Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Power of Visualized Analytics

In my new role at Deloitte, I have recently come across tools, such as Tableau or Qlikview, that allow users to "visualize data". To be honest I didn't think they would add much value compared to "rule-based analytic tools", such as IDEA and ACL. However, after using these tools I realized the real power of being able to visualize data in contrast to producing an exception. It brings the dashboard concept within the executive management suite to the analyst or other business professional. But as they say "seeing is believing".

So let's try an experiment.

I recently came across an amazing visualization that really illustrates that power of visualization that visualizes economic data, specifically the distribution of wealth.

But don't click on it yet!

To get the most of the experiment first read this report (which the visualization is based on) to see how the stats hit you in terms of impact.

So here is an excerpt from the Oxfam report which the visualization is based on. (The numbers at the end of the sentence are footnotes; see the original report for the sources)


So now let's see how this data (plus other sources) hits you when it is visualized:

Is there really any contest?

What I've realized is that the visualization really enables the business user to bring together multiple dimensions into a single sheet of paper and enables you to tell the story about the underlying data. Having said that, I do believe that there is a complementary relationship between visualized analytics and rule-based analytics. For example, if you want to quantify the difference between budgets-and-actuals, produce a list of exceptions, etc, then rule based analytics are better for such a purpose. Furthermore, visualizations can help explain the results of rule-based analytic procedures.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Did McKinsey predict Google Now?

From a business perspective, one of the key publication on the phenomenon is the McKinsey report entitled, "Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity". Although the report does not specifically mention Google, it predicted that Big Data would enable personal productivity and noted the following example to support its case:

"An example is a mobile phone that has learned its owner’s habits and preferences, that holds applications and data tailored to that particular user’s needs, and that will therefore be more valuable than a new device that is not customized to a user’s needs"

Well McKinsey was right on the money as Google introduced "Google Now", which would announce scores of one's favourite sports team - based on the person's search history. However, where does Big Data fit into this?

One of the applications that really illustrates the power of Google Now is the linking of traffic data to one's calendar to inform the person that they are going to be late for a meeting due to traffic issues. The video here lists other features:

The price for this (of course) is giving up one's personal data.

Regardless, it illustrates how Big Data is being a ubiquitous part of life. One other Google product that was released at their recent I/O conference in May, is the ability to use speech to search for things.

As you watch the video, you can almost see the wheels churning in the background to process the query. (I was able to replicate the voice search in my Chrome browser, but was not able to get it to do a context search. But I am not sure if I had to enable something to do that)

This ability to process query by voice, of course, will be quite useful for the upcoming Google Glass (I wrote earlier about it here), which is expected to be released in 2014.

However, it must be repeated that McKinsey was dead on the money with this one.