Archive for January, 2010

There were many predictions in the Software industry for 2010. One of Industry thought leaders Nenshad Bardoliwalla  had his predictions in the area of “Trends in Analytics, BI and Performance Management.” His predictions about how vendors will have packaged/strategy driven execution applications, slice and dice capabilities from the BI vendors returning to its decision centric roots and advance visualization capabilities got me thinking about my favorite topic about purpose built Applications.

What is a purpose driven/built analytic application (PDAA) after all? It is an analytic application which addresses a much focused business area or process and provides insight into the opportunities (for improvements), challenges (performance). In order for such analytic application to provide insight…

  1. It needs to be designed for a specific purpose (or problem in mind), and that purpose or focus really needs to be narrow (to be able to provide holistic insight)
  2. It needs to rely on purpose built visualization and needs to use Web 2.0 style technologies to make analytic insight pervasive (some examples to follow)
  3. It needs to provide descriptive, prescriptive and predictive capabilities to provide holistic insight
    1. Descriptive capabilities will provide view into state of current affairs
    2. Prescriptive capabilities will provide what users need to focus on as a follow up, it also helps in guiding users as to what questions they should ask next to build the holistic insight
    3. Predictive capabilities will facilitate what if analysis and provide insight into what situation business might expect should the current situation continue.
    4. It implicitly provides users with what questions users should ask in a given situation and provides either complete answers or data points leading up to those answers…

Many a times, because of the very specific purpose and narrow focus, most of the insights provided by purpose built analytic applications can be manifested right into the operational application via purpose built gadgets or even purpose built controls. Single dashboard with a interactivity around the widgets/gadgets in the dashboard will typically provide complete insight into the focus/purpose of the analytic application.

Let us discuss an example of what a purpose built analytic application could be…Every organization which has sales force actively selling products/services of the organization has a weekly call to review the pipeline. This is typically done region by region basis and the data is then rolled up at a global level.  A purpose driven analytic application in this situation would be “Weekly Pipeline Review” application. In this application rather than providing free form slicing dicing/reporting capabilities around pipeline data (which will be traditional way), this type of application will focus on:

  1. Current Pipeline
  2. Changes to the pipeline from last week (positive, negative: As this is what is really watched closed in this call to make sure forecast numbers can be achieved)
  3. Indicate impact of the changes to the pipeline on achieving goals/forecast. Based on these changes, extrapolate the impact on Sales Organizations plans…. (what-if)
  4. Provide visibility into deals which might be problematic based on the past performance and heuristics (this is what I call prescriptive)
  5. Provide visibility into deals which are likely to move faster and close faster, again based on past performance. (Again prescriptive)
  6. Provide account names in which incremental up sell can be done (again based on past performance in similar accounts) but there are no active deals/opportunities etc…
  7. Provide visibility into individuals and regions which are at risk of missing their forecast based on their past and current performance.

There are different visualizations which can be used to build such type of application. Focus of this analytic application is to help Sales VP’s and Sales Operations to get through weekly pipeline review call quickly by focusing on exceptions (both on the positive and negative side) and provide full insight into the impact of the changes, areas which they should focus into etc…. Hopefully this explains in detail the difference between purposes built analytic application vs. traditional data warehouse or traditional analytic application.

Let us now briefly look at how purpose built UI supports some of the important aspects (holistic insight) of the purpose built applications. Many of you have used Google portal and have uploaded iGoogle gadgets. One can look at iGoogle gadgets as purpose built applications which focus on one specific area of interest to you.  Take a look at one of the samples put together by Pallav Nadhani to demonstrate Fusion charts visualizations. This gadget is a perfect example of how purpose built UI helps in creating the focus and holistic insight of the analytic Application. This gadget provides complete Weather picture for a location for today or for future.

 There is a company out of New Zealand, Sonar6 which provides product solution around performance management (much focused, purpose driven)/Talent Management. They have done fantastic job of building purpose built application and delivered that application through purpose built UI. I especially like the way they have provided analytic and reporting capabilities (helicopter view) around performance management. You can register for their demo or can look at their brochure/PowerPoint presentations.

There are several other vendors who have made purpose built analytics pervasive in our day to day lives. Recommendation engine built by Amazon is a perfect example of “Purpose built Analytics”

In the end, I truly believe that purpose built analytic applications can and will maximize the value/insight delivered to the end users/customers while keeping the focus of the analytics narrow.

I would love to know your thought around purpose built applications. What has been your experience?

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