Business Intelligence Search: Not There Yet

February 20, 2018

Business intelligence applications are indispensable for modern companies, especially if they are focused at being the top of their industry. Apparently one common feature still eludes BI application developers: search. How can something so basic and readily available through open source technology be difficult to master? ZDNet reviews Forrester’s breakdown of the BI landscape in the article, “Make BI Applications More Intuitive With Search Like GUI.”

BI applications are kept relativity simple with a mouse-based user interface, so end user training is kept to a minimum and adoption into systems is easier. One item of concern is that few decision-makers actually access the data directly and rely on their business analysts and other team members to provide them information. BI applications are not so simple, however, and the end users need to be knowledgeable in the data sources and metadata.

Thank goodness that there is a GUI for BI applications and it has natural language processing:

“This has largely come true with natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) technologies. Users can now ask a question in a natural language (where NLP translates a question to a query, aka text-to-query) and get an answer via a programmatically generated narrative based on the result set returned by the query. The NLG narratives are especially effective when displayed side by side with a visualization. In addition to NLP and NLG capabilities built into BI tools, some BI providers are also creating chatbots as separate applications. These can allow non-technical BI users to ask questions and receive dynamically generated data visualizations and written highlights without knowing anything about the underlying data structures or metadata.”

The question remains if the search application will be decent and usable on newer BI interfaces. Only time and user feedback will tell.

Whitney Grace, February 20, 2018

AI Will Be 2018s Biggest Tech Topic

February 20, 2018

Seems like some algorithm should have predicted this a long time ago, but our best bet is that AI leads the way in most important tech topics of the new year. We are not alone. Datanami recently penned an article, “What Will AI Bring in 2018? Experts Sound Off.”

According to the story:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are often misunderstood and misused terms. Many startups and larger technology companies attempt to boost their appeal by forcing an association with these phrases. Well, the buzz will have to stop in 2018…This will be the year we begin to demand substance to justify claims of anything that’s capable of using data to predict any outcome of any relevance for business, IT or security. While 2018 will not be the year when AI capabilities mature to match human skills and capacity, AI using machine learning will increasingly help organizations make decisions on massive amounts of data that otherwise would be difficult for us to make sense of.

This comes as no surprise to us. AI has been cracking mysteries left and right lately and is finally getting down to seriously important work. Take, for example, how AI is helping solve the opioid crisis. AI will be 2018’s big story and it couldn’t come at a better time for us.

Patrick Roland, February 20, 2018

Financial Research: Rumblings Get Louder

February 8, 2018

Regulations are having causing small tremors in the high altitude research business. I read “U.S. Asset Managers Shake Up Equity research as Banks Cut Back.” The write up offered several pieces of intelligence which might be considered “real” news.

First, outfits with money to invest and “churn” are hiring people who know specific things; for example, a former product manager at a company manufacturing gear related to artificial intelligence. No MBA needed was the take away for me.

Second, big money outfits have cut back on buying research. According to the article, one big money executive stopped buying bank research and learned “that he could live without most of it.”

Third, I highlighted this headache inducing statement for the providers of high end research:

Major global investment banks slashed their equity research budgets from a peak of $8.2 billion in 2008 to $3.4 billion in 2017, according to Frost Consulting. McKinsey projects the top 10 banks will cut those budgets by another 30 percent in the near term…

My question, “What happens to the Investext business?” Another one: “What acquisitions will big money companies make in order to deal with the changes in research?”

Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2018

Business Intelligence: A List of 238 Firms

November 30, 2017

Need a list of “fermium” business intelligence tools. That’s no typo. That is the word on page 2 of Top Business intelligence Solutions. Looking past the misspelling, the write up from Predictive Analytics Today presents a listing in no particular order of more than 200 business intelligence tools. The text is accompanied by little boxes with scores in them like this:

image

The list was a lot of work. The names of companies are collected in these major categories:

  1. Free cloud business intelligence solutions
  2. Free open source business intelligence tools
  3. Free proprietary business intelligence tools
  4. Open source commercial business intelligence tools
  5. Top business intelligence companies
  6. Free extract, transform and load software
  7. Top extract, transform and load software
  8. Cloud SaaS on demand business intelligence solutions
  9. Freemium cloud business intelligence solutions
  10. Open source balanced scorecard software
  11. Top balanced scorecard software
  12. Open source and free dashboard software
  13. Top dashboard software
  14. Embedded business software
  15. Open source and free unified modeling language tools
  16. Open source and free business process management tools

What I found interesting about the list was:

  • For fee vendors appear in “free” categories; for example, IBM Watson and Microsoft
  • Many of the vendors have versions of their software for the intelligence and law enforcement community. Most of these versions of the companies with specialized tools are not free
  • None of the specialist firms which I track appear on the list; for example, BAE Systems, a company whose tools rival those of many of the other firms on the list.
  • The vendor Attivio was left out. This surprised me because Attivio pitches itself as a business intelligence solution and it has a tie up with Tibco, a product dependent in part on software created by the founders of Recorded Future, a company which I track because it has robust intelligence capabilities embodied in its products and services.
  • There are curious omissions. One important one is Palantir, whose Gotham product powers a number of commercial business intelligence applications like those from Thomson Reuters’ financial product line.
  • Many vendors appear in multiple categories. This left me confused. For major vendors it would have been helpful to provide the company name “IBM” with a summary of what the company offers as free, freemium, open source, proprietary, etc.

Nevertheless, the listing is interesting for those wanting to track some of the vendors pursuing the business intelligence sector. To learn about companies not on the Predictive Analytics’ list, follow DarkCyber, my weekly video program. Each week, I profile intelligence companies which are often off the radar of some commercial procurement teams. That’s unfortunate because the firms I follow are indeed cutting edge when it comes to real life intelligence analysis. Most of these products, in my experience, cost money either for engineering, training, support, or add ons.

You can find the video by navigating to this link or running a query for Arnold Dark Cyber on Google.com or on Googlevideo.com.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2017

Analytics Tips on a Budget

November 23, 2017

Self-service analytics is another way to say “analytics on a budget.”  Many organizations, especially non-profits, do not have the funds to invest in a big data plan and technology, so they decide to take the task on themselves.  With the right person behind the project, self-service analytics is a great way to save a few bucks.  IT Pro Portal shares some ways how to improve on an analytics project in, “Three Rules For Adopting Self-Service Analytics.”  Another benefit to self-service analytics is that theoretically anyone in the organization can make use of the data and find some creative outlet for it.  The tips come with the warning label:

Any adoption of new technology requires a careful planning, consultation, and setup process to be successful: it must be comprehensive without being too time-consuming, and designed to meet the specific goals of your business end-users. Accordingly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach: each business will need to consider its specific technological, operational and commercial requirements before they begin.

What are the three tips?

  1. Define your business requirements
  2. Collaborate and integrate
  3. Create and implement a data governance policy

All I can say to this is, duh!  These are standard tips that can be applied, not only for self-service analytics but also BI plans and any IT plan.  Maybe there are a few tips directly geared at the analytics field but stick to fewer listicles and more practical handbooks.  Was this a refined form of clickbait?

Whitney Grace, November 23, 2017

Solve BI Woes with This Listicle

November 20, 2017

Business intelligence is a key component in any business that wants to be competitive, turn a profit, and make themselves a known entity.  The problem, however, is betting your business intelligence plan off the ground.  CIO shares the top, “Three Reasons Your Business Intelligence Adoption Has Stalled.”  Old-fashioned BI plans relied heavily on putting technology at the forefront and having a dedicated staff to manage it.  The traditional model has changed because everyone in an organization can have access to the same type of technology that once was specialized.

The problem with implementing a BI plan is more than likely than the company culture.  The first problem is that employees (and everyone) are resistant to change.  Forcing employees to use new technology not only creates conflict, but there is also the problem with data literacy.  It usually takes a lot of training sessions to get everyone’s skills on par.

Another problem is that some companies rely too heavily on their gut instinct that confirmed data:

BI leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince instinct-based decision-makers that analytic insight beats intuition. Unfortunately, this rarely changes deep-rooted beliefs and has little-to-no impact on the use of BI. Consequently, BI teams are better served engaging leaders who understand the value of analytics and are willing and able to influence business process change. Top-down support from organizational leaders to challenge the status quo, and push for business process transformation, is mandatory for success. It will quickly become evident to senior leaders which of their key decision-makers are furthering – or hindering – the organization’s BI and analytic adoption goals.

The third problem is that organizations implement a BI plan, usually around an IT project, and once it is rolled out and on the go, nothing else is done with it.  Companies think that once a BI plan is in place, then it will not need to evolve in the future.  A fluid mentality, rather than a check-box one is how organizations will have successful BI deployments.

Whitney Grace, November 20, 2017

Silobreaker Digs Deeper into Dark Web

November 9, 2017

The Dark Web is small, unmonitored part of the Internet.  While the Dark Web seems untraceable and unsearchable, many tech companies are making strides documenting it.  Silobreaker is one of the companies and they announced a partnership with Flashpoint to take on the Dark Web: “Silobreaker Expands Its Data Coverage To Deep And Dark Web By Teaming Up With Flashpoint.”  Flashpoint is a leading provider of business risk intelligence technology and they focus on uncovering Dark Web information.

Flashpoint recently released version four of their business risk intelligence API.  Along with the newest release, Silobreaker and Flashpoints’ team up means that more of their clients will be able to predict, detect, and resolve unstructured data into actionable intelligence.

How will Silobreaker and Flashpoint work together?

Flashpoint’s data is being ingested by Silobreaker’s platform, where it is indexed and fully integrated for use across all analytical tools, visualizations and workflow features. When correlated with Silobreaker’s open source data, this combination empowers customers to move seamlessly between the two data-sets in a single application, expanding their analyses to include both.

The only downside is in order to take advantage of the team up, their clients must have licenses to both companies.  Maybe they will offer a bundle deal if you ask nicely.

Whitney Grace, November 9, 2017

 

A Flashing Way to Find Business Risks

November 8, 2017

Business intelligence involves many factors that range from enterprise systems to big data business analytics.  Another aspect is determining the risk of business decisions.  While a piece of software does not exist that can accurately predict the future, technology companies have come close.  Programmable Web published the article, “Flashpoint Launches V4 Of Its Business Risk Intelligence API” that describes one company’s newest endeavors in business risk intelligence.

Flashpoint’s business risk intelligence API is officially on its fourth version.  Dubbed Flashpoint API 4, the software provides a set of cybersecurity tools and the newest version includes a dataset for Risk Intelligence Observables (RIOs).  RIOs dig deeper than past indicators in specified activities to deliver secure insights.

The Flashpoint API aims to deliver near to real-time access to its security services. Because of RESTful API access, Flashpoint technology is available to entry-level users and enterprises alike. Through the API, users can search across Finished Intelligence, Deep & Dark Web data, and RIOs. A key component of Flashpoint’s strategy is context surrounding threats, and the API’s customization options allow users to define and address context to suit specific needs. Contact the Flashpoint team for more information.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about version four’s release is the partner community.  These include ThreatConnect, ThreatQuotient, Silobreaker, and Anomali.  These four companies are part of Flashpoint’s Strategic Partner Network and all have the goal to help companies detect cybercrime and other threats.

Whitney Grace, November 8, 2017

Report Assesses Todays Voice Assistant Landscape

November 2, 2017

Having observed the recent boom in AI-powered voice-assistant products, Business Insider’s research service, BI Intelligence, has conducted a study on the issue. The site promotes their findings in their preview, “The Voice Assistant Landscape Report.” Writer Jessica Smith begins with an overview of recent developments: AI has become more accurate; mobile networks are more powerful; and smart appliances (aka the “internet of things”) supply more opportunities for voice-command control. By 2015, she reports, 65% of those with smartphones in the U.S. used voice assistants with those devices. Also, sales of Google Home and Amazon Echo are expected to triple this year, to 24.5 million units. Still, we’re told there remain significant obstacles, both social and technical, to widespread adoption just yet.

Smith shares some findings from the report. Among them:

Technological advances are making voice assistants more capable. These improvements fall into two categories: improvements in AI, specifically natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning; and gains in computing and telecommunications infrastructure, like more powerful smartphones, better cellular networks, and faster cloud computing.

Changes in consumer behavior and habits are also leading to greater adoption. Chief among these are increased overall awareness and a higher level of comfort demonstrated by younger consumers.

The voice assistant landscape is divided between smartphone- and speaker-based assistants. These distinctions, while important now, will lose relevance in the long run as more assistants can be used on both kinds of devices. The primary players in the space are Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Samsung’s Viv.

Stakes in the competition for dominance in the voice assistant market are high. As each assistant becomes more interconnected with an ecosystem of devices that it can control, more popular platforms will have a sizable advantage.

Naturally, the article concludes by telling us how to get our hands on the full report. You could invest in the BI Intelligence “All-Access” pass if you are really, really into research reports. Or, you could just purchase and download this particular report here for $495.

Cynthia Murrell, November 2, 2017

 

The Narrowing App Market

September 29, 2017

If you are thinking of going into app development, first take a gander at this write-up; Business Insider reports, “Half of Digital Media Time Is Spent in Five Apps.” Citing comScore’s 2017 US Mobile App Report , writer Laurie Beaver tells us:

Users spend 90% of their mobile app time in their top five apps, making up 51% of total digital time spent. Perhaps more alarming is that half of the time spent on smartphones is within just one app. That drops dramatically to 18% of time for the second most used app. This suggests that unless a brand’s or business’ app is the first or second most used (most likely Facebook- or Google-owned), it’s unlikely to get any meaningful share of users’ attention.

There are a few reasons for developers to take heart—the number of app downloads is picking up, and users have become more willing to allow push notifications. Most importantly, perhaps, is that users are making in-app purchases; that is where most apps make their money. Beaver continues:

Nevertheless, the report shows the astonishing influence Facebook and Google have over how US mobile app users spend their time. And given the increasingly large share the top five apps have, it’s likely to only become more difficult for brands and publishers to receive any share of users’ time. Alternate app experiences such as Apple’s iMessage apps, Google’s Instant Apps, and Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games could provide brands and publishers with new avenues to reach consumers where they’re spending their time. While these services are nascent, they do provide a promising option for businesses moving forward.

We’re reminded that apps have gained ground over browsers, and are now the main way folks get online. However, the trends toward app consolidation and app abandonment may lead to a “post-app” future. Never fear, though—Business Insider’s research service, BI Intelligence, offers a report titled “The End of Apps” ($495) that could help businesses and developers prepare for the future. Founded in 2007, Business Insider is headquartered in New York City.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2017

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