Does your analytic solution tell you what questions to ask?

Analytic solutions exist to answer business questions. Conventional wisdom holds that if you can answer business questions quickly and accurately, you can take better business decisions and therefore achieve better business results and outperform the competition. Most business questions are well understood (read structured) so they are relatively easy to ask and answer. Questions like what were the revenues, cost of goods sold, margins, which regions and products outperformed/underperformed are relatively well understood and as a result most analytics solutions are well equipped to answer such questions.
Things get really interesting when you are looking for answers but you don’t know what questions to ask in the first place? That’s like an explorer looking to make new discoveries by exploration. An example of this scenario is the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in United States trying to find the vaccine for the latest strand of the swine flu virus. The researchers at CDC may try hundreds of options before finally discovering the vaccine. The exploration process is inherently messy and complex. The process is fraught with false starts, one question or a hunch leading to another and the final result may look entirely different from what was envisioned in the beginning. Speed and flexibility is the key; speed so the hundreds of possible options can be explored quickly and flexibility because almost everything about the problem, solutions and the process is unknown. 
Come to think of it, most organizations operate in an increasingly unknown or uncertain environment. Business Leaders have to take decisions based on a largely unknown view of the future. And since the value proposition of analytic solutions is to help the business leaders take better business decisions, for best results, consider adding information exploration and discovery capabilities to your analytic solution. Such exploratory analysis capabilities will help the business leaders perform even better by empowering them to refine their hunches, ask better questions and take better decisions. That’s your analytic system not only answering the questions but also suggesting what questions to ask in the first place.
Today, most leading analytic software vendors offer exploratory analysis products as part of their analytic solutions offerings. So, what characteristics should be top of mind while evaluating the various solutions? The answer is quite simply the same characteristics that are essential for exploration and analysis – speed & flexibility. Speed is required because the system inherently has to be agile to handle hundreds of different scenarios with large volumes of data across large user populations. Exploration happens at the speed of thought so make sure that you system is capable of operating at speed of thought. Flexibility is required because the exploration process from start to finish is full of unknowns; unknown questions, answers and hunches. So, make sure that the system is capable of managing and exploring all relevant data – structured or unstructured like databases, enterprise applications, tweets, social media updates, documents, texts, emails etc. and provides flexible Google like user interface to quickly explore all relevant data.
Getting Started
You can help business leaders become “Decision Masters” by augmenting your analytic solution with information discovery capabilities. For best results make sure that the solution you choose is enterprise class and allows advanced, yet intuitive, exploration and analysis of complex and varied data including structured, semi-structured and unstructured data.  You can learn more about Oracle’s exploratory analysis solutions by clicking here.
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