Jeff Jonas on Business Intelligence Software

A leading expert in business intelligence software talks about how data needs to accumulate context to reveal its true value to enterprise managers. Is BI software the Holy Grail of IT management?


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The sometimes arcane topics of business intelligence software and business analytics don’t get a lot of headlines, nor are they particularly sexy (well, not to most people). However, they’re crucially important: these methods of mining data may very well determine which businesses succeed and which fail.

That’s why companies with the money to invest are focusing heavily on business intelligence software – running a highly competitive business without it is like navigating a ship by guesswork and hunch.

Jeff Jonas, Chief Scientist with IBM's Entity Analytics, has spent decades immersed in data analytics. The company he founded in 1984, Systems Research & Development (SRD), was acquired by IBM in 2005. Under Jonas’s leadership, SRD developed next-gen data mining technologies, including one used by Las Vegas casinos to protect against professional card counters. (The best known of these teams is featured in the book “Bringing Down the House,” and the recent movie “21.”)

Jonas specializes in creating solutions that enable businesses to better understand their data assets. Clearly, merely mining the data isn’t enough. Speed is of the essence. "The winners will be those organizations that make better decisions, faster," writes Jonas on his blog.

”The closer to real-time an organization can operate, the more competitive it will be....They will be more efficient in how they deliver their products or services, their customers will be happier, and they will be able to stop many more bad things (e.g., fraud) from happening before they happen.”

Similarly, he writes about how businesses need to realize the limits of algorithms in making better sense of transactions. Instead, they need to think in terms of "assembling pixels into pictures." Jonas call this process context accumulation.

"Next generation, real-world aware systems are going to FIRST apply inbound transactions (i.e., pixels) to earlier observations in order to construct context (i.e., pictures). Then, and only then, will algorithms be able to more accurately determine the relevance of new transactions. There are no short cuts."

I spoke with Jonas via Skye about how businesses can leverage the top trends in business intelligence, and how his theories of context accumulation can help organizations run themselves smarter:

These are the business intelligence concepts that Jonas talks about in this interview:

enterprise amnesia

"Enterprise amnesia" sets in when myriad pieces of data are isolated from one another, resulting in an information set that provides no direction.

information without context

It doesn't matter how much information an enterprise has, it matters whether those data units are fully contextualized. Only then can managers mine their true value.

accumulation of context

As context accumulates, a data set's larger value becomes apparent.

information without context

Effective business intelligence software can provide the context to make sense out of data quickly -- in real time.

Tags: business intelligence, BI software, business intelligence software, BI, business analytics

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