Recent Books on Analytics

For your Christmas gift list,  here is a brief roundup of four recently published books on analytics.

Business Intelligence in Plain Language by Jeremy Kolb (Kindle Edition only) is a straightforward and readable summary of conventional wisdom about Business Intelligence.  Unlike many guides to BI, this book devotes some time and attention to data mining.  As an overview, however, Mr. Kolb devotes too little attention to the most commonly used techniques in predictive analytics, and too much attention to more exotic methods.  There is nothing wrong with this per se, but given the author’s conventional approach to implementation it seems eccentric.  At $6.99, though, even an imperfect book is a pretty good value.

Tom Davenport’s original Harvard Business Review article Competing on Analytics is one of the ten most-read articles in HBR’s history; Google Trends shows a spike in search activity for the term “analytics” concurrent with its publication, and steady growth in interest since them.  Mr. Davenport’s latest book  Enterprise Analytics: Optimize Performance, Process, and Decisions Through Big Data is a collection of essays by Mr. Davenport and members of the International Institute of Analytics, a commercial research organization funded in part by SAS.   (Not coincidentally, SAS is the most frequently mentioned analytics vendor in the book).  Mr. Davenport defines enterprise analytics in the negative, e.g. not “sequestered into several small pockets of an organization — market research, or actuarial or quality management”.    Ironically, though, the best essays in this book are about narrowly focused applications, while the worst essay, The Return on Investments in Analytics, is little more than a capital budgeting primer for first-year MBA students, with the word “analytics” inserted.  This book would benefit from a better definition of enterprise analytics, the value of “unsequestering” analytics from departmental silos, and more guidance on exactly how to make that happen.

Jean-Paul Isson and Jesse Harriott have hit a home run with Win with Advanced Business Analytics: Creating Business Value from Your Data, an excellent survey of the world of Business Analytics.   This book combines an overview of traditional topics in business analytics (with a practical “what works/what does not work” perspective) with timely chapters on emerging areas such as social media analytics, mobile analytics and the analysis of unstructured data.  A valuable contribution to the business library.

The “analytical leaders” featured in Wayne Eckerson’s  Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders — Eric Colson, Dan Ingle, Tim Leonard, Amy O’Connor, Ken Rudin, Darren Taylor and Kurt Thearling — are executives who have actually done this stuff, which distinguishes them from many of those who write and speak about analytics.  The practical focus of this book is apparent from its organization — departing from the conventional wisdom of how to talk about analytics, Eckerson focuses on how to get an analytics initiative rolling, and keep it rolling.  Thus, we read about how to get executive support for an analytics program, how to gain momentum, how to hire, train and develop analysts, and so forth.  Instead of writing about “enterprise analytics” from a top-down perspective, Eckerson writes about how to deploy analytics in an enterprise — which is the real problem that executives need to solve.

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