I had the privilege and pleasure to attend HISA’s Health Data Analytics conference in Brisbane on 11 and 12 October 2016. What follows is this particular BI and Analytics consultant’s impressions and insights from the conference in terms of the main themes covered and the messages and impressions I take away, again from my particular…
In my previous post I discussed some analytical phrases that are gaining traction. Related to that I have had a number of requests for the deck that I presented at the Enterprise Dataversity – Data Strategy & Analytics Forum. I have attached the presentation here.
Also, while I am posting useful things that people keep asking for, here are a set of links that Jeff Gentry did on management frameworks for a Dataversity Webinar. Of particular interest to me was the mapping of the Hoshin Strategic Planning Framework to the CMMI Data Management Maturity Framework. The last link is the actual excel spreadsheet template.
Link to Webinar: Slides: http://www.dataversity.net/cdo-slides-cdo-interview-with-jeff-gentry-favorite-frameworks/
- Webinar Recording: http://www.dataversity.net/cdo-webinar-cdo-interview-with-jeff-gentry-favorite-frameworks/
- Link to Using Hoshin Frameworks: http://www.slideshare.net/Lightconsulting/hoshin-planning-presentation-7336617
- Hoshin Framework linked to DMM: http://content.dataversity.net/rs/656-WMW-918/images/Data Analytics Strategy and Roadmap Template 20160204D.xlsx
Happy New Year!
This entry has been sitting in my “to publish” file for some time. There is much more to be said on the topic. however, in the interest of getting it out … enjoy!
This entry was prompted by the article in the INFORMS ANALYTICS Magazine article titled Forensic Analytics: Adapting to a Growing Pandemic by Priti Ravi who is a senior manager with Mu Sigma and specializes “in providing analytics-driven advisory services to some of the largest retail, pharmaceutical and technology clients spread across the United States.”
Ms. Ravi writes a good article that left me hanging. Her conclusion was that the industry lacks access to sophisticated and intelligent monitoring equipment, and there exists a need for a “robust fraud management systems” that “offer a collective set of techniques” to implement a “complex adaptive approach.” I could not agree more. However, where are these systems? Perhaps even what are these systems?
To the last question first. What is a Complex Adaptive Approach? If you Google the phrase, the initial entries involve biology and ecosystems. However, wikipedia’s definition encompasses medicine, business and economics (amongst others) as areas of applicability. From an analytics perspective, I define complex adaptive challenges as those that are impacted by the execution of the analytics – by doing the analysis, the observed behaviors change. This is inherently true of fraud as the moment perpetrators understand (or believe) they can be detected, behavior will change. However, it also applies to a host of other type of challenges: criminal activity, regulatory compliance enforcement, national security; as well as things like consumer marketing and financial investment.
In an article titled Images & Video: Really Big Data the authors (Fritz Venter the director of technology at AYATA; and Andrew Stein the chief adviser at the Pervasive Strategy Group. define an approach they call “prescriptive analytics” that is ideally suited to adaptive challenges. They define prescriptive analytics as follows:
“Prescriptive analytics leverages the emergence of big data and computational and scientific advances in the fields of statistics, mathematics, operations research, business rules and machine learning. Prescriptive analytics is essentially this chain of transformations whereby structured and unstructured big data is processed through intermediate representations to create a set of prescriptions (suggested future actions). These actions are essentially changes (over a future time frame) to variables that influence metrics of interest to an enterprise, government or another institution.”
My less wordy definition: adaptive approaches deliver a broad set of analytical capabilities that enables a diverse set of integrated techniques to be applied recursively.
What Does the Robust Solution Look Like?
Defining adaptive analytics this way, one can identify characteristics of the ideal “robust” solution as follows:
- A solution that builds out a framework that supports the broad array of techniques required.
- A solution that is able to deal with the the challenges of recursive processing. This is very data and systems intensive. Essentially for every observation evaluated, the system must determine whether or not the observation changes any PRIOR observation or assertion.
- A solution that engages users and subject matter experts to effectively integrate business rules. In an environment where traditional predictive analytic models have a short shelf life (See Note 1), engaging with the user community is often the mechanism to quickly capture environmental changes. For example, in the banking world, tracking call center activity will often identify changes in fraud behavior faster than a neural network set of models. Engaging the User in the analytical process will require user interfaces, and data visualization approaches that are targeted at the user population, and integrate with the organization’s work processes. Visualization will engage non technical users to help them apply their experience and intuition to the data to expose insights. The census bureau has an interesting page, and if you look at Google Images, you can get an idea of visualization approaches.
- A solution that provides native support for statistical and mathematical functions supporting activities associated with data mining : clustering, correlation, pattern discovery, outlier detection, etc.
- A solution that structures unstructured data: categorize, cluster, summarize, tag/extract. Of particular importance here is the ability to structure text or other unstructured data into taxonomies or ontologies related to the domain in question.
- A solution that persists data with the rich set of metadata required to support complex analytics. While it is clearer why unstructured data must be organized into a taxonomy / ontology, this also applies to structured data. Organizing data consistently across the variety of sources allows non obvious relationships to be exposed, and application of more complex analytical approaches.
- A solution that is relatively data agnostic – data will come from many places and exist in many forms. The solution must manage the diversity and provide a flexible way to integrate new data into the analytical framework.
What are Candidate Tools ?
And now to the second question: where are these tools? It is hard to find tools that claim to be “adaptive analytic” tools; or “prescriptive analytics” tools or systems in the sense that I have described them above. I find it interesting that over the last five years, major vendors have subsumed complex analytical capabilities into a more easily understandable components. Specifically, you used to be able to find Microsoft Analytical Services easily on their site. Now it is part of MS SQL Server as SSAS; much the same way that the reporting service is now part of the database offer as SSRS (reporting services). There was a time a few years ago when you had to look really hard on the MS site to find Analytical Services. Of course since then Microsoft has integrated various BI acquisitions into the offer and squared away their marketing communication. Now their positioning is squarely around BI and the database. Both of these concepts are easier to sell at the executive level, than the notion of prescriptive or adaptive analytics.
The emergence of databases and appliances optimized around analytics has simplified the message on the data side. everyone knows they need a database, and now they have one for analytics. At the decision maker level, that is a much easier decision than trying to figure out what kind of analytical approach the organization is going to adopt. People like Teradata have always supported analytics through the integration of SAS and now R as in-database functionality. However, Greenplum, Neteeza and others have incorporated SAS and the open source analytical “R” . In addition, we have seen the emergence (not new but much more talked about it seems) of the columnar database. The one I hear about most is the Sybase IQ product; although there have been a number of posts on the topic on here, here, and here.
My point here is that vendors have too hard a time selling complex analytical solutions, and have subsumed the complex capabilities into the concepts that are easier to package, position and communicate around; namely; database products and Business Intelligence products. The following are product sets that are candidates for the integrated approach. We start with the big players first and work towards that are less obviously candidates.
The SAS Fraud Framework provides an integration of all the SAS components that required to implement a comprehensive analytics solution around adaptive challenges (all kinds of fraud, compliance, money laundering, etc. as examples). This is a comprehensive suite of capabilities that spans all activities: data capture, ingest, and quality; analytics tools (including algorithm libraries), data visualization and reporting / BI capabilities. Keep in mind that SAS is a company that sells the building blocks, and the Fraud Framework is just that, a framework within which customers can build out capabilities. This is not a simple plug and play implementation process. It takes time and investment and the right team within the organization. The training has improved, and it is now possible to get comprehensive training.
As with any implementation of SAS, this one comes with all the caveats associated with comprehensive enterprise systems that integrate analytics into the fabric of an organization. The Gartner 2013 BI report indicates that SAS “very difficult to implement”. This theme echoes across the product set. Having said that when it comes to integrated analytic of the kind we have been discussing all, of the major vendors suffer from the same implementation challenges – although perhaps for different reasons.
Bottom line however, is that SAS is a company grounded in analytics – the Fraud Framework has everything needed to build out a first class system. However, the corporate culture builds products for hard core quants, and this is reflected in the Gartner comments.
IBM is another company that has the complete offer. They have invested heavily in the analytics space, and between their ETL tools; the database/ appliance and Big Data capabilities; the statistical product set that builds off SPSS; and, the Cognos BI suite users can build out the capabilities required. Although these products are being integrated into a seamless set of capabilities, they remain somewhat separate and this probably explains some of the implementation challenges reports. Also, the product side of the IBM operation does not necessarily speak with the Global Services side of the house.
I had thought when IBM purchased Systems Research & Development (SRD) in 2005 that they were going to build out capabilities that SRD and Jeff Jonas had developed. Jeff heads up the Entity Analytics group within IBM Research, and his blog is well worth the read. However, the above product set appears to have remained separated from the approaches and intellectual knowledge that came with SRD. This may be on purpose – from a marketing perspective, buy the product set, and then buy IBM services to operationalize the system is not a bad approach.
Regardless, as the saying goes, no one ever got fired for buying IBM” probably still holds true. However, like SAS beware of the implementation! Any one of the above products (SPSS, Cognos, and Infosphere) require attention when implementing. However, when integrating as an operational whole, project leadership needs to ensure that expectations as to the complexity and time frame are communicated.
There are many other product sets and I look forward to learning more about them. Once I post this, someone is going to come back and mention “R” and other open source products. There are plenty out there. However, be aware that while the products may be robust, many are not delivered as an integrated package.
With respect to open source tools, it is worth noting that the capabilities inherent in Hadoop – and the related products, lend themselves to adaptive analytics in the sense that operators can consistently re-link and re-index on the fly without having to deal with where and how the data is persisted. This is key in areas like signals intelligence, unstructured data analysis, and even structured data analysis where the notion of semantic equivalence is shifting. This is a juicy topic all by itself and worthy of a whole blog entry.
- Predictive analytics relies on past observations to predict future observations. In an adaptive environment, the inputs to those predictive models continually change as a result of the outputs using the past observations.
The merging of analytics and transactional data platforms requires more than just an upgrade in technology!15 Sep
This IDC white paper puts the evolution of data platforms into layman’s terms. My take away is that the unshackling of information architects and applications from the constraints of the traditional RDBMS will continue. Many of the design choices that the article details are grounded in the historic limitations of the data platform. The comments made under the Future Outlook segment are key:
“Trying to make definitive statements about the state of analytic-transaction data platforms going forward is challenging, because both the database kernel technology and the hardware on which it runs are evolving at a rapid pace. In addition to this, new workloads and mounting performance requirements add even more to the pace of development. It is safe to say that all the technology described in this study, admittedly in a very abstract manner, may be described as transitional technology that is evolving quickly. New approaches to data structures, new optimizations for transactional data once it is fully freed from the constraints of disk optimization, new ways of organizing processors and memory, and the introduction of non-volatile dual in-line memory modules (NVDIMMs) all will no doubt result in technologies within 10 years that are very different from what is described here.”
While platforms and technologies are evolving (this discussion has additional detail here), I find the juxtaposition of the “ideal” view presented here and the reality of most data operations interesting. This article provides “Essential Guidance” focused on IT buyers and guidance on choosing the right technology platform.
The focus on hardware and technology tends to obscure an equally important part of the buying equation – namely can managers manage these new technologies to achieve the desired business impacts and resulting business benefits. For the most part the answer is a resounding – NO. For these “next gen” implementations to work, organizations need to not only upgrade their platforms, but also their management practices. The balance of this blog entry examines some of the areas that the IDC article focuses on from the management perspective of the Chief Data Officer or Enterprise Information Architect.
The Enterprise Data Warehouse. Traditionally the Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) has been considered the repository of the “single version of the truth”. However, when it comes to analytics – and melding the transactional data store with analytics, this is a hard concept. There is no one version of the truth – everything is context driven. The design alternatives presented in the article (See Figure below) enable this in that they generally store both the transactional (source) and the fully resolved EDW version. This allows users to hit both the transactional store AND the EDW depending on the context they seek and how they want to interact with the data. Implicit in this view is that the context is captured and in a machine exploitable form that enables users to derive their own “single version of the truth”. This is a function of metadata discussed below. Additionally the article recognizes that the “one large database” solution is not generally a viable alternative; the issue being one of “manageability and agility.” This is somewhat contradicted in the opening “opinion” section in that they talk about a canonical data model. However, I am going to assume that the canonical recommendation is related to the metadata and not the content.
In all of the platform options discussed in the paper (see below), data managers need to keep track of a transactional data and data within a fully resolved EDW. The context and the semantic meaning of the content of both of those data sources needs to be managed, cross walked, and communicated to the user community. This will involve an evolution in both management practices and tools.
Metadata. I like the way this paper addresses metadata:
“Metadata, including all data models and schemas in the relevant databases or data collections, must be harmonized, kept current with those databases, and mapped to higher order constructs, including a business glossary and, for data managed in common, a canonical data model, in order to facilitate the access and management of the data.”
The notion of mapping “higher order constructs” is key. While it is not always possible or feasible to create a canonical data model, it is very feasible to create a canonical metadata model (metamodel). This give you a consistent way to fully describe your data regardless of the physical form it takes, and link it to higher order constructs referred to. My article here talks to the role the enterprise plays in managing the metadata at the enterprise level.
Managing the Evolution. The architectures discussed in the paper all require an evolution from the transactional data stores that exist today towards platforms that can respond to business needs rapidly, and with little or no latency. The “Type 5” platform in Figure 1 is the “Data Lake” that has become such a buzzword. In this configuration, there is a single data structure for both transactions and analytics. The ETL functions, number of indexes, and flexibility that can be applied to render the data all place a larger burden on the governance disciplines. Additionally, the process by which the organization integrates the business and IT activities requires formalizing in a way that breaks down the traditional silos.
Hampering the evolution at some level is the fact that the tool suites are not entirely intuitive. Tools to handle the mapping of the higher order constructs (concepts systems; ontologies; taxonomies, reference data…), and the management of multiple dictionaries cannot easily be implemented without complex configuration and often coding. The tool vendors seem to be coming along, but many are still working to apply governance and curation within the context of table based systems. The reality is that to create fully described data that is linked to higher order constructs, and to manage these relationships requires a collection of tools that must be configured to address your environment. It is not yet easy.
The Way Forward. Previously I have made the comment that the Information Architect, Enterprise Data Management Office, or CDO must initially focus on creating a tangible value proposition for the business side of the house. As long as data management is perceived as a function related to standards, governance and “protocol” it will be perceived as slowing down the business and getting in the way of achieving business goals. This article details a scoped down set of goals that lay the foundation for that initial value proposition. Once the enterprise data management function is able to make the case they actually improve business operations, and impact key success metrics (i.e. revenue), what next?
This is where all the articles regarding CDO’s seem to agree. The next step is all about outreach and engagement with the broader business community – potentially internal and external to the organization. My recommendation here is to perform this activity using a framework that ensures the discussions stay focused on goals, practices, and result in actionable, measurable and prioritized recommendations. The CMMI Data Management Maturity Model (DMM) is one such framework. I am biased, admittedly as I helped create it, but for an independent opinion Bob Lambert at CapTech wrote a review that speaks volumes. The framework is used to engage in a series of workshops. These workshops serve to identify a maturity level, but more importantly identify the business priorities and concerns as detailed by the workshop participants. This is critical as the resulting recommendations inherently have buy-in from across the organization.
Because the Data Management Model evaluates capabilities at the “practice” level (i.e. what people actually do), it inherently details the next steps in terms of recommendations; in other words – do not try to create a semantically equivalent data model across the whole organization if you cannot even do it for a business unit or a project! Additionally, the model recognizes the relationships between functions. The end result is a holistic and integrated set of guidance for the overall data management strategy and implementation roadmap.
Organizations seeking to upgrade their data platforms to more closely resemble the “Analytic Transactional data platform” that enables the real-time enterprise as discussed in the IDC white paper will have greater success more quickly if they evolve their data management practices at the same time.
Every once in a while, I get asked about how to select between different types of databases. Generally, this comment is as a result of a product vendor or consultant making a recommendation to evolve towards a Big Data solution. The issue is twofold in that companies seek to understand what the next generation data platform looks like; AND, how or if their current environment can evolve. This involves understanding the pros and cons of the current product set and to what degree they can exist with newer approaches – Hadoop being the current platform people talk about.
The following is a list of data persistence approaches that helps at least define the options. This was done some time ago, so I am sure the vendors shown have evolved. However, think of it as a starting point to frame the discussion.
In general, one wants to anchor these discussions in some defined criteria that can help frame the discussion within the context of business drivers. In the following figure, the goal is to show that as data sources and consumers of your data expand to include increasingly complex data structures and “contexts,” there is a need to evolve approaches beyond the traditional relational database (RDBMS) approaches. Different organizations will have different criteria. I provide this as a rubric that has worked before – you will need to create an approach that works for your organization or client.
A number of data persistence approaches support the functional components as defined. These are described below.
|Defined||Pros / Cons||Vendor examples|
|Traditional normalized data models optimized for efficiently storing data||Relational structures are best used when the data structures are known and change infrequently. Relational designs often present challenges for analysts when queries and joins are executed that are incompatible with the design schema and / or indexing approach. This incompatibility creates processing bottlenecks, and resource challenges resulting in delays for data management teams. This approach is challenged when dealing with complex semantic data where multiple levels of parent / child relationships exist.
Advantages: This approach is best for transactional data where the relationships between the data and the use cases driving how data is accessed and used are stable. In uses where relational integrity is important and must be enforced in a consistent manner, this approach can work well. In a row based approach, contention on record locking are easier to manage than other methods.
Disadvantages: As the relationships between data and relational integrity are enforced through the application of a rigid data model, this approach is inflexible, and changes can be hard to implement.
|All major database vendors: IBM – DB2; Oracle; MS SQL and others|
|Data organized or indexed around columns; can be implemented in SQL or a NoSQL environments.||Advantages: Columnar data designs lend themselves to analytical tasking involving large data sets where rapid search, retrieval and aggregation type queries are performed on large data tables. A columnar approach inherently creates vertical partitioning across the datasets stored this way. It is efficient and scalable.
Disadvantages: efficiencies can be offset by the need to join many queries to obtain the desired result.
•MS SQL 2012
|Defined||Pros / Cons||Vendor examples|
|RDF Triple Stores / Databases||Data stored organized around RDF triples (Actor-action-object OR Subject-predicate-Object); can be implemented in SQL or a NoSQL environments.||Advantages: A semantic organization of data lends itself to analytical and knowledge management tasks where the understanding of complex and evolving relationships is key. This is especially the case where ontologies or SKOS (1) type relationships are required to organize entities and their relationships to one another: corporate hierarchies/networks; insider trading analysis for example. This approach to organizing data is often represented in the context of the “semantic web” whose organizing constructs are RDF and OWL. when dealing with complex semantic data where multiple levels of parent / child relationships exist, this approach is more efficient that RDBMS
Disadvantages: This approach to storing data is often not as efficient as relational approaches. It can be complicated to write queries to traverse complex networks – however, this is often not much easier in relational databases either.
Note: these can be implemented with XML formatting or in some other form.
|Native XML / RDF Databases
•OpenLink Virtuoso (COTS)
•Stardog (o/s, COTS)
XML Enabled Databases
XML enabled databases deal with XML as a CLOB in a table or organized into tables based on a schema
|Graph Databases||A database that uses graph structures to store data.||See XML / RDF Stores / Databases. Graph Databases are a variant on this theme.
Advantages: Used primarily to store information on networks. Optimized for iterative joins; often in a recursive process (2)..
Disadvantages: Storage challenges – these are large datasets; builds through iterative joins – very processor intensive.
(1) SKOS = Simple Knowledge Organization Structure. Relationships can be expressed as triples; examples are “is part of”; “is similar to”
|Defined||Pros / Cons||Vendor Examples|
File based storage – HDFS
|Data structured to expose insights through the use of “key pairs”||This has many of the characteristics of the XML, Columnar and Graph approaches. In this instance, the data is loaded, and key value pair (KVP) files created external to the data. Think of the KVP as an index with a pointer back to the source data. This approach is generally associated with the Hadoop / MapReduce capabilities, and the definition here assumes that KVP files are queried using the capabilities available in the Hadoop ecosystem
Advantages: flexibility; MPP capabilities; speed; schema-less; scalable; Great at creating views of data; and performing simple calculations across Big Data; significant open source community – especially through the Apache Foundation. Shared nothing architecture optimizes the read process. However, it creates challenges in meeting ACID (1) requirements. File based storage systems adhere to the BASE (2) requirements
Disadvantages: Share nothing architecture creates complexity in uses where sequencing of transactions or writing data is important – especially when multiple nodes are involved; complex metadata requirement; few tool “packages” available to support production environments; relatively immature product set.
Key Value Pair
(1) ACID = Atomicity; Consistent; Isolated; Durable. Used for Transaction processing systems.
(2) BASE = Basic Availability, Soft State; Eventual Consistency. Used for distributed parallel processing systems where maintaining complete consistency is often prohibitively expensive
|Defined||Pros / Cons||Vendor examples|
|In-Memory Approaches||Data approaches where the data is loaded into active memory to improve efficiency||Note that multiple persistence approaches can be implemented in memory
Advantages: Speed; flexibility – ability to virtualize views and calculated / derived tables; think of Datamarts in the traditional BI context
Disadvantages: Hardware, cost
•SAS High Performance Analytics
|The classes of tools below are presented as they provide alternatives for capabilities that are likely to be required. Many of the capabilities are resident in some of the tool sets already discussed.|
|Data Virtualization||The ability to produce tables or views without going through an ETL process||Data virtualization is a capability built into other products. Any In- Memory product inherently virtualizes data. Likewise a number of the Enterprise BI tools allow data – generally in the form of “cubes” to be virtualized. Denodo Technologies is the major pure play vendor. The others vendors generally provide products that are part of larger suites of tools.||•Composite Software (Cisco)
|Search Engines||Data management components that are used to search structured and unstructured data||Search engines and appliances perform functions as simple as indexing data, and as complex as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and entity extraction. They are referenced here as the functionality can be implemented as stand alone capability and may be considered as part of the overall capability stack.||•Google Search Appliance
|Defined||Pros / Cons||Vendor examples|
|Hybrid Approaches||Data products that implement both SQL and NoSQL approaches||These are traditional SQL database approaches that have been partnered with one or more of the approaches defined above. Teradata acquired Aster to create a “bolt on” to a traditional SQL Db; IBM has Db2/Netezza/Big Insights. SAS uses a file based storage system and has created “Access Modules” that work though Apache HIVE to apply analytics within either an HDFS environment, or the SAS environment.
Another hybrid approach is exemplified by Cassandra that incorporates elements of a data model within a HDFS based system.
One also sees organizations implementing HDFS / RDBMS solutions for different functions. For example acquiring, landing and staging data using an HDFS approach, and then once requirements and the business use is known creating structured data models to facilitate and control delivery
Advantages: Integrated solutions; ability to leverage legacy; more developed toolkits to support production operations. Compared to open source, production ready solutions require less configuration and code development.
Disadvantages: Tend to be costly; architecture tends to be inflexible – all or nothing mindset.
This article was interesting to me for two reasons: 1) It formalized a data view of risk management within the financial community around the context of BCBS (and for BCBS 239 related to Risk Data Aggregation and Reporting); and, 2) it provided an interesting perspective on governance / data quality and associated metrics.
This paragraph sums it up:
“What is actually happening in practice is that each major institution’s regional banks are lobbying/negotiating with their local/regional regulators to agree on an initial form of compliance – typically as some form of MS Word or PowerPoint presentation to prove that that they have an understanding of their risk data architecture. One organization might write up 100 page tome to show its understanding – and another might write up 10. The “ask” is vague and the interpretation is subjective. Just what is adequate?”
The perspective on governance that the article proposed is a way to “systematically compare different architectures” with a set of metrics that was understandable, obtainable, and actionable.
Have a read – let me know your thoughts. The article also provides a nice summary of the BCBS requirements.
Excellent article by Wayne Eckerson (most of his are) . We give Data Warehouses a bad name because they have been implemented in a way that does not meet the businesses needs – certainly not from an analytical perspective. HOWEVER, the business reasons that they exist remain, and this is Wayne’s point. I have been watching the shouting match between Inmon and Kimball. I think they are both wrong – the answer is not as simple as they make it out to be – our world will be hybrid SQL/RDBMS and NoSQL and everything will need to play nice together! Those are my words of wisdom on a Friday 🙂
Courtesy of a colleague in the medical data management world – check out this graphic. It is missing a few approaches, but lays out the thought process well.
The Booz Allen Field Guide to Data Science has a similar linkage that is useful. That book can be downloaded here
While I am at at, I found this good book Managing Research Data by Graham-Pryor that focuses on managing research data. I continue to be surprised at the approaches taken by “traditional” data management folks to feed the analytical processes. The old school way of dealing with analytics data did not work well which has created some of the organizational work arounds that exist in companies. This only gets worse when dealing with large amounts of data, and data that must work across systems / sources.