SBE Business Intelligence Day: Can data analysis help to predict the future?

As Business Intelligence practices are gaining increasing attention in the corporate world and Vodafone, the multinational mobile telecommunications company, even went as far as naming “Data Scientist” the sexiest job of the 21st century, SBE’s Business Intelligence Day on December 13 welcomed representatives from several companies in the region to discuss the value of data analysis for businesses today.

Speaking at the event were Peter Martens, Director of Business Intelligence at Q-Park, Barteld Braaksma and Martijn Tennekes, business developers at Statistics Netherlands (CBS), Freek Aertsen, business forecaster for consultancy firm EyeOn, and Michael Hansen and Bart Cloosen, business information specialists at Vodafone Netherlands.

The benefits of customization

Data mining can be used for business development, explained Peter Martens. Q-Park is equipped with a system that provides it with large amounts of data about the occupancy rate of parking lots, the frequency of problems across all units and the behavior of its clients.

This analysis of this data allows the company to develop customized payment schemes to fit each location which directly impact their bottom line.

In an area where a parking lot does not exceed an occupancy rate of 80 percent, Q-Park can sell more season passes to local inhabitants who may be more interested in purchasing long-term parking space.

This option is less needed in other areas where demand is high, since a larger occupancy rate can be reached just through hourly fees.

In his presentation, Martens also talked about a new research that the company is doing to see if people who pay hourly rates have a tendency to leave before expiration of the hour.

The research shows that in locations practising hourly rates, the departure rate escalates around the one hour mark.

Likewise, in locations offering the option to buy 45 minute tickets, more occupants tend to leave right before the end of that time slot.

Data processing tools 

Understanding data seems to be beneficial to businesses. It is therefore important to understand how to process this data.

Barteld Braaksma highlighted the necessity for innovation at Statistics Netherlands and gave an interesting insight into the visual tools the organization is using to map statistical data sets.

Statistics Netherlands opened an innovation lab in May 2012 for researchers to collaborate in finding meaningful implications of data analysis.

Beyond traditional tools such as spreadsheets and scatter plots, which are not always suitable for hierarchical, multivariate or big data, the lab also uses treemaps, heat maps and surface plots.

Treemaps are visual representations that can better display hierarchical data. Heatmaps, on the other hand are very useful for 3D data visualizations while tableplots come in very handy when exploring big multivariate data.

Analyzing and interpreting data is a complex process and extensive knowledge in the field is needed to obtain useful results.

Another challenge for business intelligence analysts lies in understanding the implications of the data and integrating their findings.

Vodafone might just be right in anticipating a rising demand for Data Scientists in the 21st century!

By Ana Mihail

Ana Mihail is Designer and Social Media Promoter at MC4E and a student in International Business Economics at Maastricht University.

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