The buzzwords of the moment in business intelligence seem to be predictive analytics. These words encompass two notions: all the data we've been gathering should be used to predict customer actions (in addition to reporting on them), and these predictions should be used in operational systems to help guide interactions. In other words, we need headlights in addition to a dashboard, and the headlights should be placed so the driver can see what they show.

This makes sense, but driving safely is one thing, and knowing where to go is quite something else. Most predictive analytic applications are strictly tactical: which offer is the customer more likely to accept or, at best, which will yield the most profit? Yet maximizing profit on a single interaction may actually reduce the value of the long-term relationship. An inappropriate offer might annoy many customers or preempt another offer with less immediate return but greater ultimate value.

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