Spotfire 'guides' data analysis

In another twist on traditional BI (business intelligence) software, Spotfire Inc. on Tuesday outfitted its analytics products with the ability to turn decision-making "best practices" into reusable business processes that can be deployed across internal analytics applications.

Somerville, Mass.-based Spotfire's "guided analytics" capabilities enable users of its DecisionSite and DecisionSite Developer 7.1 platform to customize their own analytics applications vs. deploying a more rigid, out-of-the-box BI solution, company officials said. The technology also lets end-users capture the most proven decision-making methods across the company's employee base, and then transform those processes into analytical guides that can be applied horizontally to various applications analyzing data in the enterprise.

"We create an overall platform for customer-defined analytics that focuses on business processes rather than building a data warehouse," said David Butler, vice president of product strategy and marketing at Spotfire, whose primary customers hail from the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing, and oil-and-gas exploration. "The notion is that users can guide the analytics without building new queries, which speeds deployment and provides more interactivity."

The solution also exploits human expertise across a company. Depending on the type of analysis, the most appropriate user within a company first defines the analysis process and requisite data to be culled; then DecisionSite transforms that process into components and automatically generates a "guided" analytic application targeted at a particular aspect of the company, such as sales or marketing. The DecisionSite Builder tool wields a graphical XML front end to grab data from across the enterprise to feed into the applications. Results are presented in an interactive interface that allows users to massage the information and make decisions on the fly, officials said.

If a particular process drives a successful decision, users can reapply it to other areas of the company, officials said.

According to one industry analyst, guided analytics seek to make decision-making a core competency across an enterprise, not unlike the notion behind knowledge management.

"It's about applying expertise to certain areas of analysis and having a process around making decisions," said Henry Morris, an industry analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "The guides are good because they are definable by the end-user and are worthwhile if you are dealing with the type of decision that is repeatable, such as whether to approve a loan vs. whether to buy a company."

Meanwhile, Spotfire also announced Tuesday that Agilent Technologies is licensing DecisionSite to bundle with its software aimed at scientists working on drug and disease discovery.

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