International gurus view of BI 20164 min read

gary cokins2Gary Cokins, CPIM

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and book author in business analytics and enterprise performance management systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm located .  He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. He then worked 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, EDS, and SAS.


In your opinion, what was the most important advancement within BI/Analytics in 2015?

There are so many advancements from many business functions that it is hard to select the most important one. Ones that come to my mind include supply chain management optimization with improved forecasting and probabilistic risk management scenario analysis.

My vote for the most important advancement involves the marketing function’s increased ability to gain insights into customers. They have gone beyond just helping their sales force colleagues with targeting to identify the relatively better customers to retain, grow, win back, and acquire. In 2015 they leveraged analytics to gain higher “profit lift” from customers by identifying next best purchase offers tailored to each customer. We are all familiar with Amazon’s on-line message to us with “others like you also purchased X, Y, and Z”. In 2015 marketing upped this game by applying “associations”. They considered the most relevant demographic information they have about their customers, such as age and home residence location. Then for each resulting customer micro-segment they determined the following. For customers who purchased products A and B but also C, let’s target similar customers who also purchased A and B but not C. Then offer them coupons, deals, or price discounts to purchase C. Increased sales and profits are the result.

In your opinion, what will be the most important advancement within BI/Analytics in 2016?

Will I be in the minority or majority if my choice involves the “Internet of things” with its IoT nickname?
In the film actor Dustin Hoffman’s early performance as Ben Bradford in The Graduate he is given career advice with one word … “plastics”. In 2016 that one word might be “sensors”. The applications are many from varying traffic “stop and go” street light signal time intervals based on vehicle flow density to bar code sensors to streamline truck, plane, and rail package delivery in supply chains. In 2016 IoT will be more personal. By carrying mobile devices, especially phones, in a food supermarket or retail store, one will be alerted with a sound or vibration while walking along an aisle of a deal or discount. That signal will be tailored from knowing the customer’s previous purchases.


People have been talking about big data for a while now. Do you see big data projects becoming mainstream in 2016? Why/why not?

The key word in this question is “mainstream”? For example, does one define the minimum threshold of mainstream for any country as when 50% of households have an automobile, a landline phone, a home computer, or Internet access? Being mainstream implies something has become common and used by a majority. My opinion is “big data” has yet to reach that threshold. One reason is the IT function in organizations is distracted from enabling their users access to big data. One distraction is from challenges to evaluate or migrate to cloud-based SaaS technologies. Two other reasons are the lack of skilled analysts capable of “mining” and leveraging big data as well as the expected slow adoption rate expected of any innovation due to human nature’s normal resistance to change.

 What new buzzword within BI/Analytics will we see in 2016?

 My vote for the buzzword in 2016 is “data governance”. It is a familiar term and may not appear to many to qualify as a buzzword. But there are circumstances that support my vote. IT has been involved for decades with data governance, typically with large legacy systems. IT has not paid much attention to individuals creating and sharing their own files, such as spreadsheets. That will soon end. IT looked the other way when users purchased BI software that was priced just below the procurement policy threshold requiring a higher level manager approval. But now as leveraging big data begins to emerge as a competitive edge, the existence of multiple and disparate BI software vendor products imposes the same threats and complications that “data governance” addressed decades ago.

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About Arne Rosness