I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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August 19, 2008

The Age of Analytics

Here's an interesting chart from Google Trends.  It prompts two  questions:

  • What happened in November 2005?
  • What's sustained the growth in interest since then?

My guess is that the huge spike in interest in Q4 2005 was related to Microsoft's PR push for its release of Yukon (SQL Server 2005 with Analysis Services).

Tom Davenport's HBR article "Competing On Analytics" appeared in January 2006, followed by the book of the same name in March 2007.  Ian Ayres' eminently-readable Supercrunchers appeared in August 2007.  The spike in press interest in the topic this summer appears to have coincided with yet another SQL Server release, highlighting the influence of the Microsoft marketing machine once again.

More broadly, analytics is being brought to the fore by the confluence of a bunch of different things:

  • a critical mass of complementary data sets, in electronic formats as more behavior occurs through electronic channels (prediction: following the lead of others, Google will soon add "data sets" as a specialized category you can search on, as it has with so many others already
  • bandwidth, storage, processing power, grouped as cloud computing utilities
  • the software to go with them, not just from MSFT, but also from folks like Sun
  • the maturation of standards for integration of different data sets, making the whole mashup trend possible

Today however, our reach still largely exceeds our grasp. The bottleneck to future growth looks to be fluency, in both the computer languages and tools required to assemble and manipulate data, as well as in the statistics to interpret them. It's particularly interesting in that light to note the geographic concentration in India for searches on the term, as a proxy for where future leadership on the topic might come from.


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