What Is Augmented Analytics?
The simplest augmented analytics definition? Augmented analytics are analytics that are “augmented” with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, including machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). Machine learning automates complex analytics processes – like data preparation and insight generation. And NLP lets any user, even untrained business users, ask questions of their data and get answers in an easy, conversational way.
The term “augmented analytics” was coined by Gartner in 2017 and is now widely thought to be the future of business intelligence (BI) and data analytics – including predictive analytics.
Why are augmented analytics important?
Mining the Big Data opportunity
Data represents the biggest opportunity in the modern economy. With it, businesses can know what to produce when, who to market to, how to evolve, and so much more. But the volume of data today is too massive for humans to interpret on their own – or without bias – and the requirement for immediate answers is simply impossible to meet. Enabling technologies like AI and machine learning are needed to uncover meaningful insights in a sea of Big Data. This is one of the reasons why augmented analytics are so important: they combine data science and artificial intelligence to help companies analyze massive datasets in real time.
Reducing reliance on data scientists
The analytics process is a series of manual, time-consuming steps so complicated that usually only data scientists can perform them. These professional analysts need to:
- Collect data from multiple sources
- Prepare it for analysis
- Perform the analysis
- Find meaningful insights
- Visualize findings
- Share findings in a compelling way
- Create an action plan
The problem is, there is a major shortage of data scientists worldwide – and hiring them is expensive. While augmented analytics don’t replace these professionals, they can reduce your reliance on them by automating processes like data collection, preparation, cleansing, and analysis.
In addition to freeing up data scientists’ time for more important tasks, like interpreting results, augmented analytics can enhance the value these analysts bring to your organization. AI- and machine learning-powered analytics help them make connections they otherwise may have missed – and find deeper insights in less time. These technologies can also empower employees in other analytics roles – from business analysts to citizen data scientists – improving their insights and helping them do the work formerly only performed by expert data scientists.
Democratizing analytics for untrained users
Another reason augmented analytics are so important is that they let untrained “information explorers” in on the game. By automating complex analytics processes and allowing users to query data simply by asking questions, employees without data science skills can leverage advanced analytics. Machine learning can guide these information explorers by recommending which question they should ask next – and suggesting where to dig deeper.
With augmented analytics, answers to queries come in the form of ready-made data visualizations, like charts, graphs, and maps – so users don’t have to create them themselves. These visualizations can be investigated with simple commands, strung together into data stories, and easily shared with other teams and leadership – no PhD required.
The evolution of analytics
Analytics and business intelligence have come a long way in recent years – evolving from sophisticated tools for data and analytics professionals to machine learning analytics that anyone can use.
- Driven by IT
- Limited user autonomy
- Sophisticated tools for data and analytics professionals
- Focus on reporting at scale
- Driven by the business
- More user autonomy
- User-friendly interface
- Focus on user-driven insights
- Driven by AI and machine learning
- True user autonomy
- AI tools and guided processes
- Focus on fast, deep, previously hidden insights
Benefits of augmented analytics
Augmented analytics deliver many of the same benefits as business intelligence – like improved reporting and decision-making – but they also deliver a level of speed and accuracy that is impossible without artificial intelligence and machine learning. Here are some benefits that are specific to augmented analytics:
- Faster data preparation: Analysts spend about 80% of their time preparing data for analysis. They export large data sets – sometimes with millions of records – and combine, clean, and structure it before analysis can begin. The machine learning in augmented analytics automates this process, freeing up analysts for more valuable activities and reducing errors at the same time.
- Automated analysis: Machine learning models can automate complex analyses that would otherwise take data scientists weeks to build on their own. Answers and data visualizations are immediately generated and available to users, so they can spend less time digging into data and more time interpreting the insights, telling data stories to leadership, and invoking change.
- Deeper insights: Machines can look at data in ways humans simply can’t. They can examine much larger data sets from more angles – and they can find statistical correlations, relationships, and patterns that are invisible to the human eye. Machines can understand data quickly and at scale, augment human intelligence with unbiased insights, and tell users where to focus their attention.
- Conversational analytics: Natural language processing – the same conversational AI technology that powers digital assistants like Siri and Alexa – lets business users with no knowledge of query languages or code ask questions in a conversational way. And natural language generation (NLG) gives them answers in complete sentences, written or verbal, that summarize or explain results.
- Instant business context: Insights without business context are meaningless. By taking user intent and behaviors into account, machine learning algorithms can deliver context-aware insights that are ready for action. Also, by democratizing analytics, executives and long-time employees can augment insights with their tribal knowledge and deep understanding of business models and operations.
Use cases for augmented analytics
Augmented analytics have the power to revolutionize business processes – but what does this look like in the real world? Here are a few examples of use cases for augmented analytics in finance, sales and marketing, logistics, human resources, and accounts receivable.
Augmented analytics in finance
A business analyst can use augmented analytics to easily forecast and control travel and entertainment (T&E) expenses across different lines of business.
Augmented analytics in accounts receivable
Collections managers can use machine learning in augmented analytics to predict late payments, determine the right collections strategy, and stay on top of cash flow.
Augmented analytics in sales and marketing
Sales and marketing teams are empowered with better customer profiles – and rapid identification of cross and up-sell opportunities – using augmented analytics.
Augmented analytics in manufacturing
An analyst for a steel manufacturer can use augmented analytics to predict, monitor, and control spend across different factories throughout Europe.
Augmented analytics in HR
HR managers can predict employee churn, understand reasons why, and take corrective action to retain top performers – all with AI analytics.
Glossary and related terms
Augmented intelligence is the practice of augmenting human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI). Rather than the science fiction portrayal of machines replacing humans, augmented intelligence focuses on AI’s assistive role in helping people learn, make decisions, and innovate.
Conversational analytics are analytics that use conversational AI technologies – namely natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) – to give machines the ability to understand human speech, process text or voice queries, and provide answers in a conversational way.
Natural language processing is a branch of conversational AI that allows computers to understand written or spoken human language. In the context of augmented analytics, NLP lets users query data by asking questions in a natural way, either by typing them or speaking them aloud.
Natural language generation is a branch of conversational AI that allows computers to transform data into written or spoken human language. In the context of augmented analytics, NLG answers user queries by generating phrases that describe, summarize, or explain results.
Advanced analytics is a type of data science that uses sophisticated techniques and tools – including big data and predictive analytics – to forecast future events, behaviors, and trends. Augmented analytics enhances these already advanced capabilities with AI, machine learning, and natural language processing – automating complex predictive modeling tasks and making it easier for all types of users to uncover forward-looking insights.