While traveling the globe talking to customers about big data analytics for the past several years, one thing I’ve heard from Singapore to San Francisco is that businesses want solutions to analyze their ever-changing business problems quickly and effectively while minimizing IT engagement and costs.
With that in the back of my mind, something clicked when I came across Silicon Valley-based startup ClearStory Data. ClearStory has developed a cloud-based solution for big data discovery that lets businesses move many disparate data sources into the cloud, where they are harmonized, enriched with relevant third-party data and translated into stunning visual representations.
Say for example you’re a manufacturer and sales are down. You could take data from your retail outlets and your supply chain, and harmonize that with weather data to see how weather is affecting sales. You could add sentiment data from Facebook and Twitter, or census data about regional growth and demographic trends to shed additional light on the problem.
The key is harmonization. That’s not a word we hear a lot in enterprise software, but what it’s meant to convey is the advanced semantic processing capabilities that allow ClearStory to intuit the intent behind your analysis and appropriately blend data sources even when all the attributes aren’t the same. And it does it in-memory, crunching the numbers in minutes instead of days or weeks.
This is the answer to a big data problem that businesses have tried and failed to solve with a variety of tools. That’s why I am delighted to join the company as head of sales.
The other thing that drew me to ClearStory is its visualization capabilities. Visualization is what I call the “last mile” of analytics because it delivers the information in an easily accessible format to the end consumer. ClearStory does a couple of things very well that set its data visualizations apart.
With a lot of other analytics tools, you configure the dashboard you want, take a screenshot, put it in PowerPoint and email it out. It’s a relatively static, siloed process. ClearStory takes a more collaborative, socially enabled approach. People can see the breadcrumbs of how the analysis developed if they want to, and they can share and comment along the way. The resulting visualizations are more like storyboards than dashboards, and they continue to evolve as the underlying data changes. Once the visualization is set up, stakeholders can check in any time to see how the story is evolving.
This ability to let business analysts manipulate and discover insights from big data, visually present them to executives and people in the field who just need actionable takeaways, and in such a simple, understandable way to me is the perfect confluence of capabilities for a modern analytics solution. That’s what I think ClearStory does.
This doesn’t eliminate the need for data scientists to build more complicated models. It enables the business to uncover those nuggets of insight, which is crucial as the inventory of data warehouses and external data sources continue to explode exponentially and so many new, unique sources of data become available for analysis. One outcome the discovery phase could be a handoff to a data scientist where more complex modeling is needed, or perhaps identifying additional data sets to deepen the analysis.
ClearStory complements big data tools such as SAP Business Objects, Tableau, Cognos and QlikTech, adding value to those tools through its data harmonization, visualization or collaboration capabilities, or combination of all three. It’s not a rip and replace situation; it sits next to tools like these in the organization and augments their value to the business users.
This really resonates with me based what I’ve been talking to people about and seeing in the market for the past several years.
The bottom line for me is speed. The pace of businesses is getting faster and faster, and that’s where the cloud component becomes important. With on-premise software, it doesn’t matter how fast the box is when IT still has to procure the hardware and make sure they understand the data and have a place to store it securely. As we all know, this isn’t the only task on their to-do list. All those lags kill speed and the ability of the business to react.
To be able to quickly, easily, add and analyze all these different data sources and and be able to respond–those are the big things that excite me about ClearStory. It solves a big, strategic problem.
As I’ve talked about big data analytics over the past few years, I’ve always talked about it as an evolution and a journey towards being able to not only find better answers, but also to ask better questions. ClearStory’s solution marks an evolution that takes us further along on that journey, and that’s why I’m happy to announce that ClearStory is the next step in my personal and professional analytics journey.Google+