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“This is a fascinating time for analytics” says Steve Lucas, Executive VP for SAP responsible for Analytics and Databases worldwide.

Presenting at the SAP Analytics Forum in Paris, Lucas defined analytics very broadly as “careful observation that broadens our understanding of the world.”

Lucas used his own personal experience to illustrate the new opportunities:

“I’m a type 1 diabetic. I was born that way — but I still love sugar. To help me manage my blood sugar, I have a sensor attached to my side. Every five seconds, it sends my blood sugar level to a wireless meter. Before, my blood sugar was very difficult to manage, because I didn’t have the information. Now, every five seconds, I know exactly what the level is, and I’ve been able to dramatically improve my health situation.”

He pointed out that his experience is analogous to the situation facing organizations today: businesses, too, are very hard to manage unless the data is easily available in real time.

According to Lucas, what’s new in analytics is that everything is increasingly connected, and new predictive and event-based technologies make it possible to automate actions based on what’s happening in real time:

“Things are starting to talk to other things, and analytics is in the middle — but people are still in the middle of analytics”.

Today, he feels organizations are choosing not to take advantage of the new technology possibilities:

“In the march towards efficiency and automation, where does analytics fit? Everywhere, but we have to choose to let analytics make decisions on its own.”

Lucas also believes that “there’s a missing element in the world of analytics, and it’s called real-time.” He used the example of the smart meter installed in his home. Today, he gets a bill every month that shows how much electricity he is using compared to his neighbors — with the apparent goal of shaming households into using less energy. He argued that this is ineffective:

“It’s like with pets, or children — there’s no point in punishing them for something they did last month. It’s too late: you have to catch them in the act if you want to change behavior. When I’m ‘abusing power,” I want to know now, when I can change something — not a month from now.”

IMG_6270Lucas held up Disney’s new MyMagic+ program, that allows personalized, event-based interactions with customers during their stay, as an example of using real-time analytics to create an emotional connection.

He ended his presentation with a call to organizations to challenge their current information platforms:

“It’s time to predict your own future and act on information using an automated internet of things infrastructure. Collaborate and innovate with us to create new opportunities.”

Companies are increasingly challenging the status quo of the last decade of business intelligence, and using the big changes in technology as an opportunity to reexamine their overall information strategy.

SAP’s Jean-Michel Jurbert explained how organizations are moving to a new “network of truth” model that combines the best of “data discovery” – the freedom for business people to collect and manipulate their own data – with the information governance requirements of the organization.

A series of product demonstrations showed how business people could collect and combine information on the fly with the new SAP Lumira product, publish it to a corporate server or the cloud, and consume it using the new SAP Business Objects Mobile.

To illustrate the practical reality of the new opportunities, Fabrice Lherault of Vinci Energies explained how his company has benefited from a move from a traditional centralized, “corporate” business intelligence strategy to more flexible real-time data exploration using SAP HANA and BusinessObjects 4.

[Photos of the event are available in the version of this post on my Business Analytics Blog]

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