A few years ago, we had this big debate between the terms business intelligence and business analytics – and which one was more accurate or reflective of the products in our industry. I don’t hear those arguments anymore. Some still say business intelligence and business analytics are one and the same. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What does matter is that organizations are really starting to differentiate themselves through the application of analytics to large business problems.
Now that we have moved past this educational phase to a period of action, we’re talking to customers more frequently about how to implement analytics in their industries and their organizations, and where the opportunities lie for them to differentiate with analytics as well. One of the technologies we’ve been demonstrating that has caught the attention of customers and the media alike is SAS High-Performance Analytics.
I’ve been present a few times recently when our lead developer has been on stage to run through a large marketing optimization problem with real data from the telecom industry. The problem itself looks at millions of customers, hundreds of possible marketing offers, multiple delivery options and various other detailed business constraints. Each time, we are able to show how something this complex, which used to take 12 hours to calculate, can now be completed in two to three minutes. And the best part is that you don’t need extensive server farms and mainframes to do it. Today’s advanced analytics and fast processing speeds make it possible to run high performance computing on an appliance that’s a fraction of the cost of yesterday’s server farms.
When we demo’d this same high performance analytics scenario to a large group recently, I witnessed an audience member approach the developer afterwards and say, “That could be my data. We have very similar optimization problems we are tackling, and they take 16 hours to compute, not 12!”
After another demonstration at the Disney Analytics Summit, I could practically see the light bulbs appearing over audience members’ heads. These are people who know how to look for opportunities. They aren’t asking, “Well, why do we even need to have that data any sooner?” Instead, they’re asking, “If we had those results sooner, how could we improve our business?”
Participants at the SAS Championship Golf Tournament were asking themselves the same questions this week when SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, Thought Leader Tom Davenport and Bloomberg Senior Marketer Bill Colihan discussed the potential of high performance computing there. Clearly, this technology provides an opportunity to take another look at your business processes to see what you can modify or improve if you’re informed more quickly.
Anybody who says, “But I don’t need the data that quickly,” needs to check themselves right now, step back and ask, “What if I did get it that quickly? What could I do differently? What could I do better?“ The opportunity is right there in front of you if you take it. How can you change the way you operate your business? What processes can you improve if you’re getting answers 95 percent faster than before?