Posts Tagged ‘Analytics’

Convergence of Analytics

February 9, 2010

Analytics is defined as the “science of analysis”.  Analytics is used to obtain an improved understanding of a complex topic or problem from collected data.  Through better understanding, better decisions can be made, and future outcomes can be predicted more accurately.

Presented below is a model I developed for categorizing today’s Analytics software based on two continuums – data type (structured versus unstructured) and analysis approach (user driven versus system driven).  These two continuums create four quadrants that I have labeled as Statistical Analysis, Qualitative Analysis, Business Intelligence, and Text Analytics.  Of course, in practice these quadrants overlap by varying degrees, but this model assists in describing the different methods employed for data collection and analysis techniques.

Analysis Software by Data Type and Analysis Approach

Statistical Analysis is basically described as the collection, analysis and interpretation of numerical data undertaken by a statistician.  Statistical Analysis is generally considered to be a mathematical science and is related to Predictive Analytics.  Microsoft Excel is the most commonly used software application for statistical analysis, however software applications such as SAS STAT and SPSS Statistics are popular and have more advanced features.                                    

Qualitative Analysis (or commonly referred as Qualitative Data Analysis) is basically described as the collection, analysis and interpretation of non-numerical data undertaken by a qualitative researcher.  Qualitative Analysis is generally considered to be a social science and is related to Content Analysis.  QSR NVivo is the most commonly used software application for qualitative analysis, however software applications such as SSD Atlas.ti and VERBI MAXQDA are also popular.                                       

Business Intelligence is basically described as the collection, analysis and dissemination of structured data performed predominately by a system.  Business Intelligence is used in a narrower context here and is related to Data Mining, Decision Support Systems, and Online Analytical Processing.  IBM Cognos, Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, and SAP Business Objects are examples of commonly used systems for business intelligence.                           

Text Analytics is basically described as the collection, analysis and dissemination of textual data performed predominately by a system.  Text Analytics is similar to Text Mining and related to Video Analytics and Sentiment Analysis.   IBM LanguageWare and Inxight LinguistX are examples of commonly used systems for text analytics.  Whilst, Microsoft Semantic Engine is currently planned for integration into a future version of Microsoft SQL Server.           

Statistical Analysis and Qualitative Analysis software (top half of model) are characterized by having flexible in-depth analysis capabilities with a relatively low cost of implementation, whereas Business Intelligence and Text Analytics software (bottom half of model) are characteristed by having fast scalable analysis capabilities with a high cost of implementation.  However, analysts want the best of both solutions, that is, flexible in-depth analysis capabilities coupled with fast scalable analysis capabilities, whilst still having a low price of implementation.  In respect to differences in data types, Mixed Methods Research is a popular means of combining the collection and analysis of structured data (left half of model) and unstructured data (right half of model) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a topic or problem.       

Interestingly, the traditionally divergent data types and analysis approaches of Analytics software has started to converge.  For instance, Business Objects acquired Inxight in 2007 and was subsequently acquired by SAP in 2007.  IBM acquired Cognos in 2008 and SPSS in 2009.  These companies and others are looking at ways of handling the different data types and analysis approaches, either through the integration of technologies or the integration of an application portfolio.  In line with this trend in Analytics, QSR International last month announced that the next version of NVivo will be delivering new automated analysis capabilities and will provide support for structured data.