Since the SAP acquisition of KXEN in late 2013, I have been looking forward to seeing what SAP does with it. In 2012, I was intrigued by the combination of SAP Lumira (formerly Visual Insight) and SAP Predictive Analytics with R with SAP Hana. At that time I was seeing the convergence of big data, visual analytics and predictive analytics all coming together. Jumping forward to 2014, easy visual predictive analytics for business users has arrived.
In the near future we will see many vendors from different areas of the analytics spectrum overlapping with one another. Traditional business intelligence players are adding predictive features into their offerings while traditional data mining, predictive and prescriptive analytics vendors are concurrently expanding into business intelligence. Most of these vendors will claim simple point-and-click visual predictive analytics for the masses with no need for data scientists. Not only does SAP already have this awesome capability with SAP Infinite Insight (formerly KXEN), I am also seeing it in other solutions such as TIBCO Spotfire, IBM Neo, BigML, Alpine Data Labs and others.
Although I have not been given the privilege to do a hands-on review of SAP Infinite Insight, I can see from the SAP overview and public roadmap that this offering is compelling – and – it is already ahead of the pack. Henry Banks, SAP UK, recently wrote up a wonderful article including a SAP Infinite Insight solution overview and future roadmap peek. There are a few key points and amazing features mentioned in his write up that I’d like to share here.
First of all, this predictive analytics solution is designed for line of business users – not data scientists. What makes it fairly unique and leading edge is the rapid automated approach for predictive modeling data preparation and model development. In the past, data preparation for data mining and predictive analytics was a bit of an art and a science. It could be fairly time-consuming to create a flattened, data mining ready data sets with many transformed combinations of variables. This process was by far the longest step in the predictive analytics lifecycle and also the most critical aspect of developing a great preforming model with the most lift. In the past, it also took quite a bit of time to experiment with algorithm parameters. SAP Infinite Insight also automates that tedious parameter option evaluation process. Lastly, SAP claims that this predictive analytics solution is not sensitive to variable distributions, collinearity, missing values and outliers.
Automating the data preparation process and the creation of transformed variables is truly exciting. Until I can get my hands on it to see how well it really works choosing thousands of derived variables that do make sense with real-world predictive models, I will remain a bit skeptical. I do need to see it to believe it. However, I also see huge potential in the concept alone. I can’t quite grasp how this technology can replace the human mind’s understanding of the business process that often is key to developing a useful predictive model. Even the incredible IBM Watson, that is far ahead of all the other players in contextual understanding, may not be able to identify and properly handle nuances in business processes.
Some of the other features that I really like in SAP Infinite Insight are the nice array of algorithms including but not limited to classification, regression, segmentation, clustering, forecasting and association. The Factory supports scheduling for automatic predictive model refreshes to keep insights up to date and relevant in current conditions. It also allows for API deployment and integration of scored, predictive model results via PMML, SAS, SQL in-database scoring and other means for use in production applications and reports. Another fantastic feature that I don’t often see yet is proactive alerting on data and model changes that are significant. Then to top it all off, SAP Infinite Insight also has social media and networking analytics.
Looking ahead, SAP Infinite Insight will become more integrated with SAP Predictive Analytics, SAP Lumira and SAP Hana. Here are overviews of roadmap investment themes and timelines.
I do hope that SAP will allow me to play with SAP Infinite Insight soon so that I can share my experiences with you. In the meantime, you can find more information on the SAP Infinite Insight solution website.