How data analytics is bringing the IT department in from the cold

We’ve all heard the buzzword ‘Big Data’, but what does this mean for business managers? Well, good data analysis means that managers no longer have to make decisions in the dark.

They can gain insights from their data, on-demand, by working with their technology department to minimise the risk associated with all business decisions.

The fact that IT can tap into the data means the relationship between the technology department, which was often thought of as a function on the periphery of the business, and the business leaders themselves, is being redrawn and we’re seeing some very impressive uses of data in innovative companies.

In the data-driven age, technology and management no longer work in silos. They work alongside each other to find vital insights from their deluge of data. These insights have seen online retailers increasing sales by suggesting tempting additions; banks being better equipped to check for fraudulent activity in real-time; online and mobile gamers receiving incentives and improved level design to keep them coming back; and customers, in general, feeling more valued through better-tailored promotions.

In a nutshell, faster, smarter data analysis enables management to know who their customers are, what they are doing and how to keep them coming back for more.

So why now? In the past, when businesses wanted to analyse new data - be it the latest sales numbers, inventory analysis, customer activities or website traffic - they would talk to their analysts who would propose a query to be passed on to technology to execute. It was a time-consuming process and the results would take anything from hours to days to months.

But times have changed: The latest business intelligence tools are providing unprecedented levels of speed, scale and simplicity to storing and accessing data at a price most companies can now afford.

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As a result innovation is flourishing from valuable nuggets of information and businesses have never been in a better position to capitalise on the real-time demands of their customer base. Managers can now access and visualise decision-changing data as soon as it is needed and this means that technology is gaining new ground as integral across all areas of the business - from marketing to product development - not just as a function on the periphery, but central to it.

Businesses that have managers who are embracing data analytics technology are seeing unprecedented growth with levels of insight never seen before. Here are a few examples of how data analytics is working in the real world for a number of different companies, using a variety of next generation database and analytics tools:

King Digital Entertainment

King, developer of Candy Crush Saga, is using EXASOL to find insights in the 1 petabyte of data - and growing - it gathers a year. Andy Done, Data Platform Lead, King Digital Entertainment says: “King uses its data to enhance our players’ experience, to constantly improve our games, and to drive innovation. Our ability to gain valuable insights from our data is at the heart of being a player-centric business.

"Data helps us strike the right balance between challenge and fun in our games and see how, when and why people spend money in our games. We use this information to make small, but vitally important improvements, making them more playable, whilst helping us to retain our loyal players and attract new players.”

An example of this can be found when looking at level 65 of Candy Crush Saga. By careful analysis of their data, King noticed that a lot of players were getting stuck on level 65 and possibly getting frustrated and leaving. This told King that change was required. People enjoy games because they are the perfect balance between challenging and fun. Level 65 was very hard to pass. By making a small change to the level design the problem was solved.

Channel 4

Since 2006, C4’s focus on becoming a data-led broadcaster has meant that management has worked closely with technology to implement cutting edge data warehouse and analytics tools to really understand its audiences’ viewing habits on its hugely successful on-demand website, 4OD (recently rebranded as All 4).

Powerful and superfast data analytic capabilities have consequently brought real-time intelligence to C4 that enables it to provide a number of value-add services such as allowing viewers to resume a programme in the right place, across all platforms; or by offering viewers a menu of programmes that are likely to be of interest based on their previous viewing history.

coop

coop installed a new data warehouse-based business intelligence solution in 2011 to consolidate receipt data across all its stores and make overall evaluation possible in real-time.

As a result of the new system, coop management was able to respond immediately to specific spikes in product demand at particular stores and adjust stock accordingly depending on seasonal fluctuations, bank holidays, weather forecasts, school holidays or events and promotions in neighbouring stores.

Wooga

Rapid growth and the continuous development of social games placed great demands on the database technology that this leading, global mobile and social games developer used. The increasing amounts of data being produced that needed processing within a very short time, meant the company quickly adopted a high performance database with superfast, reliable analysis tools so that management was able to analyse and respond to user behaviour in real time and on an ad hoc basis.

Real-time business intelligence and a new, powerful database meant that Wooga could cope easily with peak periods of global game play and remain attractive to users on a long-term basis.

Hertz

Hertz was finding it difficult to collate its Customer Satisfaction Survey Reports across all its 8300 locations, across 146 countries. By applying advanced analytics solutions, the company was able to process this information in half the time it normally took while at the same time providing a level of insight previously unavailable to company management.

This included the identification that in certain locations a peak period of customer car returns meant unnecessary delays for customers. Hertz’s central management team was able to address this problem, by adjusting staffing levels accordingly and increasing customer satisfaction quickly, as a result.

myThings

myThings is the global leader in customised programmatic ad solutions for top advertisers in 30 markets, including Adidas, ToysRUs, Littlewoods, Very.co.uk, Orange, and Microsoft.

It relies on instant access to huge amounts of data to gain real-time insights at the user-level so that it can effectively buy the best advertising slots for its customers. It simply would not be able to do its business properly without a superfast, in-memory database and analytics solution to support its data-centric business model.

As a result, the technology team consistently plays a pivotal role in the company’s business decision process.

Guy Lipscombe is UK MD at EXASOL.