I am easily inspired. I sense that people who like business analytics are, too.

For example, I liked the opening and closing lines of a little-known movie, “August Rush,” starring Robin Williams. The opening line is a voice that says, “Listen. Can you hear it?”

The story is about a child musical prodigy, conceived during a one-night fling by a musically gifted couple and secretly abandoned to an orphanage by the child’s grandfather to protect the mother’s budding musical career. The child never loses faith that he will eventually meet his birth parents. The film ends when both of his parents, unaware of each other’s presence, attend a concert where their child conducts his personally composed symphony. The parents approach the stage, recognize each other years after their tryst, and see the child, who turns 180 degrees to face them. The child’s wish is met, and he looks upward to the stars. The closing line is, “The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

What is the connection of the film’s closing line and this article? It is that the truth is always there. One just has to seek it.

Is Hollywood Only for Dreamers (and IT Analysts)?

Inventors and Nobel Prize winners in science provide good examples. This group includes James D. Watson and Francis Crick’s discovery of DNA’s double helix structure, Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactivity, and Jonas Salk’s development of the vaccine cure for polio.

Less noble (pun intended) yet still inspirational examples of the truth waiting to be discovered come from sports. A popular example is the book and movie “Moneyball,” in which Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team in 2002, is faced with a restrictive budget. He assembled a team of lower salaried players based on deep statistics for how they can create runs and win games compared to subjective and often flawed opinions of traditional baseball scouts.

“Linsanity” - Numbers were Speaking

I also found inspiration involving all of the hoopla about the fast-rising Harvard University graduate and NBA star Jeremy Lin. The NBA professional scouts saw little in Lin. But a FedEx delivery truck driver, Ed Weiland, was paying attention. Weiland was a contributor to the website HoopsAnalyst.com blog.

Weiland predicted that Lin would be an exceptional talent based on the combination of two statistics: two-point field goal percentage and RSB40. The first stat is obvious, but the second completed the picture about Lin. RSB40 is a combination statistic measuring rebounds, steals and blocked shots (the RSB) per 40 minutes. Lin’s high index for these two stats revealed his dominance at both ends of the basketball court. Weiland’s prediction was initially ignored. Now he appears to be clairvoyant.

Who knew? Was it Ed Weiland? Or were the numbers already there, and Ed Weiland was listening?

Is Your Organization Listening?

How often do organizations miss opportunities because executives and managers have not been listening? Organizations seeking a competitive edge are now embracing business analytics. Will analytics be a sizzle or fizzle? My bet is that this practice of investigation and experimentation with large data sets is a big deal.

I believe this because there is confusion about the difference between business intelligence and business analytics. They are not the same thing. Business intelligence reporting consumes stored data that first must be cleansed and integrated from disparate source systems and then transformed into information. In contrast, business analytics produces new insights from business intelligence’s information. Analytics adds the capability to ask more questions than simple drill-down queries typically done with BI tools. Analytics then leads to asking better and more interesting questions. Most importantly, business analytics provides the opportunity to answer those questions.

The numbers are there. All you need to do is listen.

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