The buzz at the IBM Insight conference last month was all about IBM and Twitter announcing a new alliance to integrate Twitter feeds into IBM’s Watson Foundations platform. It’s a solid marriage, bringing together the real-time aspects of mobile and social with IBM’s cognitive computing platform that promises to make extracting meaning from data easier for the layperson.
It’s an idea that has a lot of people looking forward to 2015 and beyond, to see just how the new technologies will change our data practices – and potentially solve some of today’s most tenacious and irritating problems.
Five Problems Worth Solving
- Data Integration – Despite many advances in tools and best practices, this particular headache always seems to stay just one step ahead of ever-more sophisticated solutions.
- End User Experiences – With today’s mobile technologies, many people now hold in their hands computing power that puts early super computers to shame. What we don’t yet have is an intuitive way to access, analyze and drill down into data to extract valuable insights. Until business intelligence gathering can enter the cubes of business managers and sales reps, strategic decision-makers will continue to starve for information while they drown in data.
- Building Customer Profiles – When it comes to building a 360-degree view of the customer, companies need a connective layer that can interrelate social handles, emails, contact information and current employer. Verifying, checking and linking data elements together is a critical piece of the puzzle, requiring identity resolution and advanced monitoring capabilities to glue data points together to create depth and richness, and then keep nuanced profiles in synch.
- Garbage In, Garbage Out – Keeping data clean and accurate will continue to be a problem – and it will grow as data volumes climb. We talk a lot about data quality at D&B, for a couple reasons. There’s a lot of data being created every day. The pace of change has picked up, meaning basic contact and business data that were correct two weeks ago are now out of date. But for those who can scrub it and analyze it in a timely way – and who know what they’re looking for – today’s data holds the potential for some very savvy business moves.
- Framing the Right Questions – People talk about Big Data as if it were a panacea for all business problems. It’s not. A big hurdle in unlocking value from data is knowing what questions to ask. Today, Big Data projects are often driven by IT departments. And who better to deploy these incredibly complex initiatives? The problem is, it’s the front-line, customer-facing business folks who know what questions need answering. And in my experience, those conversations are just not happening often enough.
IBM has put together an interesting set of analytics and Big Data technologies, including analytics for Hadoop and new IBM Watson Analytics with elements of data visualization and predictive analytics. They’re tackling data integration hassles with the cloud-based IBM DataWorks. And they’ve started rolling out developer tools with Watson Developer Cloud and the open-source Bluemix platform for managing diverse apps, from mobile to social and beyond.
It’s a big step for Big Blue. And it shows real progress – and courage – from Armonk to take on some of the toughest challenges facing businesses today. Watson is shaping up to be the kind of holistic, comprehensive platform that could help tame data and make it useful. For more details, including how Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip laid the path to partnership, see Bizmology post IBM and Twitter to Mine Data Gold from Tweets.
Image credit: Anthony Quintano