SAP Evangelist Timo Elliott once told me that it was his job to get excited about boring things. But while we both enjoyed the joke, there is no doubt that the opportunities offered by augmented analytics are some of the most exciting in computing today.

The reason? Augmented analytics is all about turning data into value by getting the data to speak. And when your data speaks it starts to tell stories. Stories about what your business did yesterday, is doing today and most excitingly what it may do in the future.

Back to basics

Let’s spin back a bit and take stock of where we’ve come from. Augmented analytics is about extracting knowledge from data stored in your ERP system. Up until relatively recently there was insufficient computer power to create the complex algorithms needed to do this. But with huge advances in computer science, it is now much easier to extract information from data of all kinds.

The actual term augmented analytics was first coined by Gartner to mean a technological solution which blends Machine Learning ML and Artificial Intelligence AI algorithms – automates data preparation and management – and creates insights across the organisation. With computing power doing the heavy lifting, businesses can now process their data at scale, reducing the time it takes to find trends and patterns. What’s more ML technologies are always working in the background, learning and enhancing the results –a big step up from the business intelligence tools we’ve had in the past.

Revealing the story behind the data

Now to the really exciting bit, where we get the data to reveal its secrets. It helps is you are using dashboard functionality that is well designed and easy to use like SAP Analytics Cloud.

After opening your browser, the first step is to ask the data, in your own natural language, what you would like to find out. For example, you may want to know, “Where are my top 10 stores by sales revenue in the UK” or “Who are my top performing sales staff by revenue.”

You can find out more in this video here.

Now you want to be able to visualize the answers – SAP Analytics Cloud uses a system that automatically puts the data into the most appropriate chart or table – a very useful feature.

Then you can take the charts and start to build a story with them – delving deeper into problems, asking further questions, to reveal hidden truths. When you are using SAP Analytics Cloud you can hit the Smart Insights button to explain things like why a particular product is doing so well – taking a 360 degree look at your data to bring up fresh insights – then share it with others via the mobile app, web or e-mail.

In the background machine learning is building your story from thousands of lines of data and projecting into the future based on the data of the past. If the outlook is not so good you can start to look at why and ask what you can do about it.

You can also simulate what would happen in various different scenarios, for example if you release a product into a new country and then you can make decisions based on what the system tells you.

It really is insight to action without the need to build complex models or hire specialist staff which is highly democratic – offering access to these insights for all.

Analyse data from across your organisation for better decision-making

Now the CFO and the CEO have access to reports, clear visualization tools and dashboards which gives them the heads up on problems without the assistance of IT.

Create stories, uncover hidden patterns, make predictions and share with others on the go.

Augmented analytics benefit checklist

  • Out-of-the-box tools with easy to use dashboards you don’t need a data scientist to get the benefit
  • Speedy Decisions – get accurate forecasts and decisions – cuts the time it takes from data to insights
  • Natural language and cool data visualisation
  • Combine data from across your company with third-party data
  • Automate time-consuming tasks like data preparation, visualization, forecasting, and reporting.

I have talked here about SAP but most ERP providers are now adding this to the mix as customers demand more from their technology. So was Timo right? Is it time to get excited about the boring stuff? Judge for yourself – check out the new Augmented Analytics tools here In Cloud Solutions is part of the Sapphire Systems group – and is a trusted SAP Partner specialising in the mid-market ERP solution SAP Business ByDesign