysis is still a specialist field which, in the majority of cases, needs tools which are not designed for normal business users. As a result, they are two separate worlds which are difficult to integrate and frequently require a huge effort by the business to understand the implications they bring based on the statistical methods involved.
The truth is that human beings are not ready for purely statistical reports or statistical models.
Instead, we pay attention to, and remember, narratives which have direction and flow. Inside our heads, we do not picture the world as data structures and algorithms, but instead as stories with structure and character, even when dealing with abstract concepts. This is just like a seller who may have difficulties in reaching their targets and products that may have difficulties in reaching and surpassing the theoretical barriers of the budget set. This is a narrative, not an analysis, that finds out why.
However, we are also good at taking in new information, irregularities and warnings quickly. Patterns and exceptions jump out with remarkable clarity, as we get to understand the business and learn to detect changes. We pay attention to alerts and are sensitive to changes in regular patterns.
So, how are we going to make the most of these different cognitive styles when making business decisions?
Fortunately, new technology and viewing techniques, and Machine Learning, allow us to integrate the best of Business Intelligence into Predictive Analysis and the creation of human common sense. The task consists of bringing together, with a gentle touch and in a single environment, the various ways in which human cognition and machine analysis, generally considered to be separate techniques, can work together. This is technically known as Augmented Intelligence, as the high computational capacity of machines can help us make decisions.
In the first place, users must be capable of building Narratives. Instead of presenting the results in a dry, static way, it is really useful to be able to build a narrative which flows from one observation to another and from queries to decisions, supported by effective data and graphics. Users and their colleagues should be able to go into the details in depth, as good visuals pose new questions instead of being limited to illustrating responses. It is also important that this is done in a much more interactive style than slide presentations or a cooked-up Excel (which doesn’t allow any detail to be gone into). The answer to any good business question is definitely not “more PowerPoint”.
Narratives are excellent for communication and collaboration, but we also need to pay attention to the signals which jump out about changes to our position. Predictive Analysis can help here, but only if it is perfectly integrated into our usual tools. Technology should work with our business know-how, without the need for theoretical experience, whilst including hidden attributes that we ourselves cannot find in the volume and complexity of business data today.
At Mind Analytics we work to democratise Artificial Intelligence. All businesses can benefit from Predictive Analysis as an accessory to their Business Intelligence dashboard. You don’t need to be Google or Amazon to have a great team of data scientists available to make this change. Nowadays there are simple tools which can give us much more value in making decisions, changing the centre of gravity towards a more predictive view which allows users to be ready for what is coming.
We are ready to help you make this change. We can work alongside you from the beginning to define strategies to follow and also if you already sure about what you want, but not how to do it. Are you ready?