Many times when I speak with analytics managers or business people interested in analytics, they tell me that performing some analytics on data is not the primary problem they have. “We have to get the analytics integrated with the process and the systems that support it,” they say. This issue, sometimes called “operational analytics,” is the most important factor in delivering business value from analytics. It’s also critical to delivering value from cognitive technologies – which, in my view, are just an extension of analytics anyway.

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Just How Smart Are Smart Machines?

By Thomas H. Davenport, Nov 22, 2016

The number of sophisticated cognitive technologies that might be capable of cutting into the need for human labor is expanding rapidly. But linking these offerings to an organization’s business needs requires a deep understanding of their capabilities.

If popular culture is an accurate gauge of what’s on the public’s mind, it seems everyone has suddenly awakened to the threat of smart machines. Several recent films have featured robots with scary abilities to outthink and manipulate humans. In the economics literature, too, there has been a surge of concern about the potential for soaring unemployment as software becomes increasingly capable of decision making. Yet managers we talk to don’t expect to see machines displacing knowledge workers anytime soon — they expect computing technology to augment rather than replace the work of humans. In the face of a sprawling and fast-evolving set of opportunities, their challenge is figuring out what forms the augmentation should take. Given the kinds of work managers oversee, what cognitive technologies should they be applying now, monitoring closely, or helping to build?

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Finance Must Ramp Up Role as Analytics Leader

By Thomas H. Davenport, Nov 15, 2016

The fictional crime-solver Sherlock Holmes once referred in a conversation to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” A Scotland Yard detective replied, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” Holmes retorted, “That was the curious incident.” In the field of analytics, the equivalent of the dog that didn’t bark is the relatively low level of adoption of advanced analytics in finance and accounting functions. Despite being a quantitative field by nature, finance has trailed other functions like marketing, supply chain, operations, and even human resources in employing advanced analytics to make key decisions.

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There is widespread agreement that the Internet of Things will be a transformative factor in the business use of information. The prospect of billions of connected devices promises to transform home activities, transportation, industrial operations, and many other aspects of our lives. The bad news about the IoT is that we have a lot of work to do before we are ready for it.

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How to Help Humans Work Better With Smart Machines

By Thomas H. Davenport, May 25, 2016

Perhaps the most important leadership issue is preparing your employees for roles in which they augment smart machines, and vice-versa. There will be new jobs involving implementation and oversight of these technologies—getting them installed, monitoring their daily performance, and improving them over time. Employees with some aptitude need to be groomed for such roles.

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The Logical Step Past Analytics Is Cognitive

By Thomas H. Davenport, May 11, 2016

Many people and companies seem to think of “cognitive computing” as a separate area from analytics. Most large organizations today have significant analytical initiatives underway, but they think of the cognitive space as being an exotic science project. One executive told me, “We have no desire to win Jeopardy,” an allusion of course to the IBM Watson project from 2011. But cognitive computing is not just about Watson, and it’s not an exotic science project.

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Business First, Analytics Second?

By Thomas H. Davenport, Feb 18, 2016

You may feel that “business first” is an obvious approach to take with analytics, but I assure you that it is anything but ubiquitous. It means that business objectives drive the business domain to which analytics are applied (what I have usually called “targets”), there are business objectives in place before the analytics are generated, and business considerations constrain the time and expense that are devoted to the analytical exercise. That may sound less fun than analysts running wild in an analytical sandbox, but it is generally the most effective and efficient approach to analytics.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Chief Analytics Officer?

By Thomas H. Davenport, Jan 25, 2016

One common element of these types of jobs is that they are important to their organizations. Big new “Chief” roles aren’t established from scratch without reason.

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Analytics 4.0: The Scary Age of Automated Networks

By Thomas H. Davenport, Dec 31, 2015

If the 3.0 version of analytics and automation involves widespread use of them within organizations, 4.0 is about their application across pervasive, automated networks. Every business and organization in this world will be tied together with ubiquitous communications, apps, sensor networks, and APIs.

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Augmenting Jobs with Intelligence at Schneider

By Thomas H. Davenport, Dec 24, 2015

In principle, the ultimate degree of efficiency comes when no human intervention is required. However, uncertainties in the data results in a process that often cannot be fully automated, but can be significantly augmented.

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