What are the key elements an analytics company must possess to be differentiated competitively, in the market? Needless to say, they need to be able to cater to end-to-end analytics. Be it simple reporting or intuitive analytics, through interactive dashboards or all sorts of analysis of OLAP nature i.e. pivoting, drill-downs, drill-through, drill-ups, slice-and-dice analysis and so on. These are just the elementary items of analytics, in the current times. More important for any analytics organization is the ability to integrate data from various sources into a common repository (otherwise called as Data Warehouse), for analytical purposes. Thus, Data Warehousing forms an integral part of the Analytics capability, for any organization in this business; besides the ability to handle and work with any kind of databases, including columnar, graph, NoSQL etc. databases. Further, role-based data access for dashboards / reports / analytics is a fundamental capability any global customer would be looking for as a differentiator.ss
Other than these simple reporting and intuitive analytics, comes advanced analytics like predictive analytics, data mining, forecasting and statistical analysis implementation. Then, there is the Big talk about Big Data. With data volumes, velocity and variability growing manifold, Big Data analytical capability is a very important requirement for several customers. In many cases we have noticed it is an aspiration more than a need which is great to fulfill post fundamental analytics program is in place. Then come’s the mobile interfaces for delivery of analytics through mobiles and tablets on the go. The security integration with internal Microsoft Active Directory / LDAP based access to analytical applications has become one of the fundamental needs of any customer. On the data integration side, data profiling, data quality, data cleansing, data lineage and MDM have become some of the new requirements of customers which is integral to any analytics deployment. This is to ensure sanctity of the reported and required data/information across sources.
Of course, the next obvious and important choice is that of the BI technology – between open source and proprietary technologies. The platform of BI technology is the fundamental basis for developing BI solutions for customers. These days, the various technologies are more or less having several requisite capabilities mentioned above. Just the pricing may differ or some technologies may have some features, which are not present in another technology. Choice of technology is seen more as a recommendation from the analytics company, rather than a decision by the customer. In lieu of this, it is important that an analytics vendor is capable of delivering on any major technology – either open source or proprietary. It thus, becomes important for an analytics company to not only have the ability to provide end-to-end analytics, as above. It becomes imperative to be able to serve across BI platform technologies, as well. Sometimes, customer may have choice of BI technology, due to possible existing internal licenses.
Why would any customer go to one vendor for data integration, another vendor for BI, another vendor for statistical / predictive analytics and so on? Ideally, if any vendor can serve all end-to-end analytics needs of a company, that is what the customer would look for including Big Data Analytics capability. If all capabilities above are under one roof, that is a distinct competitive advantage for an analytics company. And, add to that, if you have domain expertise, as well in different industry verticals, it is like icing on the cake. And, did we miss out budgeting and planning, above?!
Have a look at below diagram of types of organizations, based on their analytics needs at a given point in time. Of course, same organization can and will move up the pyramid over a period of time.
We have thus, seen that wider the expertise on BI technologies, more the customers the analytics company can win. Likewise, more comprehensive the data integration and analytics capabilities, more likely is the analytics company to serve a customer longer, through all their analytics needs. Especially, as the customer evolves from the bottom of the above pyramid to the top, over time. Or even, from somewhere in between in the above pyramid to upwards. Of course, execution and delivery experience and track record forms an important part of the vendor selection for Analytics implementation by a customer. An analytics company who has all these aspects in their fold would be a real competitor in the market. Definitely, it has to be combined with the appropriate sales and marketing and a partner ecosystem, across geographies.
Moreover, customers are these days not ready to wait for long implementation time frames. Anybody who can provide a faster deployment would be preferred over others. Definitely, in order to achieve this, it is important to have pre-built reusable content and components. And, this is possible, generally for products. Thus, vertical-specific and / or function-specific products have a very good scope in the market.
But, is something missing here? We see that all above is for providing a Decision Support System. Every analytics capability is directed towards assisting the customer to make decisions. There is nothing mentioned above that will help the customer measure the impact of their decisions. Measurement of impact of decisions is not measured just by the financial Return on Investment (RoI) metric. We have seen in an earlier blog that it is possible to measure decisions with other KPIs, with trends vis-a-vis decision dates, for example. When these decision measurement capabilities can be bundled in their offerings, that is what will truly set apart the analytics organization from the rest.
There would probably be few such specialized Analytics-focused organizations, as comprehensive in nature in terms of technology and capability coverage for analytics. Bangalore based GrayMatter Software Services is one such organization that comes to mind. If only such organizations can fit in Decision Measurement System (DMS) in their scheme of things, their stock would skyrocket! At least, that is what I feel!