IBM PartnerWorld: Defining Analytics, Even in the SMB Space
When The VAR Guy mused that Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM’s Entity Analytics group, was going to get a bit metaphysical, our resident blogger couldn’t have been more wrong. Jonas surprised attendees at his keynote at IBM PartnerWorld 2012, using concrete, tangible items to draw an analogy on how he’s been driving the future of analytics through new algorithms, “new physics” and new ways of looking at massive quantities of data. But can understanding data analytics make it more accessible to partners and customers? The VAR Guy suggests you read on …
Information is a powerful thing, but too much information could present a problem — that is, if you don’t analyze it. For Jeff Jonas, the best way to represent a ton of information is to visualize a jigsaw puzzle. Alone, two different pieces may appear completely unrelated — one red, one blue, for example. Only after the puzzle is complete can you see they’re part of a larger whole. Similarly, a puzzle piece that depicts flames could either represent the decal on a motorcycle or a house fire. Whichever the case, the context is unclear until a full picture emerges. Jonas said this is exactly how the process of data analytics works: allocating bits and bytes of information until a contextual big picture emerges.
Likewise, he said, once a person is close to completing a puzzle, the last few pieces go together rapidly. This also is analogous to the way IBM’s algorithms work: Initially data analytics can start off slow, but then quickly accelerate once enough data has been eaten. “It’s a tipping point where computational effort decreases,” and confidence in what the data is telling you improves, said Jonas.
But let’s bring this all back down to (earth and) the channel. Should partners seriously be focusing on training and selling IBM’s analytic offerings? IBM thinks so. Jonas suggested an individual wouldn’t want to figure out how to cross a busy street blindfolded if he or she only had a snapshot of traffic from five minutes earlier. Similarly, businesses shouldn’t be using old data to make decisions about the future. For Jonas, the ability to “sense, response, explore and detect” are the key components that help business reach their full potential. “Giving customers smart answers every Monday morning after a batch [analytics] job” is a great way to keep customers happy and ensure a continued relationship for partners, Jonas said. “The value of data is proportional to the context it’s in. Making better sense of the observable space and reacting faster [allows for] the best edge. It’s differentiation for thinking,” concluded Jonas.
But our resident blogger has to admit, a solid understanding of data analytics doesn’t automatically make it accessible for the SMB. Even though IBM drives home benefits, enticing partners with training and certification, it must be asked: Is there demand? Do business analytics represent a scalable, affordable opportunity for “the little guy?” Our resident blogger thinks the answer is still no. VARs, MSPs and SMBs currently are focusing on meeting existing customer growth demands, and this is consistent with what The VAR Guy hears from the SMB community. Our resident blogger suggests partners continue to support their SMBs with new and improved hosted and managed services. When the time is right for data analytics, SMBs and VARs will sense an upgrade is necessary. But for the time being, data analytics evangelizing, however powerful, seems a bit premature for the smaller parts of the channel.