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Jen Underwood: Exploring the New Era of Analytics

In this episode, Wayne Eckerson and Jen Underwood explore a new era of analytics. Data volumes and complexity have exceeded the limits of current manual drag-and-drop analytics solutions. Data moves at the speed of light while speed-to-insight lags farther and farther behind. It is time to explore intelligent, next generation, machine-powered analytics to retain your competitive edge. It is time to combine the best of the human mind and machine.

Jen Underwood is an analytics expert and founder of Impact Analytic. She is a former product manager at Microsoft who spearheaded the design and development of the reinvigorated version of Power BI, which has since become a market leading BI tool. Underwood is an IBM Analytics Insider, SAS contributor, former Tableau Zen Master, Top 10 Women Influencer, and active analytics community member. She is keenly interested in the intersection of data visualization and data science and writes and speaks persuasively about these topics.

Key Takeaways

  • BI tools will likely become the place where data science happens
  • Self-service tools strangled some companies, but solutions are coming
  • Governance will always be a human’s job
  • Ethics and bias conversations are growing, but until recently there has been no data accountability in the US
  • AI may replace people in some cases, but primarily it’s going to make people more efficient by automating manual work
  • Man and machine are complements
  • Despite analytics, a lot of people still make decisions based on emotion

The following is a small, abridged portion of the podcast

Wayne Eckerson: There’s been a lot of talk about how AI is going to be the death of jobs. Do you think AI is going to be a productivity enhancer or a job replacer?

Jen Underwood: It’s going to be a game changer, that’s for sure. I suspect some of the greedy corporations are going to replace folks. I do have anxiety about the amount of intelligent automation that I see coming our way.

When I discuss these topics amongst peers, one of my dear friends usually reminds me to also think about what will be new. For example, drone driving is a new profession. He is right. Over time, professions such as horse and buggy driving and many other different jobs that people historically held, evolved and changed. Thus, there will be an evolution and change of analytics jobs. We just don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet.

Wayne Eckerson: I tend to, at least right now, think it’s more of a productivity enhancer. And that’s because I, like you, work in these big corporations, and I see how much wasted time and effort there is. There’s so much manual work that’s done and rework. If we could automate that and start automating these pipelines, that’ even automating the creation of reports, which in a way is manual work, and just focus on the value which is the analysis, insight and the action, that’s not going to replace people. That’s going to make the people who are there more efficient and allow them to do other things in the organization that need to be done rather than all this manual work.

Jen Underwood: Oh yeah. And manual work is often not value-add work. I’ve been trying to get people to adopt predictive analytics now for at least 15 years. It was 2003 when I was first digging into it. I can’t believe that was 15 years ago already.

At that time, I would ask “what if you could get proactive and just get the key insights you need? Why are we spending so much time on all the other stuff?” What I see now is the same as I saw back then when I would work on projects, people don’t care about the beautiful data pipelines, sophisticated ETL packages or what other crazy hoops are needed to jump through to create reports. They simply care about the key insights and what to do next... What actions should they take, as you’re saying. What we’ll see in the next generation of analytics is being able to get those desired insights much faster. People can finally get that information when and where they need it most with embedded analytics and embedded artificial intelligence.

Analytics is going to be amazing. It’ll also be interesting to see how much faster, and how much more important it will get in the digital era. We already see data being the number one project on CIO’s agenda where it has lived for a while.

Wayne Eckerson

Wayne Eckerson is an internationally recognized thought leader in the business intelligence and analytics field. He is a sought-after consultant and noted speaker who thinks critically, writes clearly and presents...

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