Data analytics are no longer a “nice to have”.  As we move away from static reports that tell us what already happened, we move into the field of data discovery where we investigate “why” it happened.  The next evolutionary step is predictive analytics which is intended to help us forecast “what will happen next” and ultimately to what Gartner calls “prescriptive datawordleanalytics” — the focus of which is “how can I make it happen.”  Tableau’s recent “Top 10 Trends in Business Intelligence for 2014” report highlights several key aspects of the evolution of analytics that I find interesting:

  1. Business users become data analysts. No longer relegated to the domain of data scientists, the analysis of data becomes an essential business skill, which requires much less effort with today’s modern data visualization and discovery tools.
  2. Business intelligence moves to the cloud. As cloud services mature it becomes easier to combine data from multiple sources without investing in hardware and infrastructure. When it comes to Big Data, services like Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery and SAP HANA are transforming the landscape and it will soon be approachable for associations.
  3. Agile business intelligence moves to the forefront. Self-service BI has been the holy grail for years. Business users are now able to have a “conversation with their data”, enabling them to ask new and ever better questions by interacting visually with data. The flexibility inherent with agile methodologies and tools is an essential enabler.
  4. Predictive analytics becomes mainstream. Using data to create the future means forecasting based on past performance as well as environmental and human factors. This is where Big Data really makes a difference, by providing us with more “context” which allows us to make better predictions.
  5. Storytelling becomes a priority. All dashboards and data visualizations are not created equally. Not only is it essential to provide the right level of detail for the audience, but it is imperative that the stories hidden within our data come to light in a way that business users can make better decisions. Communicating ideas with stories is not new, but using data visualization to communicate stories is now an essential part of the association world .
  6. Social data analytics becomes real. Not only providing insight about behavior and engagement, social analytics allows associations to become more competitive as they strive to add more value and make products and services for relevant to ever more refined target audiences.

2014 is the year for associations to focus on understanding all of their customers and what they most value in their relationship with the association. This includes members and prospects as well as other individuals and organizations that interact with the association.  Data analytics makes it possible to understand and predict how to best serve each of these different audiences.