NEW YORK—IBM announced new functionality for its Watson Analytics offering, including new data discover and Q&A capabilities, new connections to corporate data and a brand new Watson Analytics solution in the form of Watson Analytics for Social Media.
At an event dubbed “Analytics for All” at the famed Cipriani 42nd Street restaurant here, IBM introduced new data discovery and question-and-answer capabilities for Watson Analytics that will make it even easier for users to extract insights from their data. This ease of use will empower “citizen analysts” to perform big data analytics rather than requiring data experts.
IBM also announced widespread adoption, with half a million professionals registering for the Watson Analytics data exploration and visualization service since its introduction less than a year ago.
“Watson Analytics is the on-ramp to a whole new era of computing – the cognitive era,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice president of IBM Analytics.
Indeed, the rapid ascent of Watson Analytics into one of the most popular self-service analytics platforms has been fueled by its ability to put cognitive capabilities into the hands of business users, and enable a new era of unbiased analysis. IBM Watson Analytics helps individuals unlock the value of data they already have in their systems, as well as new valuable external data sources they may not even know they need.
By bringing as much data as possible to the problem at hand, professionals can answer their toughest questions and embed insight and expertise into every decision they make. And by understanding natural language, reasoning and generating hypotheses, cognitive computing is helping people understand, reason and learn from their data in new ways.
IBM announced new data connectors, which enable Watson Analytics users to bring more external data sources to a business question, helping to ensure the right data is collected and curated to add context, depth and confidence to every decision. This includes access to data from IBM DB2, IBM Informix, IBM Netezza, IBM SQL Database, IBM dashDB and popular third-party data sources.
Big Blue also announced secure gateway technology for Watson Analytics, which automatically encrypts data, and uses Docker containers to transport it through a dedicated connection to allow for secure analysis, IBM said.
Meanwhile, to assist users with interactive data discovery, IBM introduced Expert Storybooks in collaboration with its industry partners. Expert Storybooks will help guide users on how to understand, learn and reason with different types of data sources to surface the most relevant facts and uncover patterns and relationships for predictive decision making, the company said.
“In essence, IBM’s Expert Storybooks are tools designed to help workers quickly get up to speed in using Watson Analytics to explore information sources and solve specific kinds of business problems,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “Use cases, applications and information sources vary widely, depending on both individual companies and their particular needs.”
The Expert Storybooks introduced include:
- AriBall — a Storybook that will help users analyze the performance of baseball players to build predictions about player performance that they can use to gain an edge in their fantasy lineup.
- Deloitte — a Storybook that measures the effectiveness of incentive programs to help sales leadership determine how and when to effectively deploy short term incentives for revenue uplift.
- The Weather Company — a Storybook that helps users incorporate weather data into their revenue analysis to understand how weather is impacting their business.
- OgilvyOne — a Storybook that shows users how to analyze marketing campaign data while integrating disparate data points such as weather information to bring creative inputs into campaign planning.
- Twitter — a Storybook that helps users analyze social media data from Twitter to measure reputational risk, and also get a better understanding about how social sentiment could reveal drivers behind fluctuations in stock prices in real time.
- American Marketing Association — a Storybook that helps users identify and analyze the key drivers of customer profitability.
IBM Watson Analytics Empowers ‘Citizen Analysts’
- Nucleus Research – a StoryBook that enables users to benchmark projects for return on investment (ROI) and to project expected returns for proposed technology projects based on Nucleus Research data from more than 500 ROI case studies.
- MarketShare — a Storybook that helps users achieve a clear understanding of how their investment strategy compares to industry standards, as well as a view into how to optimize investments across online and offline media channels such as TV, paid search, digital display, online video, radio, print, and others.
- Intangent — a Storybook that will help finance managers examine the relationships between pay, performance, and credit risk in lending to better align incentive compensation with risk taking.
Andy Rice, vice president of products and analytics at The Weather Company, said because weather plays such an important role in so many different things such as sales, event attendance, traffic patterns and more, his organization’s data is in high demand each day, all day. In fact, Rice said The Weather Company receives 15 billion forecast requests per day.
Derek Chapin, visitor services supervisor at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., said the zoo uses Watson Analytics to track when the most tickets are sold, when to collect garbage, how much food to prepare for sale, when to clean restrooms, and what impact the weather has on attendance.
Chapin noted that the zoo’s operational staff, particularly those who work closely with the animals, has adopted analytics, but getting the business side of the house to sign on has been a challenge.
“We’ve had a big struggle with a lot of the managers adopting analytics,” he said. “But the line-level staff are bringing in and using analytics and pushing that data up to the management.”
For his part, IBM’s Picciano said Watson Analytics enables an entire generation of “citizen analysts” that can use the technology in a self-service fashion to conjure up data on all manner of things.
Because it is so easy to use and approachable, “Watson Analytics gives people in every corner of the organization access to deep analytical information,” he said.
“While the rapid uptake and popularity of Watson Analytics is certainly impressive and underscores market research suggesting that data analysis is shifting rapidly to self-service models, the program’s half a million sign-ups represent just a small fraction of the business professionals that IBM’s corporate customers employ,” Pund-IT’s King said.
“Overall, Expert Storybooks qualify as a logical next step in the evolution of Watson Analytics,” King added. “The journey to fully empowering citizen data scientists will be neither short nor simple. But making hard work easy has long been a specialty of IBM’s. That Watson Analytics should become part of this tradition, with the help of Expert Storybook developers, seems both appropriate and entirely likely.”
IBM also introduced Watson Analytics for Social Media, which is expected to be available in early December, said Walt Altshuller, IBM’s vice president of Watson Analytics. Elcenora Martinez, director of social media analytic solutions at IBM, said the new solution helps businesses gain a better understanding of their markets, customers and competition, and to also glean actionable insights from all the social media big data generated each day by millions of online sources.
“I think this is a critical resource that could provide real value for businesses,” King said. “If you look at how social media has impacted companies and individuals — usually negatively — over the past three to four years, tracking/analyzing social sentiment is an increasingly critical part of brand management. More than that, I believe that social-savvy companies are far less inclined to shoot themselves in the foot than those ignoring Twitter, etc. IBM understands that issue and is providing innovative and value tools to help businesses manage those processes.”
The new data connectors and Expert Storybooks for Watson Analytics will be available in beta in November 2015.