Making its biggest announcement in a decade as leader in analytics, IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced Watson Analytics, a breakthrough natural language-based cognitive service that can provide instant access to powerful predictive and visual analytic tools for businesses. According to analysts, only a small fraction of business people use powerful analytics tools as part of their decision making today. Watson Analytics is designed to make advanced and predictive analytics easy to acquire and use.
The first release of Watson Analytics will include a freemium version of its cloud-based service designed to run on desktop and mobile devices. Watson Analytics offers a full range of self-service analytics, including access to easy-to-use data refinement and data warehousing services that make it easier for business users to acquire and prepare data – beyond simple spreadsheets – for analysis and visualization that can be acted upon and interacted with.
Unlike analytics offerings designed primarily for data scientists and analysts predominantly focused on visualization, IBM Watson Analytics automates steps like data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals across data intensive disciplines including marketing, sales, operations, finance and human resources.
Three key innovations can greatly reduce the skills required to engage in advanced analytics:
- Single Business Analytics Experience– Unlike today’s separate analytics tools designed for different kinds of analysis and data tasks, Watson Analytics is a seamless, unified experience that brings together a set of self-service enterprise data and analytics capabilities on the cloud. Business professionals identify their problem, and Watson Analytics can help them source the data, cleanse and refine it, discover insights, predict outcomes, visualize results, create reports or dashboards, and collaborate with others.
- Guided Predictive Analytics– Watson Analytics features the use of predictive analytics to surface key relevant facts and uncover unforeseen patterns and relationships. This process sparks new questions and better insight, directing users to parts of their business that matter most.
- Natural Language Dialogue– Watson Analytics speaks the language of business and people by enabling someone to simply type in what they would like to see; Watson Analytics produces results that explain why things happened and what’s likely to happen, all in familiar business terms. And as business professionals interact with the results, they can fine-tune questions to get to the heart of the matter.
Designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind, business users can gain instant access to persona-based business scenarios specific to their role. Instead of fumbling over data, searching for answers or testing hypotheses, the user can focus on understanding the business and effectively communicating results to stakeholders.
Most analytic offerings assume users have data ready for analysis, a clear idea of the type of analysis needed, and the skills and time to build a model for analysis. However, most business users have none of these things. Finding and validating data can represent 50 percent or more of the time in an analysis project. Business users often then struggle with figuring out what analysis would be relevant and how to tell the story in a report or diagram. Watson Analytics automates these steps to accelerate users’ ability to get to the answers they’re seeking, quickly and on their own.
Watson Analytics also incorporates natural language processing so business users can ask the right questions and get results in terms familiar to their business that can be read and understood or interacted with. As users interact with the results, they can fine-tune their questions and the data to surface the most relevant facts and uncover unforeseen patterns and relationships, which will enable predictive decision making for all levels of users. Watson Analytics delivers a unified analytics and data experience on the cloud. Like other IBM Cloud solutions, it will be hosted on SoftLayer and available through the IBM Cloud marketplace.
IBM also intends to make Watson Analytics services available through IBM Bluemix to enable developers and ISVs to leverage its capabilities in their applications. Certain Watson Analytics capabilities will be available for beta test users within 30 days, and offered in a variety of freemium and premium packages starting later this year. For more information, visit: ibm.com/watsonanalytics.