Watson Analytics is a breakthrough natural language-based cognitive service that provides business professionals across such disciplines as marketing, sales, operations, finance and human resources, fast access to powerful, predictive and visual analytic tools. Through IBM's relationship with Twitter, Watson Analytics also enables customers to analyze social sentiment for insights around programs, products, trends and more.
Since its release in December, more than 40,000 people around the globe have registered and are using Watson Analytics. One such client is Mueller, a manufacturer of metal roofing across the central and southwest U.S., an area known for extreme weather. In the State of Texas alone, residents from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley can experience drought conditions one moment and golf ball-sized hail and tornados the next.
But while Mueller's products can withstand the extreme forces of Mother Nature, weather can still compound traditional business challenges like revenue forecasting.
Before Watson Analytics we used a basic formula to gauge and forecast revenue", stated Mark Lack, manager of strategy analytics and business intelligence, at Mueller. "We would take our daily invoice revenue, month-to-date, divide it by the number of business days for the daily average and then multiply that by the number of days left in the month. The formula was ok, but it was never accurate until the last week of the month."
That all changed with Watson Analytics. By inputting a variety of variables into the system, including everything from invoice data, to the number of projects ongoing, to even the number of phone calls received, Mueller was able to consistently produce highly accurate revenue forecasts, quickly and easily.
With more accurate revenue forecasts available earlier each month, Mueller was able to start identifying and confirming trends, said Lack. With such insights, the company was able to begin re-aligning staffing and sometimes entire jobs. "With more accurate forecasts, we can mitigate if not eliminate guesswork, as well as surprises", Mark Lack stated.
But most important to Mark Lack, is Watson Analytics' ability to inspire additional queries and analysis. "The system produces search and query results so fast, and in such an easy-to-view format, that it really sparks new ideas and 'what-if' questions", he stated. "That's a unique power of this system."
For its part, Legends, a premiere hospitality and planning services firm for professional and college sporting events, uses Watson Analytics to gain fast insights into a variety of business areas, most specifically its hospitality operations.
We knew we had certain stand locations that were outperforming others and wanted to know, what was driving it", stated Jon De Lord, director of insights and analytics at Legends. "After uploading pertinent data around transaction times, attendance, number of stands open, and even the weather, we were able to identify numerous aspects critical to operational success."
IBM extended the capabilities of Watson Analytics with release of Watson Analytics Professional, a new edition that gives users even more business-centric capabilities, such as a collaboration function that lets multiple people work simultaneously in a single Watson Analytics dataset.
Also, for the first time, the new edition supports IBM dashDB, IBM DB2 databases, Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) API connectors for SQL databases, IBM SQL Database for Bluemix, and report data from IBM Cognos 10 business intelligence software. This expanded support enables businesses to upload and analyze immense new streams of data from across an organisation's varied disciplines. Initial editions of the service, Free and Personal, support CSV and Excel spreadsheet files. In addition to the database support, Watson Analytics Professional features new connectors that enable Dropbox and Box Cloud storage users to upload spreadsheets from those accounts for analysis.
"We are excited about utilizing Watson Analytics Professional moving forward", stated Legend's Jon De Lord. "The platform will enable us to open up significant new areas of analysis and insights that will lead to more efficient operations and an enhanced experience for our guests."
Mueller's Mark Lack agreed. "By being able to collaborate, you have more eyes to analyze the results", he stated. "That means it's not just me looking at the data. Plus, with Watson Analytics, people's thought processes get sparked when they see their results appear in graphs and charts so quickly."
The widespread adoption of Watson Analytics is bringing much-needed analysis to new areas within organisations, according to Alistair Rennie, General Manager, Analytics Solutions, IBM. "Mueller and Legends are good examples of how vastly different businesses are leveraging this powerful service for fast, strategic insights", he stated. "With Watson Analytics we opened up analytics to everyone within an organisation, and with Professional were enabling them to now collaborate and connect to a wide range of important information."
Watson Analytics Professional also provides users with access to 50,000 tweets per dataset to better understand the social sentiment surrounding a particular topic of analysis. The solution, which is $80 per user/month, also supports up to 100GB of data storage.
Watson Analytics Professional joins two other solutions in the family, Watson Analytics Personal, which is $30 per user/month and supports up to 2GB of data storage, and Watson Analytics, which is free to users and supports up to 500MB.