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Analytics: Meaning different things to different people

I recently wrote about how the potential secret to big data could be “collect once and use many” (opens in new tab). The article asked if organisations are using their data for multiple purposes and to its best possible advantage.

Consistently you see that the answer is ‘no’ and analytics is rightly held up as one of the ways for companies to extract the maximum business value from their data. Analytics is often held up as a “killer” app for allowing data to be used and visualised by everyone.

Whilst this can be true, there is a need to inspect this further as analytics has moved on from primarily meaning Business Intelligence. If the success and secret of making the most of data (be it big data or not) is using it for multiple purposes then analytics has to evolve to support that. Analytics enables us to unlock more value, faster, for a wider range of people.

To demonstrate just how much the practice has evolved, think about your data as a stream of light arriving at you very quickly. Modern data analytics platforms act like a prism, separating a constant stream of data (light) into different colours or views. You may want to analyse and visualise the same data (structured or unstructured) from a number of different perspectives e.g. security, IT, customer, mobile, process. The underlying data is often the same but you need to look at it through a modern data platform (prism) to see all the facets of that data and hence extract the maximum value for your business.

At Splunk we’re employing many different kinds of analytics on the same data to solve different business problems:

IT Operational Analytics (ITOA)

This is the ability to analyse data from all elements of your (often hybrid) technology landscape to visualise IT services, and get the right intelligence into how IT is working together to support and enable key parts of the business. Operational analytics typically gives actionable insight into service levels and the health of your IT estate. It often abstracts underlying complexity into data visualisation and analytics.

A case study (opens in new tab) that highlights this is UniCredit who are taking multiple Terabytes of data from their infrastructure, network, mainframe, core & mobile banking applications to provide an integrated view of IT operations.


Cybersecurity has never been such a hot topic with attacks, breaches and insider threats becoming ever more sophisticated and complex. Increasingly, the solution to these security challenges is becoming a data analytics one. The ability to visualise threats in real time by correlating multiple data sources is increasing the answer to detecting, investigating and protecting yourself from these attacks. A customer story from Telenor (opens in new tab) shows how security analytics is used to “benchmark” what is normal and how they visualise any deviations from that benchmark to proactively investigate potential attacks.

If you look at research such as the Mandiant Report, a very high percentage of security attacks/breaches had 100 per cent valid credentials. This means that usernames and passwords are being stolen or sold to would be attackers. This makes it increasingly important to plan for a people focused, security threat detection policy. By monitoring and analysing a user’s behaviour to spot any unusual activity “out of the norm”, you’re much more likely to defend your company from insider threats.

Customer experience

Customer journeys and missions are increasingly becoming omni-channel driven by a growing number of channels via which customers will interact with your organisation (phone, web, mobile app, social media). Customer experience is arguably now the key differentiator between any brand and its competitors, and the need to understand and analyse user behaviour in real time is a way of driving improved business performance (via increased activity, loyalty, positive word of mouth etc.).

An example of this is music service Shazam who are using Splunk to deliver analytics (opens in new tab) for everyone from complex data in real time. This is helping them innovate faster through improved customer and technology insight and value added advertising services.

Business processes

Whilst not a new thing (Business Activity Monitoring has long been part of most Business Process Management suites), the untapped potential and value of machine data analytics as a “system of record” has long been overlooked. Consider how much information exists in the data you already have that can be visualised as a customer journey.

A good example (opens in new tab) this is from John Lewis in the UK, who have gained new and unique insights into the journeys of their customers through near real-time visualisation of user interactions on and how that has supported customer growth.

Mobile and app behaviour

In recent research (opens in new tab) conducted by Splunk and industry analyst Quocirca, mobile was an incredibly important channel for 400 business and IT decision makers across EMEA. What was surprising was how little insight and intelligence those organisations had into the mobile channel. Mobile analytics is a fast growing area from two main perspectives; visualising the customer experience of the mobile channel and how well the mobile app and supporting infrastructure are performing. A great example of is the San Francisco 49ers (opens in new tab) and their mobile analytics.

Internet of Things analytics

You can’t escape the current buzz around IoT but the discussion is evolving to be about the data from IoT and how to visualise that data. There is a lot of work going on in the areas of IoT analytics and insight into all things sensor-driven.

Splunk has been working with organisations such as New York Air Brake who have saved a billion dollars due to fuel savings, thanks to more economical trains and better-trained drivers. Splunk and VW also showcased connected car analytics at last year’s CeBIT and you can see a short video below:

If your business challenge is to unlock the business benefit from data, than analytics will play a key part. You may be in IT, security, digital marketing, process improvement, customer experience or next generation manufacturing, just consider that analytics isn’t just one thing and one size doesn’t fit all.

Matt Davies, Head of Marketing EMEA, Splunk (opens in new tab)

Image credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens