November 9, 2012

Analytic application subsystems

Imagine a website whose purpose is to encourage consumers to take actions — for example to click on an ad, click on the next page, or actually make a purchase. Best practices for such a site include:

Those predictive models themselves will keep changing, because:

In that situation, what would it mean to offer the website owner a predictive modeling “application”?

My immediate spur for this post is that Omer Trajman, who seemed to be advising WibiData from the getgo, has finally joined the firm,* and his announcement blog post stresses a need for “Big Data applications”. Coincidentally, I was advising MarketShare this week on some messaging, and was reminded that they (too) self-describe as an application vendor. I don’t totally hate that terminology; after all, both vendors are taking general technology and applying it to identifiable problem domains. Even so, I’ve disagreed with that phrasing in the past. For when you compare what WibiData or MarketShare offers to what we normally think of as an application — e.g. something that might be termed an “application” by SAP or — what they’re talking about is something that’s less standardized or complete.

*When he told me Omer was joining, WibiData CEO Christophe Bisciglia remarked that WibiData didn’t have much in the way of formal titles and roles. However, I’ll note:

Anyhow — if you search here on Omer’s name, you’ll see that numerous past posts have been based on his input.

Those vendors actually do different things; WibiData is stronger in run-time operation and data wrangling, while MarketShare is more focused on supporting complex modeling itself. But in essence both vendors are offering predictive modeling application subsystems. From a standpoint both of completeness and of needed customization, those subsystems can fairly be said to be more “application-like” than, say, a DBMS, but less so than a traditional SAP app.

The completeness point should be obvious; if you’re not providing the consumer user interface, nor even a sample/customizable one, you’re not providing the whole application. So let’s consider customization. Any kind of packaged application needs to be highly configurable; and no matter how configurable they are, they often wind up getting outright customized as well. Yet even so, predictive applications need to be customizable in multiple ways that more traditional operational applications don’t. In particular, they need to be continuously customizable:

Much of what I’ve just said holds true for business intelligence as well; you may buy BI as an “application”, but then you’ll keep programming in it for as long as you have it running. Planning/optimization technology could perhaps be viewed the same way too, although to date that’s been a more troubled and less successful sector. And so I think the idea of an analytic application subsystem could prove useful when considering how analytic technology is consumed.


13 Responses to “Analytic application subsystems”

  1. Thomas W Dinsmore on November 10th, 2012 10:38 am


    Looking at WibiData’s website, I see nothing to suggest they offer anything that remotely resembles predictive anything. A search on the word “predict” on their website produces nothing of substance. Is this a marketing and communications problem, or are you reading something in to their offering that is not actually there?

    Concerning MarketShare, this company’s “solution” for predictive analytics seems to be a service offering for market mix modeling, which means they can join hundreds of other organizations that offer this service. Forrester thinks highly of them, obviously, but the “Wave” report about which MarketShare is so excited is strange, to say the least – it omits the leading service providers in the space, and also ignores the offerings of traditional analytics vendors such as SAS and SPSS.


  2. Curt Monash on November 10th, 2012 1:32 pm


    In both cases, what you’re referring to is more a marcom issue than anything else.

  3. Mike Beckerle on November 11th, 2012 1:49 pm

    Your point that analytics can’t really be packaged because continuous adaptation to change is required is interesting.

    Not everything analytic requires this.

    I think analytics can be packaged as product only to the extent one wants “parity” and not “advantage” from it versus competitors. E.g., suppose you are a manufacturer. You want enough BI about say, truck transport, to be competitive. You might gain your advantages over your competitors in other entirely different areas, price, product quality, marketing, etc. etc.

    Those kinds of BI systems, parity oriented, could be packaged more than just “subsystems”.

  4. Curt Monash on November 12th, 2012 11:18 am


    In any application area, the simple stuff can be packaged, but the most complex capabilities are custom. But I think the size and complexity of an organization that needs custom(izable) analytics is smaller than one that needs custom(izable) accounts receivable or human resources.

  5. Al DeLosSantos on November 12th, 2012 2:49 pm


    Very helpful discussion as usual. Your earlier post regarding data integration and movement
    provided some helpful background as well.

    Any recommendations on which BI applications are best at combining ETL and programming capabilities (just finishing a trial of Tableau: decent data import and report visualization capabilities; trial was too short to fully evaluate programming capabilities)?

    I’m trying to decide if a data federation/virtualization component is necessary, or if I can accomplish my reporting objectives with an advanced BI application.

    Al D.

  6. Curt Monash on November 12th, 2012 3:25 pm


    That would depend on some of the specifics of your situation.


  7. Al DeLosSantos on November 13th, 2012 9:57 am

    You bet Curt. I’m queued for trials of Birst and QlikView and I have a call scheduled with Composite. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

    Al D.

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