Big Data

Opening Up Your Data

Open-Data1Data and data analytics have been an important part of organizations for many years. Companies have had data warehouses for as long as I can remember. Those data warehouses were generally well designed and well managed and was the final destination of most of an company’s structured data.

Using the data stored within these warehouses, IT professionals and a select few data or business analysts could generate reports and graphs for the organization to manage the business.

There’s a fairly large problem with this approach though. If a report needs to be changed, there’s usually some sort of ‘change’ request that must be made to the IT group to make the change. That change process might be fairly involved or it might be simple and quick but regardless, it adds time and additional people into simple request to ‘view’ data differently.

For this reason, organizations began looking for new visualization tools to allow easier, interactive analysis of data. Thankfully, there’ve been many vendors step up and provide outstanding visualization and interactive analytics solutions.

We still have a bit of a problem though, at least in some organizations. These visualization and interactive analytics tools were restricted to the same staff and processes as before. Requests still need to be made to IT or to a ‘specialist’ to make a change.

That said, we are starting to see some progress towards opening up data and analysis in some organizations with the help of analytics’ software vendors.

Take, for example, the use of SAS Visual Analytics by a group of hospitals in the Netherlands. Their use of SAS’ product allows their employees to review, analyze and report on data without the need to go to IT or a data analyst to make a request to add a report or get access to a data set.     Rik Eding, a data specialist at one of the hospitals, had this to say about their use of an interactive analytics and visualization platform:

“Analytics is no longer just for our finance department or data analyst … SAS Visual Analytics literally puts the power of analytics into the hands of employees, yielding invaluable results.

Platforms like this allow organizations to put the data into the hands of the people closest to the ‘problem’ they are trying to solve. Rather than allowing these employees access to a few reports and hoping it provides the information they need, interactive analytics platforms allows those users with the most data and problem context to dig into the data and try to find solutions to their problems.

Beyond getting the data into the hands of the people that are closest to the problem, these types of systems offer additional benefits to organizations. One key benefit is the ability for IT and data analysts to stop being report developers and begin to deliver valuable analysis to the organization.

I know many organizations today that still approach data and data analysis with the old ‘gatekeeper’ mentality. They still want their IT staff and data analysts to be involved with all aspects of data. They don’t quite understand the value of interactive data in the hands of non-technical staff.

If you want to succeed with big data, you have to treat it differently than the data warehouse was treated. You need to think about opening up your data to allow easy, interactive access to every department within the organization. Of course, you also need to be able to secure your data but with the proper systems in place, you can ensure data governance and data quality while providing access for data analysis throughout the organization.

 This post is brought to you by SAS.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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[…] I mentioned in “Opening up your Data”, the problem with reports and dashboards is that they are static. They show you what data looks […]