Gartner: Data pattern recognition turns data growth into an asset

Gartner’s Bill Gassman says organizations should tap pattern recognition to make the most of growing data volumes.

Ever-expanding data growth means new headaches for both small and large enterprises, notably increased costs associated with data storage and compliance requirements.

But the explosion of customer, product and market data also means new data patterns are emerging, just waiting for eager business execs to exploit them, according to Gartner’s Bill Gassman.

And the benefits of data pattern recognition aren’t limited to any one industry. From retail to financial services to governmental organizations, data and patterns hidden within are everywhere.

But first you have to find them.

“Patterns abound in any organization,” Gassman wrote in a recent report about data pattern recognition. “The key to exploiting them is identifying them.”

And that’s where the challenge lies. Detecting, analyzing and exploiting patterns is just as much about technology as it is about culture, he said.

In order to create a pattern-based strategy, organizations should give workers the freedom, the tools and the encouragement to explore the plethora of data being collected by transactional systems, Gassman said in an interview.

At organizations that have reaped the most benefit from data analytics and pattern recognition, the key has been giving frontline workers access to operational data and the tools needed to manipulate it.

At Walt Disney, for example, workers on the ground at the company’s theme parks have access to real-time data around park attendance. They then adjust show times at the parks’ various theaters to maximize turnout, Gassman explained.

Workers with access to data will often find patterns that have not been previously identified by management and executives.

“Provide people data about their environment,” Gassman said, “and everybody becomes a lot more sensitive to how patterns are impacting the business.”

That’s not to say an executive mandate doesn’t help, he said. In fact, in order to get the ball rolling on pattern detection, most organizations will need a high-level sponsor like the COO or CFO.

“Part of it is having the culture -- the processes where people are expected to identify patterns,” Gassman said. “That’s going to have to come from a C-level type of officer.”

While each business is unique, there are a few patterns that are good starting points for organizations just beginning to analyze their data, he said.

In retail, for example, market basket data is ripe for pattern detection. Using data-mining tools, retailers can discover patterns like the types of products that are most often purchased together and then craft marketing campaigns to exploit that buying pattern.

Financial services companies, meanwhile, are using advanced analytic software to see patterns in the stock market to better time when they buy and sell assets, Gassman said.

Cutting across industries, social media analytics can help companies detect patterns related to customer sentiment. When an organization sees a pattern of negative comments being made about it on Twitter, for example, it can take steps to control the damage before it gets out of hand.

From police departments using predictive analytics to identify crime, to utility companies monitoring energy use, pattern detection is useful in virtually every industry, Gassman said.

“Pattern seeking is a mindset as much as it is a skill,” he wrote. “As organizations become familiar with the techniques and value of modeling and adapting to patterns, the culture will evolve to seek them out, almost unconsciously.”

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