Big Blue Brings Watson To A Wide Audience With Watson Analytics

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Watson Analytics

Watson Analytics from IBM brings predictive business analytics to a wide cloud-based audience with a new natural language-based freemium service.

When dealing with Big Data, start-ups and big companies are always looking for a way to bring modern data analysis and prediction to the rank and file of business.

IBM has now offered a solution, called Watson Analytics. According to IBM, "Watson Analytics helps you find and improve data sets with the touch of a button."

"You can get to work quickly instead of spending precious time cleaning up and preparing your data," claims the software's webpage.

Watson Analytics is a software service, delivered via the cloud. The software is a result of a collaboration between teams from IBM’s data analysis group and its Watson unit, which has been built into a business in the three years since Watson beat human champions in the question-and-answer game “Jeopardy.”

Watson Analytics screenshot

Watson Analytics prediction

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The venture's ambitious goal, according to Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM Business Analytics, is to take a big step toward “getting analytics in the hands of every business user, which is a real challenge.”

The cloud approach is new for IBM and reflects where the world is going and where the company feels it needs to be if it wants to survive. “It’s where we have to go as company. We can’t pretend the world’s not changing, Of course it’s changing,” Eric Sall, vp of worldwide marketing for business analytics at IBM, told TechCrunch. Delivering a cloud product built on their own infrastructure platform, using the freemium model shows that IBM is trying to do business in new ways.

IBM has shown an early working version of Watson Analytics to a handful of customers and industry analysts, letting them try it out, and they are generally impressed. It combines basics of data handling with the Watson technologies of natural-language processing and machine learning. A result, they say, is that a business person, who is not a statistician or data scientist, can type in questions to probe corporate data. Examples: “What high-value customers am I most likely to close sales with in the next 30 days?” and “Which benefits drive employee retention the most?”

"It looks like IBM has leapfrogged what others have done. It feels like the iPhone of analytics to me."

A demonstration running through a selection of cases does not mean the product will be a winner in the broad corporate market. Still, a couple of the veteran technology managers who have tried out Watson Analytics say it could be a significant advance. Richard Wiedenbeck, chief information officer of Ameritas, a life insurance and financial services company in Lincoln, Nebraska, told the New York Times that he was “cautiously optimistic” that Watson Analytics could deliver on its promise, based on what he had seen so far.

“It looks like IBM has leapfrogged what others have done,” Mr. Wiedenbeck said. “It feels like the iPhone of analytics to me.”

On the Watson Anayltics site, the company has outlined how the system could potentially help workers in marketing, sales, IT, operations, human resources and finance.  For instance, an IT employee could ask which tickets have been open the longest, what the average response time is and why. He could then use the answers to predict how long it takes to close a ticket and allocate ticket resources so that more issues are handled faster.

The product goes into Beta this month and IBM is shooting for general release by November. As a cloud service, it will run on a variety of platforms including tablets, smartphones and PC/laptops, but there are no dedicated apps yet.

SOURCE  New York Times

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