Monday, February 27, 2012

Moneyball, Big Data, The Internet of Things and Enterprise Mobility

"In business, economics and other fields decisions will increasingly be based on data and analysis rather than on experience and intuition...we can start being a lot more scientific," predicts Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, from MIT's Sloan School of Management in a New York Times article The Age of Big Data, February 12, 2012.  This is the "Moneyball" approach to business.  Use the data, massive volumes of data, to find the truth, rather than lean on intuition.  In the past this was possible, but the long time frames required to find answers made it impractical for real-time decision making.

Just like in the movie Moneyball, large volumes of data hide truths that are not easily apparent without in-depth analysis.  These truths can lead us to competitive advantages, increased productivity, efficiencies and completely new and different ways of conducting business.  "Data-driven decision making" achieved productivity gains that were 5 to 6 percent higher than other factors could explain reported Brynjolfsson.  Pushing real-time data-driven decision making out to the mobile workforce is a subject that I find very intriguing.

Analyzing huge volumes of data instantly, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, has enormous potential for those that work in the field.  In an age when mobile workers are wirelessly reporting and sharing data, and thousands of "things" are constantly reporting wireless sensor data that measure vibrations, locations, movements, temperatures, humidity and chemical changes in the air from industrial equipment, shipping crates, vehicles, electrical meters and many other things, it is critical to have real-time assistance from systems that can analyze vast amounts of data instantly.

SAP's Hana is a tool that promises to make this possible.  Here is how SAP promotes Hana, "Analyze massive amounts of data up to 3,600 times faster for instant business insights and transform your organization into a real-time business."  

I remember reading a post-accident report from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.  In the report it said that oil rig supervisors experienced a paralysis in decision making due to the overwhelming amount of seriously dire sensor data coming in.  The raw sensor data was not in a form that provided guidance and direction based upon a real-time analysis of data.  We humans can easily be overwhelmed during a crisis where emotions and adrenalin are peaked and this does not lead to good scientific reasoning.

CEOs and CIOs would be well served to ponder how real-time access to real-time business intelligence could impact global field, fleet and plant operations.  I remember talking to a fleet manager who said he once notified all of his vehicle drivers to fill up with fuel before end of day, because real-time market data suggested a hike in fuel prices would occur before morning.  They reported that they saved millions of dollars by taking this one step.  It was only possible because of real-time analysis and real-time mobile communications.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.