Big data propels exploratory data analysis to the fore

By Mervyn Mooi, director at Knowledge Integration Dynamics (KID)

Could the worlds of online search and corporate data exploration be marrying the simplicity of Internet search with enterprise analytics? It makes sense that businesspeople should be able to more easily sift through immense enterprise data stores – both internal and external – to find the information that they need to help them do business better.

While full automation of the task is some way off it is an end goal in the drive to discover new facts about business entities.


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Businesses and the people who run them need to know specific information about customers, products, services, operational processes such as financials, human resources (HR), the supply chain, fleets and so on. The need to know about these things is driven by the desire to figure out how to reduce costs, increase profitability, reduce churn, increase customer acquisition, improve satisfaction, improve compliance, reduce risk – in fact, understand and facilitate every facet of a business because it has a direct or indirect impact on the bottom line.

In their efforts to achieve this organisations today own or have access to unprecedented volumes of data and also, crucially, data of many different types.

Finding the meaning in data is how you extract value from possessing or accessing it in the first place. But, as in mining for minerals, how do you extract the nuggets from the tonnes of earth that must be shifted in order to be strained and processed? And how do you cope with the plethora minerals that must be separated from the raw earth when each requires its own process? And how do you determine what new minerals may exist in the soil if you don’t know what you’re looking for in the first place?

Data exploration facilitates technologies that follow later in the data, information and knowledge process. BI solutions aid exploration because they allow people to explore the data, looking for commonalities, seeking out unknown trends, examining events and presenting those in formats that businesspeople can understand. The tools can only take people so far yet it is people who remain at the tip of the spear.

They must make informed decisions that will lead businesses through their daily operations, to their tactical targets and ultimately towards their strategic goals. Data exploration is a crucial step in that process because it precedes data analysis and enables far greater value from the original data.