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Deloitte spots analytics trends, ethics and open data

Brian McKenna, News and Site Editor

Deloitte sees an intensified focus on ethics as one of four broad trends in analytics in 2012.

In a briefing to SearchDataManagement.co.UK and Computer Weekly, Carl Bates, partner at Deloitte, and Harvey Lewis, research director for analytics at the firm, outlined the shape of analytics for 2012.

Bates said that by analytics the firm means data management, data architecture and business intelligence reporting as well as statistical data analytics.

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Lewis said that while younger people’s behaviour on social networking sites has shown a “shift around demography and privacy,” organisations should be wary that “just because you can [do lots with data] does not mean you should.”

Organisations are beginning to pay more attention to analytics and the ethics behind it, according to Lewis.

“With more granular insights comes greater responsibility,” he said. “It is possible that we will see the emergence of new ethical ‘red lines’ around the use of data and analytics by organisations, where self-imposed or voluntary codes are introduced. While some will struggle to get to grips with the issue, others will make the most of ‘ethical analytics.’ ”

The intensified focus on ethics is of a piece, he said, with a movement towards open data, adopted by the current UK government, with its open website, data.gov.uk.

Lewis projected new opportunities for growth based on a more open and collaborative approach to data. Organisations need to examine the benefits that customers may get from companies sharing their information and communicate that.

“For example, in transport, road hauliers and train operating companies [can adopt a] more collaborative approach to data that would benefit customers in terms of finding better routes, sharing loads and so on.”

For example, mobile phone operators share data to combat fraud, Bates said.

“The sky is the limit,” Lewis said of the new business models opened up by analytics. “Look at the insurance industry, with [its] information aggregation.”

The increasing digitisation of everyday life, as with smart meters, will only open up more such Information as a Service offerings, he said.

Harvey and Bates counselled organisations, however, not to fetishize analytics for its own sake. “It’s more about the application of analytics to the right business problem. It’s a means to an end,” Lewis said.

Bates said a persistent misalignment of analytics and business strategy is partly due to the “newness of analytics. While it has been around for a while, it has been functional. Organisations have not been taking enough of an enterprise view.

“There is also now a shift to looking at external data. Companies are good at looking at transactional CRM data, but not so good at unstructured data in CRM systems or, say, social media data.” He advocated “bringing all of that together to solve specific business problems.

“Organisations that do analytics well have IT people who understand business and business people who understand IT. People who can span the divide will be successful.”

Lewis added, “At the highest level that is also a good description of a new type of CIO -- one who puts the I back into ‘chief information officer.’ ”

The Deloitte duo described the “big data” phenomenon as a potential seducer of organisations away from a business focus. “There are ever increasing volumes and diversity of data,” Bates said. “But what is the right data to solve the problem you are looking at?”

Added Lewis, “This is where big data -- the stand-out analytics phrase of 2011 -- cannot live up to its own hype. Big data places too great an emphasis on organisations collecting and analysing as much data as they can access, whether internally or externally sourced. This can be an extremely risky and costly, and sometimes fruitless, task.”

Bates did, though, confirm that big data has “had an impact on how Deloitte would do a market entry strategy. Our strategy work is being turbo-charged by analytics.”


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