Turbotodd

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IBM Taps Next Generation Leaders For Watson Innovation

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The Watson Case Competition at USC, the third in a series hosted by IBM, is the latest example of IBM's work with academia to advance interest among students in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculums that will lead to high-impact, high-value careers. The competition is in keeping with IBM's Academic Initiative which delivers course work, case studies and curricula to more than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide to help students prepare for high-value future job opportunities.

The Watson Case Competition at USC, the third in a series hosted by IBM, is the latest example of IBM’s work with academia to advance interest among students in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculums that will lead to high-impact, high-value careers. The competition is in keeping with IBM’s Academic Initiative which delivers course work, case studies and curricula to more than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide to help students prepare for high-value future job opportunities.

While I was out trying to grok all things SXSW Interactive these past several days, IBM continued with its efforts to put IBM Watson to work for the betterment of mankind by turning to the next generation of brilliant young minds to help figure out where Watson should work next.

Imagine a Watson-powered system that could uncover data-driven insights to help medical professionals identify those who may be suffering silently from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Imagine a Watson that could provide lawyers with faster research capabilities to improve their cases.

Imagine a Watson that could help businesses hire the best talent in the job market.

This is the magnitude of ideas sparked by more than 100 University of Southern California students who gathered recently to compete in the IBM Watson Academic Case Competition.

A debut on the West Coast, the Case Competition put USC students in the spotlight to create business plans for applying Watson to pressing business and societal challenges — and IBM business leaders were present and listening carefully.

IBM: Partnering To Learn

IBM partners with thousands of universities to offer curricula, internships and hands-on experiences to help students learn first hand about new technologies in the fields of Big Data, analytics and cognitive computing.

The company is at the forefront of creating a new workforce of Big Data trained professionals, from IBM’s collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, which provides Watson as a collaborative learning tool for medical students, to its public-private partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the City University of New York to create the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program (P-TECH), which allows students to participate in a six year science and technology program and graduate with an associates degree for free in computer science or engineering.

To kick-off the competition at USC’s campus, IBM provided students with a crash course on Watson’s breakthrough capabilities, including a demonstration of how Watson is helping WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center improve the speed and quality of treatment for cancer patients.

As the first cognitive computing system of its kind in the marketplace, Watson is able to understand and process the subtleties of human questions, sift through vast amounts of data, and use sophisticated analytics to generate fast, accurate answers for its human users.

Watson also learns from its interactions, constantly improving with each use. This represents a major shift in organizations’ ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to Big Data, in industries such as healthcare — and this is where student minds were put to the test.

As part of the competition, students were assigned into 24 teams and given 48 hours to define a new purpose for Watson, develop a business plan, and present it to a panel of judges comprising school officials, IBM executives and local business leaders.

The challenge was unique among USC competitions because students worked toward a common goal with peers from other disciplines — similar to how IBM combines the talent of business leaders and research scientists to develop its patented innovations.

To foster interdisciplinary collaboration, each team was required to have at least one business and one engineering member, from USC’s Marshall Business School and Viterbi School of Engineering.

What’s Your Business Plan For Watson?

The student teams faced two rounds of judging based on four areas of criteria: how well the concept and supporting plan articulated and supported the team’s vision; the feasibility of bringing the product or service to market and the supporting elements; the extent the proposed solution leverages Watson’s key capabilities; and the team’s presentation. Three winning ideas were selected by a panel of eight industry and faculty judges, including representatives from Bank of America, Ernst & Young, and IBM.

  • 1st Place – Legal Research: Let Watson Do the Discovery for Your Next Legal Case – For corporate legal departments, building a case — or defending one’s own — relies heavily on fast and accurate research. Past legal trials, court documents, articles and digital evidence: all of these materials can make or break a case, and together they comprise a sea of unstructured data that is both time-consuming and costly to pore through. The first place USC team proposed using Watson to process its users’ research needs, based on its ability to think like a human, quickly sift through online legal documents for facts, and not only identify evidence to support a case — but forecast its probability of success. The first place team’s viewpoint: by placing Watson in charge of research, firms can recover time and costs, while delivering better legal outcomes. In turn, firms that leverage Watson’s speed and efficiency can address the growing legal trend towards “flat fee” billing and research outsourcing.
  • 2nd Place – Employee Training: Watson Uncovers the Keys to Success for Your Employees – According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), 41 percent of employees at companies with inadequate training programs plan to leave within a year, versus 12 percent of employees at companies who provide excellent training and professional development programs. Conversely, the ASTD also states that effective employee training can lead to 218 percent higher income per employee and 45 percent higher shareholder return than market average. The second place USC team proposes that corporate human resource departments use Watson to optimize employee training, by crunching data pertaining to the employers’ HR needs, the employees’ career goals, and the range of training options available that can help both parties succeed. The second place team’s viewpoint: by improving employee satisfaction and retention, a Watson-powered employee training system can also drive higher shareholder value.
  • 3rd Place – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Watson Helps Doctors Find Patients – It is reported that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects nearly 7.7 million U.S. adults aged 18 and older. This includes people who have served in combat, experienced domestic violence, have been in car accidents, or other traumatic events. Many with PTSD suffer silently, including the 400,000+ U.S. veterans who have yet to be identified and treated, per the U.S. Veterans Administration. Thankfully, the catalysts behind this illness need no longer remain invisible — due largely to Big Data. For example, there are now unprecedented amounts of data that accompany soldiers who return from war, from medical histories to information on combat experiences. The third place USC team proposes that physicians use Watson to identify people who may develop PTSD, by uncovering insights from data that can help piece together their personal story and shed light on pain he or she may be experiencing. The team’s viewpoint: by helping physicians find and diagnose those suffering from PTSD, Watson can help medical professionals offer patients the treatment they deserve.

Fueling Innovation While Investing In The Next Generation Of Tech Leaders

This competition is the latest example of how IBM is fueling innovation and working with students in higher education to hone valuable business skills that will shape the next generation of industry leaders.

"Partnering with universities such as USC gives IBM a unique opportunity to tap into the minds of our next-generation of leaders, whose training, skills and ideas for changing the world are all forward-thinking and based on a desire to make a meaningful impact,” said Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions. "These students see what Watson is doing right now and think -- how else will cognitive computing impact my life and career in the years to come? To us, that's exactly the mindset that should be fueling IBM innovations, and the very reason we host Watson Academic Case Competitions."

“Partnering with universities such as USC gives IBM a unique opportunity to tap into the minds of our next-generation of leaders, whose training, skills and ideas for changing the world are all forward-thinking and based on a desire to make a meaningful impact,” said Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions, about the new initiative. “These students see what Watson is doing right now and think — how else will cognitive computing impact my life and career in the years to come? To us, that’s exactly the mindset that should be fueling IBM innovations, and the very reason we host Watson Academic Case Competitions.”

Due to the overwhelming response from USC students seeking to participate in the Watson Academic Case Competition, students had to join a waiting list, once the 24-team maximum had been reached. One faculty sponsor, noting that the level of interest was unprecedented for a campus case competition, predicted registration could reach 500 next year.

“For USC students, the opportunity to share their own ideas with IBM on how to commercialize Watson is truly a unique experience,” said Ashish Soni, Executive Director of Digital Innovation and Founding Director of the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “As educators, we’re quite pleased to see students getting excited about cognitive computing innovation, because we know there’s a business demand for the types of skills they get to showcase in Watson Case Competitions.”

Watson — Building a New Big Data Workforce 

It’s no secret that employers across the U.S. are seeking job candidates who can analyze and build strategy around Big Data, or the 2.5 quintillion bytes of information gleaned from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social networks, to name just a few sources. A recent Gartner report estimates that 1.9 million Big Data jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2015.

The Watson Case Competition at USC, the third in a series hosted by IBM, is the latest example of IBM’s work with academia to advance interest among students in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculums that will lead to high-impact, high-value careers. The competition is in keeping with IBM’s Academic Initiative which delivers course work, case studies and curricula to more than 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide to help students prepare for high-value future job opportunities.

IBM worked closely with academic institutions during the development and introduction of Watson. Eight leading universities around the world participated in the development phase of the system; and more than 10,000 students watched Watson triumph on the Jeopardy! quiz show in February 2011. Most recently, IBM announced it would provide a modified version of an IBM Watson system to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, making it the first university to receive such a system that will enable leading-edge research by faculty and students.

The competition at USC marks the latest collaboration between the university and IBM. Over the last two years, students at the school’s Annenberg Innovation Lab have been using Big Data analytics technologies to conduct social sentiment analyses and determine public engagement on topics such as sports, film, retail and fashion.

Two of the biggest projects looked at Major League Baseball’s World Series and the Academy Awards, projects developed for students to explore and expand their skills as they prepare for new data-intensive careers.  IBM also collaborated with the USC Marshall School of Business for “The Great Mind Challenge,” a global academic initiative focused on providing students with an opportunity to turn their social networking savvy into business ready skills to prepare for the jobs of the future.

Online Retailer LabelSneak Leverages IBM Smarter Commerce Technologies To Glean Mobile/Social Insights, Bolster Sales

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LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels. IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email. This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels. IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email. This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

There’s some new news on the Smarter Commerce front from IBM.

Earlier today, IBM announced a collaboration with LabelSneak, a small online retailer of discounted designer men’s wear, which is using IBM Smarter Commerce technologies to create a unique shopping experience aimed at the millennial consumer.

As a result, LabelSneak has seen 148 percent growth in revenues, tripling sales in less than a year.

For The Fashion Conscious Male

LabelSneak is an outlet store aimed at brand aware males, and offers discounts of up to 75 percent on fashion and sportswear, alerting its consumers via social channels to personalized, limited-time sales offers.

With new deals updated regularly, the site generates tremendous amounts of data, including Tweets, Instagram photos, Facebook comments on popular sales items and conversations between consumers on favorite brands through social channels, mobile and tablet devices.

LabelSneak’s challenge was this: To capture and glean insights from all this big data to better understand what consumers were saying about the latest promotions, which items were the most popular and at what time and in what circumstances sales were most effective.

They also needed analytics to better target and mold online sales campaigns and to decide which social channels effectively communicated its message to attract new customers.

LabelSneak teamed with IBM and IBM Business Partner CSI Solution to connect with the growing marketplace of consumers who prefer to buy across online, mobile and social channels.

With access to IBM Global Financing within minutes, the small retailer is now using IBM Smarter Commerce technology to handle high volumes of transactions as well as the large volumes and variety of data, CSI’s RapidCommerce Cloud Managed Service Solution has helped LabelSneak create a site to more effectively target the digitally savvy millennial consumer with an integrated brand experience across all devices.

To date, the platform is supporting a rapid pace of growth, enabling the client to focus its time and resources on growing the business such as conducting sales promotions, gleaning insights from Facebook comments or tweets.

The Competitive Challenge

Fashion companies of every size and style are vying for a slice of the men’s wear market. To compete with more established retailer brands, LabelSneak needed to better understand men’s online consumer behavior, create a more tailored marketing campaign and deliver the right merchandising mix.

Not only is LabelSneak gleaning insights from data analyzing which brands to carry, but they also are seeing how consumer preferences for certain brands in men’s wear are connected to a favorite sports teams or music.

Background On IBM Smarter Commerce

IBM Smarter Commerce precision marketing is allowing consumers to choose which sales promotions they want to be alerted to or when their favorite clothing item goes on sale via text, tweet, Facebook post or email.

This can be a more effective sales method as smaller retailers can deliver a level of personalization and a more tailored marketing campaign to the individual consumer.

IBM Smarter Commerce provides intelligent automation of marketing, sales, customer service and procurement to help chief marketing officers, chief procurement officers, sales, e-commerce, supply chain and customer service executives do their jobs more productively and efficiently.

Go here if you’d like to do some shopping on LabelSneak.

IBM To Acquire Business Analytics Firm Star Analytics, Inc.

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IBM yesterday announced a definitive agreement to acquire the software portfolio of Star Analytics Inc., a privately held business analytics company headquartered in Redwood City, California.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The combination of IBM and Star Analytics software will further advance IBM’s business analytics initiatives, allowing organizations to gain faster access and real-time insight into specialized data sources.

With growing challenges in gaining a more complete view into varying types of data, companies are increasingly looking for ways to automate and provide business users with self-service access to critical information.

Star Analytics software addresses a rising challenge for organizations — helping to automatically integrate essential information, reporting applications and business intelligence tools across their enterprises, on premise or from cloud computing environments.

The software removes typical custom coding for specialized sources that is hard to maintain. It also eliminates manual processes that are cumbersome and time consuming.

“IBM sees an enormous opportunity for our clients to apply Star Analytics to the information they have stored in their financial applications,” said Leslie J Rechan, General Manager, IBM Business Analytics.  “And to then easily access it within their IBM performance management and business intelligence solutions.”

IBM Business Analytics

IBM has established the world’s deepest portfolio of Smarter Analytics and Big Data technologies and industry expertise, including almost 9,000 dedicated business analytics and optimization consultants, and 400 researchers.

Nearly 500 of the patents from IBM’s record breaking 20th year of innovation will serve as the building blocks for future analytics innovations that will help businesses and governments unlock the power of big data.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.

You can learn more about Star Analytics here. 

Written by turbotodd

February 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm

The Vindication Of Nate Silver

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I was all set to write a closer examination of statistician and blogger Nate Silver’s most recent election predictions, a ramp up to during which he was lambasted by a garden variety of mostly conservative voices for either being politically biased, or establishing his predictions on a loose set of statistical shingles.

Only to be informed that one of my esteemed colleagues, David Pittman, had already written such a compendium post.  So hey, why reinvent the Big Data prediction wheel?

Here’s a link to David’s fine post, which I encourage you to check out if you want to get a sense of how electoral predictions provide an excellent object lesson for the state of Big Data analysis. (David’s post also includes the on-camera interview that Scott Laningham and I conducted with Nate Silver just prior to his excellent keynote before the gathered IBM Information On Demand 2012 crowd.)

I’m also incorporating a handful of other stories I have run across that I think do a good job of helping people better understand the inflection point for data-driven forecasting that Silver’s recent endeavor represents, along with its broader impact in media and punditry.

They are as follows:

 “Nate Silver’s Big Data Lessons for the Enterprise”

 “What Nate Silver’s success says about the 4th and 5th estates”

“Election 2012: Has Nate Silver destroyed punditry?” 

Nate Silver After the Election: The Verdict

As Forbes reporter wrote in his own post about Silver’s predictions, “the modelers are here to stay.”

Moving forward, I expect we’ll inevitably see an increased capability for organizations everywhere to adopt Silver’s methodical, Bayesian analytical strategies…and well beyond the political realm.

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: A Q&A With Nate Silver On The Promise Of Prediction

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Day 3 at Information On Demand 2012.

The suggestion to “Think Big” continued, so Scott Laningham and I sat down very early this morning with Nate Silver, blogger and author of the now New York Times bestseller, “The Signal and the Noise” (You can read the review of the book in the Times here).

Nate, who is a youngish 34, has become our leading statistician through his innovative analyses of political polling, but made his original name by building a widely acclaimed baseball statistical analysis system called “PECOTA.”

Today, Nate runs the award-winning political website FiveThirtyEight.com, which is now published in The New York Times and which has made Nate the public face of statistical analysis and political forecasting.

In his book, the full title of which is “The Signal and The Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t,” Silver explores how data-based predictions underpin a growing sector of critical fields, from political polling to weather forecasting to the stock market to chess to the war on terror.

In the book, Nate poses some key questions, including what kind of predictions can we trust, and are the “predicters” using reliable methods? Also, what sorts of things can, and cannot, be predicted?

In our conversation in the greenroom just prior to his keynote at Information On Demand 2012 earlier today, Scott and I probed along a number of these vectors, asking Nate about the importance of prediction in Big Data, statistical influence on sports and player predictions (a la “Moneyball”), how large organizations can improve their predictive capabilities, and much more.

It was a refreshing and eye-opening interview, and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as Scott and I enjoyed conducting it!

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: Big On Business Analytics

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Day two of Information On Demand.

Note to self: Bring a hot water boiler next time. Check bathroom for Bengali tiger.  Pack a vaporizer.  And bring some 5 Hour Energy Drinks.

Oh, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Today, I missed the general session, as I was in my room preparing a presentation and also tuning in to the Apple webcast where CEO Tim Cook announced the new iPad Mini, among other products.

IBM Business Analytics general manager Les Rechan explains to the audience how over 6,000 clients and prospects have now taken the “Analytics Quotient” quiz since it went live last year.

But I did make it down to the Business Analytics keynote, led by IBM Business Analytics general manager Les Rechan, and I was glad I did.

The session started with a motivating video featuring a number of IBM customers on the vanguard of using business analytics to improve their businesses.  When Les came onstage, he first highlighted several of IBM’s BA “Champions,” clients from around the globe who were in the “Advanced” category of business analytics.

Les’ birds-eye view centered on the Analytics Quotient, a self-analyzing quiz IBM created and released for customers last year. About 70 percent of the 6,000+ respondents year-to-date indicated they are in the “novice” or “builder” categories, and only 30 percent in the “leader” or “master” categories.

Where IBM can help move the needle is through a variety of resources Les pointed out, including the Analytics Zone, as well as through enablement services and training.

He also highlighted a new book, “5 Keys To Business Analytics Program Success,” a book recently published that features a number of IBM business analytics customer success stories (written by them!).

Over 70 percent of respondents to the IBM “Analytics Quotient” online exam find themselves in the “novice” or “builder” categories, indicating there’s plenty of upside yet in pursuing basic business analytics capabilities across a great diversity of organizations.

Michelle Mylot, the Business Analytics team’s chief marketing officer, then came onstage and pointed out that those organizations that integrated analytics into the fabric of their businesses are the ones that drive the most impact.

She highlighted a number of key areas around which IBM’s business analytics team has been increasingly focused, including social network analyis, entity resolution, decision management, and operational analytics.

Doug Barton, whose interview I’m attaching below at the end of this post, came on stage and gave a brilliant presentation that should provide financial analysts everywhere (including CFOs and all their staffs) incentive to run directly to their nearest reseller and purchase Cognos Disclosure Management.

It’s difficult to describe a demo, but basically, Doug presented a scenario where a company was preparing to announce its earnings and, rather than operating from a plethora of disparate spreadsheets, he demonstrated how Cognos Disclosure Management could create a symphony of collaboration as a CFO prepared for a quarterly earnings call.

Isolated spreadsheets and PowerPoints became integrated narratives of the earnings statement, where an update in one part of the report would magically alter the performance graph in another.

Pure financial geek magic. Doug, take it away in our Q&A below.

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