Data Analytics: Which one is correct for me – Descriptive, Predictive, or Prescriptive?


Data analytics (a.k.a. business intelligence) is no more new in this era. Each organization doing this or started doing this. Also more or less everybody have heard about types of data analytics – descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive; but always unsure which one is most suitable. In some cases we wish to start with predictive analytics itself. Let’s see if we can do it? First, to start with let’s understand exact meaning of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics.

Descriptive analytics – what has happened in the past?
Descriptive analytics is to understand what has happened in the past and what is happening now. So this is the retrospective analysis providing insights on the current data.

Predictive analytics – what is probably going to happen?
Predictive analytics provides actionable insights. It provides what is likely to happen usually along with probability and why it’s likely to happen. So basically predictive analytics is giving answers along with recommendations to future looking questions.

Prescriptive analytics – now what?
We will call prescriptive analytics as very advanced predictive analytics. This answers what will happen, when it will happen, and why it will happen along with the actionable insights to take maximum advantage of the predictions. Prescriptive analytics is still very new to world.

Let’s have a look at the simple example to understand these types. James (who is our fictitious character) loves online shopping. In this simple day to day example, online shopping company can have different analytics like mentioned below


So now since we have understood the different types of data analytics, let’s answer the question. Well, answer is very simple. Everybody needs to do all types of analytics. One cannot skip any type and jump directly to next. As above example clearly shows, output of each analytics level serves as input to other. The only difference is what current level or type of analytics is established and how to go ahead. Obviously, this has to be done systematically to take maximum advantage of analytics. And to achieve this one has to implement proper tool. Real Time Analytics Platform (RTAP) provides the easiest and efficient platform to everyone with the utmost flexibility to get business insights helping you to take well informed decisions.

Let’s look at Money…

What is money?

It almost sounds like an existential question, like something which has been there since time immemorial. But believe it or not it has been around just for a few thousand years. Also we invented it as a concept many years ago to help us exchange things.
Now the rhetorical question is why are we looking at money in the same old way?
The answer is very simple: we have been conditioned by the establishment guys (people who make, hold or trade in money…. A bank is a good example) from our childhood days to do so. In reality, we cannot imagine life without money. But in my opinion, time has come to have a second look at money as we know it because its value has become questionable.

Let me explain this briefly….
To start with we invented money to get rid of the “barter system”, which essentially was a way of exchanging things you have for things you want. Since the holding pattern and perceived value of your “haves” and “wants” was not clear, we resorted to equating this to the most precious metal of that time, namely gold. So we said, let us see how much a measure of gold can buy and later translated that to minting gold coins. The exchange of goods and services for gold coins went on for a number of years until someone came up with a brilliant idea of that time the “symbolic money” or the money as we know it now. The idea here was, to make money using non-gold materials but hold its value in equivalent gold bullion. This went on for a few years at best. While there is no record of who or which country or group, started defaulting first (in the sense not holding enough gold reserves to back their currency), very soon pretty much everyone started not backing their currency to the full with gold bullion. As of now, we are just printing money. Some less, some more but everyone has joined the party now.

So what does it mean to you….
What is the real value of money you hold or plan to earn as time goes by? Sadly, the answer does not foretell anything good for you. You are just too far down the bread line to really bother the establishment to change their ways, so all they will do is keep printing money and every time take a little off it. So your money in the bank or wherever it is, in which ever form can be now equated to a water bottle with a small hole in it and even if you do not drink off the bottle the water inside is slowly becoming less and will eventually be empty. The hole right now is very small so you do not notice it, but with the kind of debt countries are amassing, the hole is getting bigger. A lot of things are responsible for this erosion in value but to name a few devaluations, spending more than one can afford and plain simple wastefulness caught up with it.

What can you do to change things for good….
Now that I have your attention, let us examine what it will take for us to push the reset button on everyone who have done this to you. First of all, let us see if it is possible to do this, you being a small guy in the big bad world of financial establishments.
As a starting point, let us see if we can devise a way to go back to our good old barter system. Where we exchange goods or services for things we want. For example, I will mow your lawn if you let me pluck some roses from your garden. Or for that matter another good example would be I will give you an Orange, I have, for the Apple you have. Now if you look at these transactions we have taken the actual value of these goods and services in terms of money out of the equation and replaced that with our perceived value for it. Something which both parties feel in their own way as acceptable to each other. But by doing so, you have done a very important thing, you have taken the establishment out of the equation. So yes, if we can come up with a worldwide exchange for barter system to flourish successfully once again, you can take care of many of your “haves” and “wants” without getting bothered by the diminishing value of money as we know it.

We at RTAP’s are discussing this with several thinkers both within and outside of the financial services industry to develop an algorithm which can look at equivalence of all things which can be traded effectively in such a platform. Like us, many people now believe that an alternative to money as we know it is not only possible but will definitely be there in the future. There are several companies who are already looking at different types of what is popularly called as “crypto currency” to handle buying and selling. Most however have resorted to once again bringing the base value back to money as we know it and simply call it with an in-house name and make it available in a digital fashion. That method does cut off a lot of intermediaries, but is still far away from some of the ideas I have brought up here.
The hope here is to cut the reliance on money as we know it as much as possible and still transact with each other for goods and services based on what we feel it is worth to each other. For example, let us consider a barter between two large enterprises; a personal computer manufacturer and a computer chip maker, where for a certain number of computer chips a certain number of computers are exchanged. We feel something like this can become possible in the future.

The Road Ahead….
On the flip side, it is important to mention here that already there are a number of tax and regulatory organizations who are setting up ground rules to do such a trade. The existing crypto-currency companies are facing a host of issues from these bodies, but like every beginning this is one also will eventually find an acceptable end. It will take time and a fresh look at money as we know it to bring about this change. We at RTAP are very optimistic that with this new realization about money we will be able to develop new technology platforms for exchanging goods and services at close to its true value for the person doing it in the future.

It will take many years for this system to be adopted universally, but until then we can keep our thinking caps on, collaborate with each other and see if we can get something without using money.

The RTAP Story, one more thing…

With RTAP, our goal was to create a simple, easy to use platform that will allow users to manage data, analyze it and visualize it in a way that makes sense. We knew that if we can pull the pieces together, it will give the power of analytic discovery to so many people within an organization.

But while doing that we wanted to make the adoption process easy. This is very important and as software makers we owe it to our customers.

What more can you do to make it easy:

I often see software applications that need additional things for it to work. Starting with things like proprietary programming languages, operating systems, specialized hardware and a myriad of add-ons. Think about it, as software engineers we are in the business of making things easier for our users and somewhere down the line we seem to have forgotten that and have gone about designing products in a way where there is the least amount of care for our users. But fortunately, all is not lost and software makers are slowly responding to the calls from users who want it to be simple and easy. In my opinion the harbinger to this revolution was none other than Apple. From the very beginning they did their best to make their products easy to use and adopt, and the most recent example is their best-selling product, the iPhone (and its variants iPad, iPod etc.). If you think of it from an engineering perspective, it is clearly one of the most sophisticated products ever designed by man so far, but yet in its form factor and ease of use it still remains unbeatable. But there is something else which Apple started doing many years ago which fortunately most personal computer manufacturers have recently followed suit. It is the start-up process. Apple was the first company to make it so easy that all you had to do was push the start button and more or less with little assistance their devices would be fully operational in minutes. They were the first to make going easy, the new cool thing!

I am sure we all remember the days when we were setting up computers, routers or for that matter any electronic device and struggling so hard to make it work that invariable we had to make a call to the manufacturer’s help desk or customer service center. Thanks to companies like Apple, we do not have to do that anymore, since they have forced every other manufacturer to follow suit. They have raised the bar and now consumers are simply not willing to accept products which are hard to install.

With RTAP, we have tried to remember these things and designed a product which does not require any proprietary hardware or software to work. We use a responsive design methodology, so you can use it off any device like a phone or tablet etc. and the user interface automatically adapts to the size. It is available on the cloud as a service, so you are really not bothered with the installation, upgrades, infrastructure requirements and maintenance issues. Not only that, it comes pre-loaded with the intelligence to solve industry specific use cases, so all you have to do to get insights is really to put in your data and you have it all done from that point onwards.

We are sure in future people will build more intelligent systems using technology similar to RTAP, but hopefully all us will remember to make it simple and easy for our customers to use these things.

Let’s keep it simple.